WLUW Presents California Surf Rock Outfit, No Vacation

Posted by: Allison Lapinski

Last Saturday marked the end of San Francisco beach-pop band, No Vacation’s, headlining US tour with special guest Okey Dokey. Wicker Park’s Subterranean was packed with young fans sporting Hawaiian shirts and sunburns from the full-sun day in Chicago. I wandered in during the conclusion of the first opener, a small Michigan band. The crowd seemed eager for the main act, yet receptive to the indie grooves from Nashville band Okey Dokey. Lead singer Aaron Martin worked the packed room, even jumping into the pit and running up the stairs to the top floor of the sold-out show. Their single “Wavy Gravy” felt very 80s-meets-2019 and grabbed the attention of the audience despite a couple of hecklers in the corner of the room.

The room filled with anticipation for the main act’s appearance. No Vacation made their debut in 2015, splashing on the scene with their single “Draem Girl.” The band’s signature surf-rock and bedroom pop sound has admittedly matured over time. In 2017, the band released “Intermission,” an EP that includes a fan favorite track, “Yam Yam.” The band is comprised of frontwoman Sabrina Mai on vocals and guitar, Marisa Saunders on bass, Nat Lee on synth, Harrison Spencer on guitar, and James Shi on drums.  Their last appearance in Chicago included a live recording at Audiotree, which is available to stream. 

A week before coming to Chicago, WLUW caught some words with a few members of the band as they traveled to their Seattle show. 

WLUW: First off, how is tour going so far? Any new cities or places that you have played along the way?

Harrison Spencer: Well we went to Tampa, so that was pretty cool. 

Sabrina Mai: We went to hang in the springs in Florida. 

Nat Lee: Tour life is pretty much what tour is. Compared to what the last tour was, this is our first headlining tour so it’s a lot different now. We have someone doing sound for us, our friend Cooper is behind the board on sound and he’s also tour managing and he makes our lives just a lot easier being on tour. We can just show up and play music and not actually be responsible for anything else really (laughs).

WLUW: Oh for sure, that must be a nice change in pace, not having to worry as much about the details. 

Harrison: (joking) Oh we’ve told him like five times that we’ll just send him on a plane home.

WLUW: And you’re doing the cross-country tour of the US then?

Nat: Oh yeah we’re doing a full US run from May through June.

Sabrina: And then we’re just going to drive over to Europe. And we also have floaties so… (laughing)

Nat: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve been following the tour but I’ve ordered some floaties. And since we’re from America we also wanted to travel on a bald eagle to Europe. But the best way might be by floatie.

Harrison: You know, we’re really just very patriotic people!

Nat: We won’t even be in the United States for Fourth of July, we’ll be floating over to Europe. We’ll be in open territory, where the pirates are.

WLUW: Speaking of the ocean.. for me, there is a layer of escapism to your music, I’ll be listening to one of your songs in the dead of winter but it feels like summer.  Are you guys working on a new project right now and will it build off of those sounds?

Nat: Come to the show and you’ll find out!!

Harrison: We do have a new EP that we will be putting out soon in August entitled, “Phasing.” And I think that it’s got some escapism in there. Light, summery tracks. 

Nat: This whole tour is for us to really promote new music and we’re testing out some new tracks to see how people feel about it, and we’ve gotten really great responses so far.

Harrison: There will be a single out soon, we just finished mastering that.

WLUW: Awesome, can’t wait to hear it! I love your cover of The Cranberries, Linger, that you released not too long ago. Is there any special reason for choosing that song? 

Nat: Well we were commissioned to cover that record in September 2017. 

Harrison:  It took a long time to get that done. We took it on as a light and fun project but it turned out to be a long endeavor. 

Sabrina: It took a long time to figure out what we wanted to do as well.

Nat: We were thinking Green Day, Daft Punk, Starf***er

Harrison: And then we eventually settled on Dolores O’Riordan (of The Cranberries). And when I mention her name, people either know automatically who I’m talking about or they pretend they know who that is

WLUW: Oh I’ve been there. When in doubt, just nod and smile. So you guys met as a college band, correct? 

Sabrina: Yeah we met at USF. (University of San Francisco) 

Nat: (joking) Well Harrison and I met through frat life. Actually, though Harrison and I met through Facebook because Sabrina and Harrison are a year younger than me. So I would help him out with pre-college Freshman year questions. 

Harisson: And then you stalked me.

Sabrina and Nat: Well your profile picture was of you playing bass.

Nat: And then the first week of school Harrison messaged me and asked me where the parties were at, so we went to a party together. But he was kicked out because he was a freshman. We eventually came together as a band because Sabrina and I met through band class. 

Sabrina: You were the banjo girl. 

Nat: I played banjo at that time. I was also apparently a hippie. Harrison dressed like a frat dude. Sab dressed in like trenchcoats and all black, she just came off like she was too cool for school. If you saw a picture of us when we first met, it was so terrifying. Picture frat boy meets hippie sorority girl meets art student.

WLUW: Are there any trends in music that are either annoying to you or that you wish people would do more of?

Harrison: Maximalist pop music is really getting on my nerves right now

Nat: Also when rock artists collab with EDM artists.

WLUW: Some of your songs are more vulnerable than others, is it difficult performing those for large audiences or do you find it comforting that people can relate? 

Sabrina: I do definitely agree that there is a different vibe playing to a smaller room versus a bigger room. You can be playing to a really big crowd that is super quiet and low energy. But other times you could be playing to 10 or 15 people that really want to be there.

WLUW: Is it different too, because you’re headlining as well, that you get more control over your set list and other details? 

Nat: Oh for sure, we get to play a lot longer which changes things. 


The bubbly personalities that I met over the phone transferred into No Vacation’s final show of their summer 2019 US tour. The band interacted with their fans as they danced along to new and old songs alike. Keep an eye out for the band’s upcoming EP, Phasing, out later this summer!

Photo Courtesy of Topshelf Records

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