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Nice Breeze isn’t an indie rock band so much as a paradox machine

Nice Breeze keeps an orderly practice space. But if you descend into this tidy Arlington basement for a zigzag blab about the ideas that animate the band’s music, the paradoxes start piling up fast.

Drummer Martha Hamilton says the group’s essential purpose is to “make people think a little, or maybe make them smile.” Guitarist John Howard feels differently: “I want to alter people on a molecular level.” That means the trio’s music — which they describe as “pop,” “art,” “art-pop,” “obnoxiously loud, like a rock band,” but “not really a rock band because there’s no blues thing going on” — can feel totally messy and highly principled at once. “I like that psychedelic thing where things snap in and out of focus,” Howard says. “Is it tight or loose? We like to keep it loose in a jazz way, but if you step on the hook and really mash it, it has a dynamism.”

Those mashed hooks tend to form around the wordy deadpan of vocalist Andy Fox, who sounds completely at home in these riptides of intention. “I have no timing, no tonality,” Fox says of his delivery, “but the way they play allows me to be off.” And to wander off, too. You can hear it best during “Movies,” a standout from Nice Breeze’s new album, “Divide the Sky,” during which Fox appears to be unpacking his every memory of Washington’s now-shuttered movie theaters. “Janus 3 in Dupont where I saw ‘Hoop Dreams,’ ” he talk-sings at the outset of his memorial ramble. “There were pillars in the middle blocking most of the screen / You had to get there early, there were only 10 good seats!”

Hamilton says the entire band is centered on Fox’s “performative poetry,” and Howard agrees. “It’s a very literary thing,” Howard says. “Andy writes his own stuff — I don’t want to be pretentious for him — but we’re big fans of the Fall and the Birthday Party, and we like lyrics with subtext, and humor, and all those things.”

And in Nice Breeze, “all those things” is a phrase that does a lot of work, casually positing a not-rock band as a means of reconciling the irreconcilable. “It all sort of happens, and we keep it happening,” Fox says. “Who knows, right?”

Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Runaway, 3523 12th St. NE. therunawaydc.com. $12.


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