Interview: Noelle Leblanc (Damone, The Organ Beats) talks about her new solo EP

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.

Band(camp) of the Week: The Organ Beats

Most people missed out on Damone, the ’80s-hair-metal-meets-’90s-power-pop Boston band, that released a handful of great (but not-so-great-selling) CDs between 2003 and 2008. I’m not sure why the band, fronted by powerhouse Noelle LeBlanc, didn’t make it – maybe because while they should have been opening arena tours for Motley Crue and Def Leppard, they aligned themselves with Hot Topic-type bands and were trying to peddle their music to fashionable high school kids with no appreciation for the great music from the late ’80s.

Damone broke up in 2008 but Noelle didn’t stop. Hooking up (figuratively, not literally) with her brother Danny, Noelle formed The Organ Beats, a similar sounding band though she lost the band members that brought the hair metal influence to Damone.

Recommended if you like: Butch Walker, Paramore, Hey Monday

The Organ Beats just released a new 2-song single on Bandcamp and they’re inviting you to download for free.

If you like what you hear, check out The Organ Beats full length 2009 release, Sleep When We Are Dead, available for the lovely “name your own price”.

In My Ear – Week of September 19

Here’s some things I listened to last week. Feel free to tell me what you listened to by leaving your list in the comment section below.

The Gracious Few
Candlebox singer backed by members of Live in a Zeppelin-sounding band. Much better than I would have thought based on description alone.

The Posies – Blood/Candy
As with other bands, my favorites Posies CD is the first one I heard by the Seattle power-pop band, Frosting on the Beater. But, after years of making The Posies their second and third priority, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have reunited and put out an album that holds it’s own against Frosting on the Beater. Can’t wait to see these guys on tour (w/ Brendan Benson and Aqueduct) in November.

Kelly Kneiser
This is the first solo recording from Glossary member Kelly Kneiser. She doesn’t fancy herself a songwriter so all the songs on this EP were written and donated by friends but Kelly delivers the charming vocals providing further evidence why she’s the secret weapon in the band led by her ex-husband Joey. The EP is available for free over on Glossary’s website.

The Organ Beats
Another freebie – not sure how long this will last so grab now if you’re interested – The Organ Beats are led by ex-Damone frontwoman Noelle LeBlanc. While Damone also flirted with an ’80s hair metal sound, The Organ Beats are a bit more straight-up rock with just a small dash of pop … probably a more marketable sound than Damone. (Click on “Buy” below and name your own price for the CD)

<a href="">SLEEP WHEN WE ARE DEAD by The Organ Beats</a>

Massy Ferguson
Remember the early Son Volt material, the stuff when Jay Farrar had just split from Uncle Tupelo and was trying to make a name for himself as a solo artist? Massy Ferguson remembers that and their second full length, Hard Water (out on Oct.19), is a hearty tribute to the sounds of bands like Son Volt and Drive-By Truckers. Sample tracks on Massy Ferguson’s website (the player is on the top of the page – I highly recommend starting with “Long Time No See”).