The Not Okays are a band who originally formed a few years ago just to have some fun at the Emo nights put on at Ding Dong Lounge. They comprise Noriel Wong (guitar), Aaron Prictor (guitar, vocals), Lauren Kate Borhani (vocals), Caitlin Clark (bass), and Bahador Borhani (drums). The three guys are all in MIRA, as well as other bands, with Beej best known for being one of the guitarists in Written By Wolves. Lauren is his wife, and she has been best friends with Caitlin since high school, and Caitlin is also Aaron’s partner, so it’s all incredibly incestuous if you ask me…

I first came across Lauren earlier this year when she introduced herself to me at the infamous WBW gig at Dead Witch (if you weren’t there then you missed out on one of the most incredible shows I have ever witnessed in more than 40 years of concert-going). Mental health has been a major focus for many this year, and Lauren was able to finally get the support she needed from a health professional who diagnosed her with ADHD. With the correct medication for the first time in her life, she is now driven, and the result is the first single from the band.

When emo broke the first time, Lauren was still at high school, and while she loved it, she also felt it was somewhat lame and wherever she looked she did not see a frontwoman who looked like her. This has pushed her way out of her comfort zone to front the group as she wants a new emo revolution which contains the aggression she desires, but also want to act as a role model for those who may feel their body image may not be what is thought of as being “right” in the Instagram age.

Lauren was incredibly nervous about putting this out there, and to be honest, I was also nervous writing about it – I mean, I have been out drinking with her lovely father Chris. What would I say if it sucked? This is a cover of the Avril Lavigne song which was only released a few weeks ago, and which has been viewed by many as the best thing she has done in years. As soon as they heard it, the band knew they could do a great version, and you know what? They’re right. The riffs start, Lauren screams, and we’re off. Any concerns I may have had about Lauren’s vocals went right out the window, as she has a great voice, combined with real passion and aggression. She is not playing at this; she means every single word. I also hadn’t realized that Beej was a drummer (as well as being director, videographer, editor, artist, designer, husband, cat-dad) but if one was to come across this in isolation one would never know his main instrument was a guitar. Noriel and Aaron have quite different but complementary styles, riffing hard when it’s needed, but also having gentle interplay at others, while Caitlin fully understands the need to provide driving bass at some points and not play at all on others. The dynamics and the passion are what make this such a great pop-punk emo single.

The video is a performance, but of course, everyone is in lockdown so we should feel sorry for Noriel who recorded his piece on his own, while Caitlin and Aaron are playing together, and Lauren and Beej are in the same place (although not in the same room). The song is a blast, loads of fun, and when Aaron gives Caitlin the finger, he was taking his life in his hands. Lauren is wonderfully animated in front of a microphone, and her reaction at the end of the take is genuine. What we need now is some original material, as this band has special chemistry, and the stage is set for them to make a huge impact in the NZ scene. I love it.

10/10 KevRowland