It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. I’m drinking beer. I don’t usually drink during the day but it’s a sunny day and Spring is in the air. Since I’m not going to be enjoying the sun, sounds, and suds of SXSW this week, I’m doing the next best thing and going through the email in-box and checking out all the bands that publicists have been asking me to give a listen to.
My favorite find of the day is Morningbell, a foursome from Florida that conjures up thoughts of Vampire Weekend and British ska-punk on the track “You Think I Don’t Know (But I Know)”. I have no idea if the rest of their fourth album, Basso Profundo (out on March 20; stream the whole thing here), sounds so snappy, so sunny, but this is exactly the type of band that I regret missing at SXSW.
Noelle Leblanc – who has fronted two incredible Boston-based rock bands (Damone, The Organ Beats) – pulled a surprise move last week when she released a 4-song EP that strays away a bit from the power-pop-meets-early-’90s-hair-metal sound of her other projects. The material on Good Ol’ Daze (buy it here) is the most personal stuff I’ve heard from the singer and there’s a definite early ’80s synth-pop influence in most of the tracks (reminds me a bit of the songs in the movie Drive). It’s already one of my favorite releases of 2012.
I suspect doing this interview in person would have been awesome (I’ve seen Damone 4 or 5 times in concert but never met Noelle), but since she’s in Boston and I’m in Columbus, I settled for an e-mail interview to talk about the new EP.
What is it about ’80s music that is so appealing to you?
I would say that my style of writing is more influenced by the people I worked with when I was younger who all grew up in the 80s. A ton of groundbreaking music came from that decade. Most of it super awesome and inspiring but some of it I don’t like at all. I love pop, I love synths, I love melody, dancey beats, four on floor. Can’t go wrong with any of those combinations.
The first time I heard “Never Too Late”, I thought it sort of sounded like a cross between Cyndi Lauper and Aimee Mann. Are you a fan of either of these singers and, if so, would you say either of them influenced your style at all?
Of course I love Cyndi Lauper, she is obviously extremely unique and a great role model for young women. I listen to all kinds of music. What I write just comes out so it’s hard to pinpoint who specifically influences me.
Is The Organ Beats still an active band? If so, what prompted a solo EP at this point in your career and is the EP a precursor to a full length or is it just a collection of songs you were ready for the world to hear?
Yes, of course. We are very active. We’ve been working on our full length the last few months so we aren’t playing shows until a release. While working on new music I had a batch of down tempo/experimental songs that I didn’t want to put on a “full band” record considering the performing aspect. Thus a solo EP to indulge myself in the meantime and I will continue to make music in whatever capacity until I’m dead.
At any given point in your career, is the most recent release indicative of where your head is at? Or, are you trying new things out with each release but ultimately a “rock chick”?
Everyone is quick to judge people in media but it’s only a vague assumption. I think anyone with common sense understands that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I’m certainly not one dimensional. As a musician/writer/artist I look at the world a little differently than some dude with a blog. Of course my songs are a representation of who I am. Music and art is an expression of oneself.
You’ve done the touring thing with Damone. You’ve played locally with The Organ Beats. Any thoughts to taking the solo thing on the road and, if so, is it something you can do by yourself or would you bring along a band?
It’s hard to give a definitive answer as there are no tentative plans. I don’t plan to tour as a solo artist. My priority is the band.
Looking back on Damone, what are your feelings about the way the band was perceived? I always thought you would have been better off opening for bands like Ratt and Joan Jett than touring with the likes of Less Than Jake. Dudes my age (I turned 40 last year) would have totally eaten up the modern take on the hard rock music we grew up listening to.
Damone was very accessible. We reached a wide audience. We did not target a specific gender, age, or sexual orientation. We were who we were and most everybody loved us. Every tour/show was amazing and we were very lucky to have been able to be apart of each one.
After the major label experience with Damone, The Organ Beats released music on your own (right?) and eventually offered up the album for free on Bandcamp. With your solo stuff, you offered up a free track on Bandcamp and made the EP available on CDBaby. What are your thoughts on releasing music in 2012 (and beyond)? What model works best for you as a musician?
How ever many songs we/I have cooked and ready to go, we’ll release for a suitable price. We will always give something away for free as promotion. Music is already something everyone can get for free so as musicians we sometimes have to come up with innovative ways to make a profit if need be. It’s an expensive endeavor and hard enough to break even. But what’s most important is making music and making it accessible for everyone to hear. There are always true supporters of music who donate to the cause and we’ve been fortunate enough to have very loyal fans that have helped us out a lot.
There’s a storyline. Not sure how it actually plays into the lyrics, but it was well shot which means there must have been some semblance of a video budget, something you rarely see in the world of ’80s/’90s rock bands who are still out there. Jack Blades of Night Ranger has a solo album – Rock N Roll Ride – coming out at the end of March and this is the first single (single being an interesting word because I don’t know if radio plays this kind of music anymore). It’s actually got a really good guitar riff running throughout which gives me hope that the rest of the CD kicks ass.