Northcote - Q&A
The vocals in spine-tingling Canadian Folk Rock band Northcote's recall both Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. Combine catchy melodic rifts with revitalising sing-a-long upbeat vocals and you get the perfect remedy for your sonic thirst.
Q. What do you personally consider to be the most profound moments in your musical journey?
Touring with my brothers in our hardcore band in the mid 2000’s. We did a three month tour at least twice. We slept in the van didn't mess around getting into too much horseshit. We were a family. My first solo tour was supporting Library Voices. This was my first experience playing in the big western Canadian cities in the main clubs. That group was very supportive and helpful to me and still is. It was also my first tour that wasn't all hardcore shows. Supporting Dave Hause in the fall of 2013 in Europe and the UK opened my eyes to what it might take emotionally, spiritually, financially and professionally to take a shot at being a pro musician. That was an eye opening tour for me. Had many laughs and still talk about that tour with Dave and friends almost every month. Making the last two Northcote records has been a ‘profound experience’. But I am not sure exactly what I have learned. I think they’re quite different records and I'm proud of that going into whatever is next for the project.
Q. Can you tell us about the evolution of your sound comparing your first album to your latest work?
We have released an EP (2009) called Borrowed Chords, Tired Eyes. At that time I was playing shows with my friends Ila on Trumpet and Piano and Chris on double bass. The first LP was called Gather No Dust (2011). This was really a solo record. I collaborated with very few people and added most of the extra instruments last minute. I think I had one night to rehearse with the drummer. I took 14 songs into that session and we did 10 of them. I think on my last record I made more like 60 demos. The self titled record (2013) felt like a debut because I had some touring under my belt and I think the record is pretty dynamic. There are some straight kind of rocker songs, but there are some more theatrical and dramatic songs. We didn't use too much electric guitar and the record isn't very formulaic. Hope Is Made of Steel (2015) is our most produced and lean record. We had toured so much in the two years leading up to making that record, I was pretty pumped up and had lots of energy. There are lots of electric guitars and different instruments that we never used before. I think it compliments the self titled record. One is more dynamic and one has more punch. That’s the best I got. That is my music critic debut!
Q. What it is about Jon Snodgrass as an artist that made you decide to go on tour together?
Jon and I supported Austin Lucas in the fall of 2014 across America. We all travelled together in Austin’s green van. I was pulled towards Jon because of how he sounds on stage and his humour. His attitude towards performing is really fresh. Instead of trying to convince you that he is the cool guy in the room, he speaks to you just as he would off stage. I don't think Jon will have pyrotechnics at his show anytime soon, but I have seen some interesting things go down when he gets up there. Happy that he is my friend.
Q. In an ideal world, if you could pick any other artists dead or alive you’d like to work with, who would they be?
I have been very lucky so far. When I started Northcote in 2009 i think my favourite records were probably Frank Turner’s Love Ire and Song, Chuck Ragan’s Feast or Famine and The Gaslight Anthem’s 59 Sound. We’ve had the chance to get to support and hear these guys playing for a month or two straight. It really makes an impact on you. I have tried to soak up as much as I could. I guess looking back at that time, 2009, my other favourites would have been Wintersleep’s Welcome the Night Sky, Ryan Adams’ Cardinology, Bon Iver’s For Emma Forever Ago, Gillian Welch’s Soul Journey. I am going to see Dave Hause and Against Me tomorrow night in Vancouver. Both of those acts are a guiding light for me. One of my favourite hardcore bands from when I was younger was called With Honor. I saw them play with Comeback Kid in Regina and that was a super memorable show for me. With Honor is another example. I hesitate to answer Springsteen or Cohen etc. I think if that happened I might turn into mud. Getting asked to support an artist is really an honour. I wouldn't really trade any experiences we have had so far.
Q. You’ve spent a lot of time on the road. Does this have any significance with the message behind your recent work and the musicians you play with?
Yes. Recently I have been realizing it makes you/me much more happy to not worry about status and acceptance in music, and to remember the spirit which compels you/me to play and write. I feel like trying to fit in and become one of the ‘in acts’ can really lead to unhappiness. Even if you get in. I must be a late bloomer because I am still learning to accept myself and what limitations exist in my mind and body and in my abilities. I truly love musicians and people at the shows. I wish I could be everything all the time. I would say the biggest lesson I continue to learn is to be more courageous in what I can bring as an individual to the community. In other words it’s about the group. Don't get distracted by what you're not and focus on what makes the group unique. I heard recently that ‘only emotion endures’. I think that could be true in creating. I saw Propagandhi earlier this year:
"Anyone remember when we used to believe that music was a sacred place and not some fucking bank machine? Not something you just bought and sold? How could we have been so naive? Well, I think when all is said and done, just cause we were young doesn't mean we were wrong."
Q. If you could pick three songs you enjoy playing live the most, what would they be and why?
The first would be almost any Northcote song. The others would be Revved with Chuck Ragan, and a song we sang - a German drinking song with The Broilers while supporting them in 2015. I don't remember the name of that song as it was in German, but it was a good one.
Q. What would your advice be to aspiring young musicians and what advice were you given that took you forward?
Keep writing. In baseball if you have success 3 out of 10 times your whole career you might make the hall of fame. Not everything will fall in your favour. But you can control your own work habits and work ethic. Be as honest and communicative as you can with others and show respect. Some one you lip off for no reason to could become your boss.
Q. How did punk change the way you saw music and are there any punk artists in particular that gave you inspiration for your album ‘Hope is Made of Steel’?
Hope is Made of Steel isn't really a punk record to me. I think there are some simple folk ballads and some more straight and punchy rock sounding songs. To me some of the guitar voicings and structures nod to 90s rock that I listened to in junior high. I was listened to The Replacements a lot while making the record. They were one of the first references that I gave the producer. It is the most high energy record we have ever made but I don't think that makes it punk. To me, I think punk means resistance and raw expression of emotion. I hope my best punk lyrics are yet to come.
Q. “I don’t mind if we never get to London, if we’re always undiscovered and no-one stops to notice”- the lyrics from your 2014 EP ‘Invisible Diamonds’. Thousands of people ended up noticing and will soon get a chance to see you live. What can we expect to see?
Everyone is welcome at our shows. It is important to me that the shows are fun and that it can offer an alternative influence than another mainstream rock show. I hope that the shows can be fresh and insightful and you can have a fun night out with your friends or on your own.
Catch Northcote on their 2016 tour:
Nov 21 - Bristol at Thekla
Nov 22 - Southampton at Joiners
Nov 23 - Manchester at Gullivers
Nov 24 - London at The Garage (Upstairs)
Nov 25 - Westerlo at Het Debuut
Nov 26 - Hamburg at Monkey's Music Club
Nov 27 - Liepzig at Conne Island
Nov 28 - Hannover at Lux
Nov 29 - Cologne at Gerbaude 9
Nov 30 - Erlangen at E-Werk
Dec 1 - Munster at Gleis 22
Dec 2 - Saalbach at Berg-Festival w/Wolfmother
Dec 3 - Vienna at Chelsea
Dec 4 - Zwiesel at Jungendcafe
Dec 5 - Neunkirchen at Stummsche Reithalle
Dec 6 - Zurich at Hafenkneipe
Dec 7 - Munich at Strom
Dec 8 - Wiesbaden at Schlachthof
Dec 9 - Berlin at Musik & Frieden
Dec 10 - Stuttgart at Zwolfzehn