Heavy Rockers NAMELESS FRIENDS Pop The Ego Balloon On “Classic Protagonist (Live)”

Being an S.O.B. never goes out of style. Just ask London, Ontario’s Nameless Friends, who have dropped a hot new live version of their “terrible person” rave-up, “Classic Protagonist”—largely due to popular demand.

First aired on the band’s 2018 debut EP, Mezzanine, the song is a gleeful teardown of virtue-signaling celebrities, toxic narcissists, and anybody else with a serious case of main-character syndrome. “Classic Protagonist (Live)” was recorded on stage during Nameless Friends’ 2023 Canadian tour, where it inspired regular sing-alongs among commiserating audiences:

Tell me that I’m classic, baby
Tell history I’m great
Beg for my best behaviour
Ooh, then wait
I could lose myself in your pretty face
If we weren’t shooting for the money today
Like oh, I’m the classic protagonist, baby
Love me anyway

The cathartic value of that clear-eyed character study is sent sky-high by the pull of the music, which combines punked-up energy with the performing sophistication of prog. But you’d expect nothing less in the way of alchemy from a group whose first LP was a live album of Queen covers. (They recorded it in front of a sold-out crowd at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern.) Other influences on Nameless Friends’ heavy, glittery rock include PUP (for the adrenaline) and Rage Against the Machine (for the political activism).

“We’re trying to make music about the justice we want to see in the world, that’s also really bloody fun to listen to,” the band says. To that end, their 2023 album, Blasphemy, took aim at everything from the religious persecution of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community (on the defiant “Demons”) to the patriarchal suppression of reproductive and menstrual rights (“7 Years of Blood”). It was a rousing nine-song battle cry made all the more alluring by some slickly provocative videos. Sexy gay baptism, anyone?

The urgency of their musical mission makes total sense when you consider the demographic makeup of the band: Nameless Friends has female, queer and immigrant members, members of colour, and members with chronic illnesses and neurodivergence. Beyond those broad profiles, though, they’re content to remain relatively anonymous. None of the musicians goes by their real name and are instead identified by number. The core ensemble is made up of Number One (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Number Three (lead guitar), Number Five (bass), and Number Seven (drums). Additional touring members include Number Two (bass), Number Four (drums), and Number Six (keyboard). It’s a sort of Bansky-meets-Ghost situation, except this crew don’t have any compunction whatsoever about showing their real faces on stage.

Those faces will be on full view throughout a quartet of upcoming shows in the band’s native Canada. For a hint of what to expect, check out the video for “Classic Protagonist (Live),” which assembles footage from the group’s winter 2024 tour of the Maritimes and Newfoundland into a frenzied collage of flipping hair, omnipresent glitter and moshing so furious that the camera struggles to stay aloft amidst the bedlam.