It's All Smiles

No Rome

It's All Smiles

No Rome hadn’t planned to make his debut album back in his home country. He was supposed to be in the Philippines only for a festival appearance, but the artist born Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez found himself stranded there after the pandemic kicked in. He opted to use the creative restrictions imposed by the fact that most of his gear was back at home in London as a creative challenge, though. It’s All Smiles is the exhilarating result. “I only had what I had brought over, which was a couple of samplers, a drum machine, a guitar, and an interface,” he tells Apple Music. “I only had X amount of possibilities, but I wanted to stretch that out.”
Working with coproducers BJ Burton and The 1975’s George Daniel, he has crafted a debut album that melds layers of guitar with synth-pop and smooth hooks—not for nothing did No Rome once describe his original sound as “shoegaze R&B.” He says there’s a recurrent theme of “belongingness” throughout It’s All Smiles, a feeling that is lonely, aggressive, and hopeful all at the same time. “I wanted to express whatever I was going through at the time. Being in the Philippines was very therapeutic for me; things started feeling nostalgic.” Here, No Rome takes us through It’s All Smiles, track by track.
“Space-Cowboy” “I knew this was going to be the intro because it set up the whole idea of the album with the production, the whole nocturnal setting because I was writing everything at night. The title is a reference to one of my favorite animes, Cowboy Bebop. It’s this line ‘See you, space cowboy,’ which I’ve always resonated with for some reason.”
“How Are You Feeling?” “I wanted to make a record that had drum ’n’ bass and rock being mashed up together. This was at the right tempo to bring in some kind of jungle drums, along with the guitar that was a little bit bright and melodic. For me, it sounded a bit like being around the alleys of New York, hearing street musicians and how everything is so busy.”
“I Want U” “I feel like this is the song that started the record. It’s the oldest song; I wrote it in 2019. It was the first song I worked on with BJ, and it’s where we got all the ideas I wanted to do with the record. It’s about a long night out. It’s saying, ‘It’s up to you. I got my decisions, but it’s up to you.” The chorus kind of explains what it is and what the feelings are.”
“ITS *N0T* LOV33 (Winter in London)” “I wrote this in winter in London in 2019. I recorded the guitars on the Apple microphone, and I wanted to keep it that way. I wanted to be able to keep that kind of voice-note sound, almost like found sounds, which is what the whole record is. Everything feels like a collage of found sounds. It’s about how you’re not in love with a person, but you need them around for some reason. It’s that confusion. I’ve always loved interludes on albums, short pieces that are mainly instrumental. It’s that moment that you’re trying to paint an expression with production.”
When She Comes Around” “I feel like this is such a positive song. You’re having closure with somebody, but the love is still there at the end of the day. It was a song I wrote immediately after I was watching Björk’s Vespertine live performance, where she had a whole orchestra. I wanted to make a string song, something super dramatic and kind of theatrical. I started this with strings, but then ended up playing around the guitars and I heard some chords that I liked that fit, and I was just like, ‘OK, I’m turning this into a shoegaze song.’”
“Secret Beach” “I started this album in Subic in the Philippines, and this is one of the songs that I first started there with a CR-78 drum machine and Fender Strat I had lying around. I wanted to make something that was a little bit Deftones, but my take on it, and my love for Kid Cudi and all this other music. I’m paying homage to this place called Secret Beach in Subic. Most of the time, there’s nobody there; you’ve got to be a local to know it. It was a place where I would come to find some kind of solace and peace and just to hang out. It’s a very introspective song about the things that I was going through at the time—I lost some friends—and just trying to find myself.”
“Issues (After Dark)” “It was just me playing the guitar on a chorus pedal, and a lot of flanger and reverb, and I was singing this whole R&B melody over some really shoegaze-y flanger guitars, and then we time-stretched it. BJ plugged it in the tape machine and just stretched it out, and it became this.”
“Remember November / Bitcrush*Yr*Life” “This is two songs. If you listen to the track, there’s two parts, then it brings it back to what the original song was. I wanted to play with this whole idea of having a major seventh, almost diminished, making it bright and then going to this dark place for a breakdown, and it goes to this ravey double-time, faster part of the song. It’s my take on wanting to make some sort of political pop piece, because I sing about the powers that be. It was inspired by a friend of mine who works in an office, and she has a bad boss and a very abusive boss. Hearing stories like that from friends, it boils me up and it gets me all tense and shit.”
“A Place Where Nobody Knows” “I think this is the sweetest song on the record. It’s about being there for somebody and talking about when you have that spot, where you and your significant other can just be there at ease and at peace, having that place where you feel safe. It’s a very D’Angelo beat, half-time.”
“Everything” ““Everything’ is everything. I tried to put everything this album is about into it: hyperactive energy, sonically, and it goes to this rock part at the end. It felt like a curtain-closer song. And also, it’s a song I’d written about psychedelics, which, not to be political about it, but I’m for it. I feel like people should do it at least once. It’s that moment where you get to a pure bliss and, at the same time, you just feel everything all at once. In that first line where I go, ‘Sun hits when the mood’s right/We can do everything if we try, my friend,’ it’s like you’re happy that the sun is there, you’re just so positive and you feel like you could do anything you want.”

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