Northern - January 2012

Northern Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: May 10, 2011
Posting Date: January 16, 2012
Artist Hometown: Denton, TX
Links: Facebook, Blog
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Tell Me Lies
Never Too Late
This Kind Of Love
ONE: You’ve radically changed your sound numerous times throughout Northern’s existence. What motivates you to move in these directions, and do you think you’ve found something that will stick?
Joel North: I don’t know, I guess when I was concluding parts to Sleep Whale, one of the major things that we were all having problems with was that we all wanted to do different stuff. We all wanted everyone else’s job, and so when I started to play music more on my own, I definitely wanted to get a keyboard and write dance-pop and do weird things, and then I wanted to incorporate the cello into my life performing more, and then I didn’t, but I think…I guess a lot of it was just struggling for inspiration and just trying to find an idea of what I wanted my solo project to sound like. And then, I do think now that I have sort of developed a congruent set of songs in this one style that I like— that I’ve developed a sound that I want to stick to and kind of follow, just the main concepts being playing the cello and singing pop songs and recording all of it on cassette tapes.
TWO: As someone who has toured extensively, how would you say the North Texas music scene compares to the world at large when it comes to accepting unusual music?
Joel: A lot of it has to do with how an individual artist feels when they get to each city, I think. I mean, your mood is all over, like a pendulum, swinging through different emotions, when you’re on the road and you’re fighting with some band mates and getting along with others and flipping and flopping back and forth…so, for me, each city was reflecting what we were doing as a band, not necessarily the community that I met and if I was in a bad space, I could have completely missed a city and what it would have been like. But, America is always cutting-edge for certain things that become popular later on…but it’s hard to say if that’s even true, I mean, there’s lots of stuff that comes in from Japan or Europe only or stuff like that, so…I definitely feel that the community of this city is really open-minded to anything different. I’ve never lived in another town long enough to experience their culture, enough to give an honest response, but living in this city for almost ten years, I definitely know that I’ve heard the weirdest bands I’ve ever heard in my life here, and I hear continually hear music all the time from different parts of the world, I don’t need to go anywhere for that, so I definitely hear some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ever heard ever from here.
BF: You’ve mentioned before that you really enjoyed playing in Spain, and that the audience really seemed to get it.
Joel: Yeah, I think that Spain was my favorite. I think a lot of that also has to do with the atmosphere you get to perform in. We got to play in Spain in this community of independent musicians that come together at a festival that their government pays to fly people from all over to…it’s called Tanten Music Festival, and you play in this cathedral built in the 1300’s, so everything is just beautiful, out of this world old, and the sonics of the room are beautiful and you can hear everything perfectly. It’s the kind of performance where you show up six hours before your gig and do a two-hour sound check and play every song twice, so you know exactly…everything is dialed in, and there’s a meticulous amount of detail put into those kind of performances, and that’s fun for me. I love that. And then, you don’t feel scared to get on stage, and you don’t have to worry about, you know, “Oh, is the effect on my voice going to work on this part?” or anything like that. All of those kinds of worries are gone, and you get to just focus on the relationship you’re having with each other and the room, and looking at each other for cues and things like that, so…that part. And then, of course, Spain, the crowd. Their fans were so sweet. Spain in general, it’s just their culture is just really open-minded. They don’t have a care in the world what nationality you are, or what you believe in, or anything like that, they just want to go get a slice of pizza and smoke weed. That’s always nice. And, all of the people who were at our show invited us to their homes afterwards to hang out and get drunk and stay up all night and stuff like that. That was pretty rare, when I was in Europe, that a whole crowd of people would want to take me home with them. You have to beg for it in America, just for a place to sleep, but it’s definitely like an open invitation over in Spain. They’re the sweetest group of people.
THREE: Why did you start experimenting with harmonics? It’s different than your work with Sleep Whale…
Joel: Actually, that sort of stuff has been in our music since we began, it’s just been “the undertones,” and described as our worldly, atmospheric stuff. So, in Little Brite, there’s a lot of— even in “Skipping Stones” there’s a lot of that are. Even in the sampling. They were what we would sample in the past and now have become skilled enough to actually play them live. I don’t know, it’s a rare chance for the cello to feel like a thin instrument, and a harmonic is a very thin sort of feeling, and I think that a lot of what I’ve been trying to get in touch with is myself, and…I don’t know, I think that the harmonics are like a wispy, airy, thin feeling, and that’s how I feel, just kind of blown around the room, not rooted to anything.
– Interview by Brent Frishman/Transcription by Dale Jones