Local indie roots rockers Northern Son haven’t been that active these past couple of years. But now with the new year, they’re ready to play more shows, write new songs, and hopefully record a new album. We talked with lead singer/guitarist Jeff Carmassi about what 2013 has in store for them.
In the first couple years of your band existence (2009 and 2010), you guys played a lot of shows and released a full length, an ep, and three music videos, and even got a fair amount of attention. Why have the last couple of years been so lean?
The last couple years for Northern Son have been a time of transition and personal growth. When we first started this band there was a solid group of five extremely motivated friends who wanted nothing more than to share the music being created, but, sometimes life leads people down different paths and things don’t always go according to plan. This led to many line-up changes! Some ex-members left to create other music projects, get married, start families and pursue higher education. We reached a point, during all the line-up changes, when Northern Son was almost no more. All the transitions over the years took Northern Son from a five piece band to a duo, myself and lead guitarist/Background Vocalist OJ Montevirgen.
We each took some time away from doing or thinking about anything Northern Son. But through the absence I realized one thing: writing, recording, and performing songs with Northern Son makes life better, just does something for my soul. I think OJ and I came to that realization about the same time and decided to give it another go.
Refreshed from time away and the addition of our new drummer Kyle Freeze, Northern Son feels new again. We are really excited about the future.
What are your plans in 2013? Are you planning on releasing any new material? Could you tell us about all that the future has in store for Northern Son?
It’s going to be a great year for Northern Son. We are doing a bunch of writing, and new material is on the way in 2013. A few new songs have already made it into our live set. There are plans to release an ep, possibly a full length album this year as well as playing a bunch of shows all over California. Maybe a music video or two! Hahaha.
One of the elements that fans were so attached to with your early releases is how you built such a large sound, while still pulling from the rawness of roots rock, classic rock n roll and alt country. With the member lineup changes, how has the sound of the new material been compared to what you created back then?
The new material is more mature but still has that classic roots rock backbone. I feel very blessed to be in a band where all the members play so well off each other. I will bring in the bare bones of a song and OJ and Kyle will shape it and it always comes out sounding like Northern Son. This is the strongest Northern Son lineup to date and I think people who liked the older material will like our new material because there is still the same heart and soul behind the music.
Could you tell me a little about the attention you got back in 2009 and 2010? I know you were played on Live 105. How did this come about? Were you ever approached by any record labels or management companies?
We had a few songs played on Live 105 and Aaron Axelsen even did a write up on us for live105.com as a south bay band to watch out for. That lead to playing some live 105 sponsored shows around the bay area and even landed us a spot on the local stage at BFD 2010 at shoreline. We’ve done some touring up and down the west coast and played with bands like Vertical Horizon, Third Eye Blind, and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Our song “Spin” was featured in the season finale of an E! television show called “The Spin Crowd”.
We never officially received a record deal but we did talk to a few labels and management companies back in 2010. That was really eye opening for us. I think it’s the first time we realized there is a big business side to music. Almost no one starts a band because they love looking at contracts and talking to managers and lawyers. We just love playing music. Nowadays we are better prepared for all the business that comes with being in a band.
Your music—as well as that of your main influences, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen—lean heavily on roots rock. What do you think it is about roots rock that lends itself so naturally to emotional, honest and straight forward songwriting? Why have you chosen it as a foundation for your songs?
I like to think that we didn’t choose roots rock as the foundation for our songs but rather it chose us. There was never a conscious effort made to be a certain type of band or write a certain style of song. I think we focus on doing something really honest and simple. No bells, no whistles, just straight to what really matters – Lyrics, melody, emotion.
Roots rock always seemed like working class music to me. The emotions and themes found here are things everyone feels and deals with. It’s universal. These guys we look up to like Tom and Bruce seem like our best friends when they sing about life and relationships. We, as Northern Son, strive for that more than anything, creating a connection between us and the listener because we are those listeners too.
Northern Son play San Pedro Square Market on Saturday January 26th. The show starts at 7pm. Admission in free.