Interview: Great Northern

Great Northern

The first Great Northern CD – Trading Twilight for Daylight – showed up in my mailbox, completely unexpected and it was one of those CDs that, on first listen, I fell in love with. It earned the top spot on my “Favorites of 2007″ list and I was fortunate enough to see the band a few times on the tour for that release including a few performances that year at SXSW. Jack Rabid wrote a glowing review of that CD in spring ’07 issue of The Big Takeover and when I emailed him to tell him that I was a big fan of the band and that I would have an opportunity to see them very soon thereafter, Jack gave me my very first Big Takeover assignment – write a 500-word feature on the band for the fall ’07 issue.

Two years later – and with two band members no longer in Great Northern (Davey Latter and Ashley Dzerigian) – Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixler have returned with a new release, Remind Me Where the Light Is. Now, I may be crazy, but just as I think the first CD title described the music perfectly, I think the new title sounds like something you’d say in the wee hours of the night or the very early part of the morning, before the sun comes up. And, once again, the music matches.

Great Northern is currently on a great touring bill with The Dears and Eulogies and I sent Rachel some questions the old-fashioned way …. through email! The responses, printed as received, came back with a note that said “Sent using my iPhone” which explains the way they appear.

Free download of the song “Story” available for a limited time on Amazon.com.

Tell me a secret.

We can hear your thoughts

Tell me a story.

One time i saw a bright red cardinal bird and it took my breath away

I hate being a lazy journalist and using an overused term to describe your music, but there are definitely (to my ears) some “sonic” moments on the CD. I’m thinking of, particularly, “Story,” “New Tricks” and “Fingers” (maybe my favorite Great Northern song EVER). Do you consciously make these songs “epic” sounding or does it come naturally?

Wow.. Thanks for saying that.
Creativity is a funny thing…. You can’t really control what comes out of you.
It was just time for this record to come out…
And it was a hard year writing it, but it was totally worth it.

As you know, I’ve described “Trading Twilight for Daylight” as the scene in Top Gun when Tom Cruise leaves Kelly McGillis’s place near the beach (or is it near the airport) on his motorcycle, driving off into the sunset. The new CD – to me – sounds like the soundtrack to a late, late night drive, after the clubs have closed but before you really feel like going home. I have a couple questions related to this. Is there a particular time of day/night that is particularly inspirational for either writing or recording? And, if you agree with my late night description, do you think Great Northern will ever write a 10pm, thick of the night, rock album?

Hmmmm… The most inspiring time for writing is always changing. You could be driving accross the country or sitting in your room in the middle of the night and an idea just comes… Dreams are inspiring too…You really never know when it’s going to hit you.

From the very little I know about the “scene” from which Great Northern hails, it seems like there is a lot of collective-type bands with a primary songwriter or two and then rotating supporting musicians. When I first met you, I thought Great Northern was a solid band with permanent members but now it’s pretty obvious that it’s you and Solon. Do you forsee a point where Great Northern is a four (or five) person consistent band or will you continue to find people that compliment whatever it is you and Solon write at the moment?

The core of the band has always been Solon and I… We write everything together.. We tried having a band but it gets complicated. We have played with some really great people, but things shift and evolve and we needed to move on. The folks we have now are so great .. We hope to have them for a long time… So who knows what the future holds

Following up that last question, can you introduce the new members of the band?

The new players are really great.
We’ve got Dusty Rocherolle on drums
Marissa Micik on keys

Marissa Micik

This tour is in it’s infancy with The Dears and Eulogies. How have things been going? Is it like going on a summer camp tour? Do you sit around during non-rock hours talking to the Dears folks or have the bands been keeping to themselves and finding their own entertainment during down time?

Yes… We are still in the beginning stages so it’s hard to say what the evening rituals will be. But I’m sure that with alcohol secrets and stories will transpire!

I’ve seen you a few times in Columbus. When you headlined, the audience paid you respect and kept relatively quiet during your set. When you played at the CD101 show with Spoon, the people around me talked a lot during the quieter moments. Is that noticeable from stage and how do you deal with that? Would you ever adjust a set list – maybe bring out some more up-tempo/loud numbers if a crowd was particularly inattentive?

People will be people .. Our job is to rock the chat right out of them… This record is a better vehicle for that so we shall see!

There are many things I love about Great Northern. Outside of the music, one of the things I love is the two times I’ve been at SXSW and you’ve been there, I run into you at other shows. I think it’s cool that you go out and see other bands while you’re there rather than try to either a) only do business or b) just hang out and see your friends’ bands. Did you discover any bands this year that you really liked that you didn’t know about (or didn’t know much about) before SXSW?

I had the chance to see PJ Harvey and John Parrish at Stubbs
And it was soooo awesome..
She really knows how to command an audience.. No chatter in that room!

Finally, I read the Pitchfork review after seeing you link to it on your Twitter account. I don’t put much weight into their reviews and – honestly – unless somebody tells me about a review on that site, I don’t visit it. That being said, I thought it was funny that the last line mentions Nina Gordon because, to some extent, your voice reminds me of hers. I think maybe we’ve talked about this before, but, are you/were you a Veruca Salt/Nina Gordon fan?

Hmmmm I listened a bit to her growing up… It’s funny because I have gotten so many different comparisons to so many lady singers…I dont mind it .. I’m usually flattered

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