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No Guidnce: the TikTok sensations determined to reshape the narrative of the Nineties boyband

 (PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)
(PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)

No Guidnce, a four-strong boyband who’s revival of Nineties nostalgia has proved extraordinarily popular with young fans, owe a great deal to a bright yellow car park in a mystery part of central London.

Blessed with both natural acoustics and security willing to turn a blind eye to their sneaky recording sessions, it is the place where the group, two in their teens and two in their early 20s, first went viral with their acapella covers of everyone from The Fugees to Usher.

Even the car park’s guard has seen their ridiculously popular TikTok videos made in this renegade recording studio (the group won’t disclose where it is). “He’ll come up, and be like: ‘I’m supposed to kick you out now… but 10 more minutes,” Zeekay, the group’s resident joker grins. “We should invite him to our next show,” adds Kaci.

That show is next week, on September 18, with the band set to headline for the first time in the UK. They’re still fresh from playing the main stage of Wireless earlier this summer with just a single EP – this year’s debut Is It A Crime? – to their name.

“Seeing the feelings that our music evokes in the audience is the best thing honestly, to see in real life,” says Ebubé, whose velvety baritone wins him frequent comparisons to the RnB singer Giveon. “Wireless was a crazy experience. A lot of people [in the audience] didn’t know us, but we took on the challenge… it wasn’t daunting at all.”

An increasing number of people are catching on; just ask any of their 73 million TikTok followers. The title track of their debut EP, Is It A Crime? was written with Ariana Grande collaborator Victoria Monét, already boasts 6 million streams, and channels a mischievously sultry, Boyz II Men-ish brand of Nineties RnB. It puts them in good company with an increasing number of London-based artists bringing back the aesthetic of this era, along with Enfield singer Bellah and Brits Critics Choice winners FLO.

“Especially with FLO, the whole RnB group concept is coming back,” says Ebubé, with Josh adding there may be a time when its right to collaborate.

The question is, how did four lads in their late teens and early twenties end up mining these incredibly specific pop strains in the first place, despite being born almost a decade after the release of Blackstreet’s No Diggity, or New Edition’s Hit Me Off? When the band say they grew up on Nineties and Noughties pop, they really mean that their parents listened to it. With considerable horror, I realise that Beyonce’s debut single Crazy in Love was birthed a whole year before Zeekay and Kaci.

Like many of their biggest inspirations, who did a roaring trade in singing gravelly songs of seduction and rising climactically from stools during key changes, this group love singing about love; almost as much as a newly-reunited NSYNC love a tinted lens. Their second biggest hit Committed is a brilliantly smooshy slab of romance cut from the same cloth as Ne-Yo’s gigantic hat. Sampling Spandau Ballet’s True, Lie To Me is all about the delusion of pursuing someone you know is ultimately a bit of a bad egg.

“That’s what life’s about,” muses Ebubé. “Relationships, and not necessarily just romantic ones; there’s a message behind them.”

“...And we’re all young men,” laughs Zeekay. “We just like attracting the ladies, man.”

 (PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)
(PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)

Crammed onto a leather sofa, the four-piece  - all dressed in dazzlingly pristine beige outfits - then seize the chance to show off their signature moves. Kaci attempts to demonstrate a meaningful gaze, before Zee butts in with his go-to line. “I’m in No Guidnce,” he says as the others emit loud, weary groans.

First formed around two and a half years ago, No Guidnce all grew up with dreams of breaking into music. Josh had his heart set on musical theatre, or failing that, becoming a “pop star”. In his family, karaoke was part of the weekly routine. “That is a big thing in our culture, a lot of Filipinos can sing,” he says.

Zeekay is also a musical theatre kid, and played a young Michael Jackson in the West End production of Thriller as a teenager. Yes, before you ask, he can moonwalk. Ebubé, the quietest of the bunch, grew up in a Nigerian household in north east London, with a gospel singer mum, while Kaci juggled sport with… even more musical theatre. In other words, all the crucial ingredients for a well-balanced boyband.

A handful of members loosely know each other from what you might describe as the performing arts circuit, pre No Guidnce. Though they were in different year groups, Zeekay and Josh both went to the East London Music and Arts college, where they were classmates with FLO members Renée Downer and Stella Quaresma respectively. Zee and Kaci also already knew each other from “a previous project” ‐ presumably, Little Mix’s talent show The Search back in 2019 - before being approached for this one.

No Guidnce aren’t just slippery when it comes to the location of their famous carpark; they breeze over their origin story with a charming brand of vagueness, and decline to reveal their surnames. Though “auditions’’ and an overarching concept for “an RnB boyband, reinvented” figured along the way, they insist things all came together very “naturally”, and that their rise to fame on TikTok was something of a happy accident.

While the popularity of early covers may well have “influenced what we do in terms of our harmonies and stuff,” Kaci says, “it’s not like we make music to make sure it appeals on Tik Tok,” Josh finishes. “It’s always music first.”

Having spent two and a half years working on music together in close quarters, the band must have discovered each other’s bad habits by now? Deploying the kind of answer which belongs in a job interviewing masterclass, Kaci replies: “I would say our bad habit is that that sometimes, we’re too driven.”

Still, No Guidnce aren’t in any way sniffy towards the idea of a group that has been deliberately assembled, and have little time for snobbishness towards artists who don’t write every note of their music. They also embrace the title of boyband, despite any images it might evoke of groups of well-preened men dramatically rising from carefully positioned stools when the key-change hits.

 (PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)
(PHOTOGRAPHY NATASHA PSZENICKI)

“I think the stigma behind it is from [reality] shows from the past that create boybands, and they’re this really manufactured thing,” Kaci says. “I think we bring something slightly different” “We actually are friends,” protests Josh, “we want to be in business together.”

“Because there’s not really other boybands out there, we kind of have the ability to be the boy band,” adds Zee, “and reshape the narrative”.

“It’s just four artists coming together to create something bigger than that,” Kaci says. “It’s just like, Avengers Assemble!”

No Guidnce play The Lower Third on September 18

Styled by: India Rising