No Vacation doesn’t want you to put a name to what they are. “We don’t know what we would describe ourselves as…we like wavy-gravy.”
That’s the closest you’ll get 20-year-old Sabrina Mai to label the kind of music she makes. Even fans struggle to describe the band – they’ve been called “beach vibes with bubbles” and “an ethereal feeling you get when you enter a vintage-ish laundromat.” We test out “sad-girl pop,” but even that doesn’t cover the dreamy, synthy, indie-pop-rock vibe of No Vacation. Maybe it’s because the range of musical influences within the band span Beach House to Yo Yo Ma, Frank Sinatra to – surprisingly – Adam Lambert. The one thread that unifies it all is the emotion.
“I hate happy music,” says Sabrina, laughing. “Music and writing are cathartic to me…they help me reassess a situation.” No Vacation’s Soundcloud profile declares that their untitled album “expresses the feelings of belongingness, regret, and struggles of resilience.” Their music is also all about relaxing in the mundane and staying hopeful post-breakups. And it’s clear from their debut album Amo XO to their recently released on Spotify single “Yam Yam” (which Sabrina plays for us inside the Record Room), the music is connecting with an audience.
After the first iteration of the No Vacation project dissolved, Sab approached classmate Nat Lee at the University of San Francisco: “I knew Nat as a ‘banjo girl’ from open mic at school, and she kept hitting me up, but I flaked on her to smoke weed. When we finally hung out, we went to a show, she made me soup, and jammed for a little bit.” Says Nat, “ I told my friend…Sab was intimidating and too cool for me to hang out with…I’d say it was a pretty good hangout even though I was kind of scared of her.”
The rest of No Vacation includes Nat (synths), who helps Sabrina tune her guitar by ear off-camera while we film, Marisa Saunders on bass, Harrison Spencer on guitar, and James Shi on drums. Though part of the band has relocated to New York, No Vacation doesn’t plan to slow down and is set to release their third EP with Topshelf Records later this November.