GARAGE PROG: Drawing comparisons to The White Stripes and Foxy Shazam, North By North are hard to pin down.
There’s just something about the horn line that comes in at about the 32-second mark of “All That Glitters”— the lead-off track from North By North’s excellent sophomore album, Last Days Of Magic—that screams The Blues Brothers. But maybe that’s just a symptom of some sort of rock-writer confirmation bias, owing to the fact that this self-described “ghost punk” trio hail from Chicago.
According to Kendra Blank—keyboardist, touring drummer and one half of the core duo that comprises North By North—she has never heard her band and the 1980 John Belushi- and Dan Aykroyd-starring film mentioned in the same breath before. Blank does admit that she and Nate Girard, the band’s principal songwriter, do draw influence from other gritty Midwestern heroes, like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. And she says on their most recent tour, North By North were readily compared to the late, great nouveau-glam champions Foxy Shazam.
But no Jake and Elwood. The only thing Blank would offer in this regard, was a quip: “We play both kinds of rock: blues and glam.”
North By North do have a knack for merging the grandiose, climbing guitar lines of Brian May collide with rust belt stomp of Jack and Meg White.
But there is third element to the band’s sound: prog. On “Dastardly,” Girard sounds like The Dear Hunter’s Casey Crescenzo with his voice funneled through a microphone that’s seen better days; a whistled lead loops around a loping beat, before a somber string sections closes the song. And on “Kerosene Dream” a spooky, ghost-surf guitar riff gives way to delerium tremens organ, and the oom-pah-pah bounce of carnival-barker bass.
It’s an apt parallel when it comes to the volume of songs Blank and Girard have written. Just as Crescenzo has produced seven full-length records in ten years with his Dear Hunter vehicle, North By North put out two double-LPs in the span of two years—Something Wicked in 2014 and Last Days Of Magic late last year—and the pair are already eyeing 2018 for another full-length.
It’s clear that Blank and Girard love what they do—both in the music itself, and as evidenced by their rigorous touring schedule. Not long after wrapping a 12-week trek, the pair are on the third week of a 15-week stint. The pair plan on touring all year. Next stop San Jose with Sweet HayaH, Life Size Models and White Fuzzy Bloodbath.
North By North
Feb 23, 10pm, Free
The Caravan, San Jose