How the members of don't fell in love with being in a band again

Jan 2, 2019 at 1:00 am
don’t: Jared Sparkes, Frances Ma, Jules Fisher, and Nick German.
don’t: Jared Sparkes, Frances Ma, Jules Fisher, and Nick German. Noah Elliott Morrison

Local lo-fi pop rock group — the bluntly named don't — is like a bunch of shy music kids that accidentally grew up to be their favorite band. Three years after it released its debut EP, forget it, the band is working on a sophomore record with beloved local indie rock stalwart Fred Thomas. With musical influences like Weezer's Pinkerton and lo-fi Brooklyn, New York band LVL UP, don't falls somewhere on the garage rock spectrum without letting songwriters Frances Ma and Jared Sparkes' vulnerable lyricism get lost in the mix.

The band — Ma (guitar and vocals), Sparkes (keys and vocals), Jules Fisher (bass), and Nick German (drums) — started playing together about four years ago, at a time when they were all starting to become disenchanted with playing in bands. "I think when we met we were all in the same boat, like — is there a reason to keep doing this?" says German. "But then we kind of dug each other and it's really been worth it."

Ma and Sparkes had been writing songs together for a few years, but bringing German and Fisher rounded out the band's sound and added a driving, sunny rhythm section that balances out the duo's honest — and, at times, melancholy — lyrics. The band's tendency to melt poetic apathy with almost poppy chord progressions creates a sound that can feel something like skipping the prom to go watch John Waters movies in your crush's basement.

Since releasing forget it, don't has played a number of shows around town, supporting mainstays in Detroit's indie rock scene like Deadbeat Beat and Kickstand Band, and embarked on its first tour this year. The band describes a last-minute show at a Flemington, New Jersey DIY space (think Detroit's Trumbullplex) as a full-circle moment that wound up becoming the surprising highlight of the tour. "It was, like, the most beautiful night of our lives," says Sparkes. "It reminded me of growing up and going to shows and being really young and introverted, but I loved music so that's what drew me there," adds Ma.

"The other bands who played... they played because they had to or else they wouldn't feel right," says German. "That's why we started playing music in the first place, especially when we all started playing together, it just felt right."

The band's synchronicity comes through in its music — both on forget it and when they play live. While forget it was recorded entirely in Fisher's attic, the band's forthcoming record should get a more pointed sense of musical direction with Thomas in their corner.

From our 2019 Bands to Watch issue.