Last month I was looking for some fresh soul or funk when I ran across a new album from The Nightowls and before I knew it, I was boogying across the room to Good as Gold and wrote up a review. Not long after that, I headed to One-2-One bar for Motown Monday where The Nightowls were headlining. Motown Monday is a weekly event that you have to see to believe, you will be shaking parts you forgot you had.
After the show, Ryan Harkrider, the frontman and lead singer of The Nightowls took a minute to say hello and discuss a bit about the band and their music. Ryan is a charismatic frontman with a vision and I felt quite fortunate when Ryan agreed to do an interview.
Before we move on, I want to say that as good as the band is on their album they are even better live, make a point to see them soon. They will be playing at the world famous Stubbs BBQ on February 7th, a must see event.
Now, without further delay, Ryan Harkrider –
Ryan, tell us about The Nightowls and your new album, Good as Gold.
The Nightowls is a 9-piece soul/Motown band from Austin, Texas. Formed in the fall of 2011, the band has been writing, touring and performing ever since. With influences ranging from classic Motown to modern soul, our music is a fresh blend of vintage and modern soul.
Good As Gold is our first album. Last August, we spent about 3 weeks in the studio and tracked 12 songs. 9 songs went on our LP Good As Gold and the remaining 3 will end up being on a “B-Sides” EP scheduled for release sometime in 2014.
How do you maintain your creative vision with so many possible opinions in the room? Who is your right hand man or woman?
I do a lot of preparation before the band ever hears the song. This translates into endless home recordings and many different scratch versions of songs. But usually, I will have the entire song mapped out and very specific ideas for certain instrumentation, tones and style that I am aiming for. So, when I finally present the music to the band, there is very clear direction on where to take the music.
So, being prepared and clear with my own vision definitely helps maintain it. But additionally, our band is also full of both very talented and positive musicians. This helps to create an open environment in which we can all create and experiment together.
I do consider my bass player, Rob, to be my right-hand man and the Musical Director of the band. Where I have the overall musical vision, he has the ability to execute that vision and articulate it to the rest of the band in a more technical and musical way.
Good as Gold is very well recorded. What decisions did you make to ensure the best possible sound quality for this album?
To try and capture the rawness and authenticity of the band, we tracked live in the studio through vintage amps and microphones. Then to achieve the retro sound, we mixed the album on a 1969 Neve Analogue Console and dumped it to tape before mastering.
Right now, Good as Gold is available on CD and MP3, are you planning to release it on any other formats?
Yes, we are planning to release it both on vinyl and on 8-Track Tape sometime in 2014.
8-track is an interesting choice, what made you move in that direction?
I think that the style of music we play lends itself well to both the vinyl and 8 track mediums. Both of these tend to have a warming effect on the sound of the record that digital media doesn’t allow. And, we made a lot of recording choices knowing that eventually they would be enhanced by 8 track and vinyl. I also like the 8 track tapes because the way that the tracks have to be formatted often ends up creating a very unique and challenging approach to making and sequencing an album.
If you could play with some of the classic soul artists, who would it be and why?
Al Green because of his ability to take a simple musical idea and make it profound.
Bill Withers because of his honest approach to songwriting.
And, Stevie Wonder to learn how to break all the rules.
The internet and social media have changed the music industry for everyone, how does it affect the band, your music and your relationship with your fans?
Social media has been a great tool for us. Not only has it allowed us to have immediate and direct access to our fans but has also helped bridge the gap between new fans and us. Also, in an age when a huge amount of human interaction occurs via the internet, the ability to share our music and information in a unique, personalized way is priceless.
It hasn’t had an effect on the music that we create but it has in the way that we release our music. With the Internet, you can easily distribute your music via Amazon, iTunes and other streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. And at this point in the music business, these mainstream avenues are necessary for any artist because they allow you to distribute your music to a much wider audience. However, we try to take this a step further by offering our album directly for sale through our own website. Not only does cutting out the middleman allow us to reap the financial benefits but more importantly it allows us to connect directly to our fans in a very personal way.
Many music labels have failed miserably at monetizing music in this new era, what can the music industry do to right the ship?
To me, music is an art form that flourishes best when it is cultivated through honest patronage and true appreciation of that art form. And, this is where independent artists are beginning to gain an advantage. The ability of an artist to connect to its patrons (fans) and share relatable experiences is truly the lifeblood of the music industry. And, I think that record labels are failing because they have grown too impatient to cultivate music and artists. They’ve become another symbol of the mass-appeal, instant gratification culture that artists and music don’t always fit into.
I was impressed with One-2-One bar and their patrons when I saw The Nightowls live one Motown Monday. How did this weekly gig get started?
Motown Monday has been a Monday night tradition in Austin for over 3 years now. It started out at The Highball with The Matchmaker Band (a soul/Motown cover band that I and a couple Nightowls members are also a part of). Then, when The Highball closed down in 2012, we moved the residency over to The One-2-One Bar and added The Nightowls to the bill. Both bands have been at the One-2-One Bar for about a year and a half.
I want to thank Ryan for the interview and say that Good as Gold has continued to grow on me every time I listen to it, which has been pretty regularly the last month. It is modern soul gold and I can’t wait to get my hands on a vinyl copy, hell I might even have to hunt down an 8-track player.
Watch the Nightowls Facebook page for updates on when they will be in your area and if at all possible, step away from your turntable on Friday, February 7th and head down to Stubbs BBQ for Friday Night Fever and catch the Nightowls in their native habitat.