“I just want people to know that I do not fake my accent. I realize that my band is from Oregon, Michigan and Australia, but I am from Nash County, North Carolina. It’s natural,” says Christy Smith of Raleigh’s Nola.
Smith’s strong Southern speak has, apparently, been a source of contention for her since she began playing with a full band, but her affable nature and effortless drawl are all the proof she really needs of her pedigree. Smith wasn’t always in a band, though: Around 2003, Smith had a number of songs that she felt comfortable with and decided to present it to the coffee drinking set.
“I started playing coffee shops around town, but I didn’t want it to come off as a touchy-feely singer-songwriter kind of thing,” she admits. “So I decided that I needed to get a band.”
Smith placed a musicians-wanted ad that proved fruitless before a friend suggested bassist Jason King. King had been touring with Between the Buried and Me–a Victory Records metal band given to outbursts of grindcore and prog–and seemed an unlikely candidate for a musical collaborator. But Smith heard King was tired of touring and wanted to try a different kind of band.
“It sounded weird to me, but I guess he liked it,” she says, incredulously.
King immediately joined and recruited his roommate, guitarist David Landau. Drummer Mickey D’Loughy, formerly of Utah!, was added, and the name Nola was arbitrarily picked from a list of women’s names.
“It was the only name that all of us liked, so we went with it,” laughs Smith.
The band subsequently set out around the Triangle, playing a handful of shows before recording a demo in Landau’s house to send to labels.
“But so many people kept asking for a disc, we just decided to print some up and sell them at shows,” says D’Loughy.
Over the last year, the disc has steadily earned Nola a number of fans with its stark beauty and austere arrangements. Its languid ethos, combined with Smith’s endearing voice, hint at alt.country, but the band denies any confining genre.
Nola’s debut full length is currently being recorded with the help of DeYarmond Edison‘s Justin Vernon, who is overseeing the project from his home studio. The album is expected to be complete by late July, and it will feature updated versions of several songs from the demo. Vernon recently released a solo recording of his own, entitled Hazletons.
GONE TO THE STUDIO
Goner‘s upcoming album wasn’t nearly as deliberate. Resting on their laurels and raising families, Goner had no real expectations to record another album.
“It was actually quite serendipitous,” claims main vocalist Scott Phillips. “Chris Dalton, our drummer, had motivated us by forcing us to pretend that, even though we had no money, we were going into the studio in late July, which forced me and Greg [Eyman, bassist/vocalist] to write faster than we normally would, and now we actually are going into the studio at the end of July.”
As luck would have it, a local “patron of the arts who shall remain nameless” offered to loan Goner the money they needed to record, and they obliged. With eight songs already completed and several more in various stages, the band immediately made plans to work with Greg Elkins, who recorded the band’s 2003 effort, How Good We Had It.
“What we want to do with this album,” Phillips jokes, “is spearhead a movement called N.W.O.A.I.R. or the New Wave of American Indie Rock. Our only contemporary, as far as we know, will be Ted Leo, because he is as old as us. The qualifications will be as follows: You must have melody, you must have meaning, and you must be borderline elderly.”
While Phillips is being flip, Goner’s melodies do occasionally venture into Ted Leo territory. Phillips’ vivid storytelling and keyboard-driven anthems suggest experience and energy rather than approaching autumn years. You can look for the as-yet untitled album later this year.
Check out half of Nola on July 14 at Chaz’s Bull City Records with DeYarmond Edison and Homemade Knives. Goner plays Kings on July 7
with Des Ark.