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Narrators Releasing New EP To Art Boutiki

In Music
Open Mic Music: Cortnee Langlie and Stephen Duchardt of the local alt-folk duo Narrators met on the local open mic circuit.

Open Mic Music: Cortnee Langlie and Stephen Duchardt of the local alt-folk duo Narrators met on the local open mic circuit.

As singer-songwriters Cortnee Langlie and Stephen Duchardt are big fans of one another. “There’s stuff Cortnee will come up with that I’ll be like, ‘Where is that in your brain?’” Duchardt says, pausing momentarily to enthusiastically slap the table in front of him for emphasis. He is sitting next to Langlie—his musical partner and the other half of the San Jose-based alt-folk duo, Narrators—praising her abilities, both as a guitarist and singer. “That’s amazing.’”

The pair got their start playing at open mic nights around the South Bay. At first they performed on their own, before crossing paths and joining forces.

“Blue Rock Shoot was the primary one,” says Langlie, referring to the Saratoga cafe where she cut her teeth as a musical performer, working through the stage fright that often paralyzed her. Although Langlie was no stranger to the stage—she has experience with theater, where she sang in choirs and performed chamber music—she had to learn to overcome the anxiety she felt while performing her own tunes. “I grew up doing lots and lots of theater, performing other people’s stuff,” she says. “I felt like I wanted to have ownership over my own material and my own way of being onstage.”

Offstage, Duchardt works as a professional recording engineer. He was making the open mic rounds as a solo performer—hoping to become “the next Jackson Browne.” However, after catching a number of Langlie’s sets, “that completely changed.”

After seeing Langlie around at the same open mics he frequented, Duchardt started to entertain the notion of asking her to sing with him. “I’m gonna have to ask her to sing with me, because she’s amazing,” Duchardt recalls thinking.

But he wasn’t the only one paying attention. Langlie had taken notice of his work as well, and one night, Langlie performed one of his songs, “March Against My Walls,” while Duchardt was in the audience. “That was a very powerful thing,” he says.

The two began collaborating and soon discovered that their individual styles, while unique, worked well together—especially when they were crafting folk songs. At first Duchardt took the lead on songwriting duties. However, as Langlie became more comfortable with her abilities, she brought more to the table and the process became more cooperative.

“Pretty much everything we do is a negotiation,” says Duchardt. “I’m trying to get my stuff in as much as I can, and you’re getting your stuff in, and nobody gets their way, ever. But then, in the end, I think it really helps everything sound even better.”

All of that teamwork and compromise is culminating in their debut EP, due out Sept. 19. The self-titled release will express the full range of their influences, they say.

“The songs that we have written together—or have attempted to write together—they have more of a Celtic or old-timey feel,” Langlie says.

The EP, which they are celebrating with a performance at Art Boutiki on Saturday, will also feature broader, more playful interpretations of their previously sparse, soulful work. “There’s everything from two voices and two guitars all the way up to drum set, bass, keyboards, cello—like a full rock band,” Duchardt says.

Narrators took nearly a year to complete; it was recorded all in Langlie’s garage. “Every day, (we) lugged all the gear in and set it up, turned on the computers, and then fucked around til we got something,” he says.

Not bad for two folks who happened to pass through San Jose almost by chance—Langlie was managing a restaurant in Palo Alto and needed a cheap place to live, and Duchardt followed his wife to the valley when she got a job here. “It was cheaper then. And it’s changed so much in the past five years,” says Langlie.

The tech hub that is San Jose offers a deep well of influence for an admittedly old-timey, DIY duo, even though one might not think that it would. “Nothing against San Jose,” says Duchardt, “But this is not a cultural mecca. If you want to do something here, you basically gotta do it yourself. The takeaway from our work together (is that) San Jose is a city that tests your resolve. I think, if you’re really doing something you believe in, if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.”

Narrators are celebrating the release of their new self-titled EP at the SLG Art Boutiki on Sept. 19.

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