On paper Northern American should be Los Angeles’ most glamorous new band. This is a group whose first live outing saw them providing the soundtrack whilst models paraded up and down the catwalk of a local fashion show. Step outside the band’s studio and you’ll find yourself on the set of Rush Hour or any other number of Hollywood blockbusters. And you don’t need to listen too hard to feel the sun warming the back of your neck, urging you to reach for your shades. Yet if there’s one thing Heist Or Hit’s newest signings will prove it’s that not everything is black or white.
“We don’t get into the city grind, we’re more in tune with nature,” reveals singer/guitarist Nate Paul eschewing expectations. “I live pretty close to the Griffith Observatory and hike there every morning; there are so many different places to hang out.”
Northern American’s concerns may not lie with Tinseltown but Los Angeles is buried deep within their genetic make-up. More in keeping with the laid back tones of fellow California dwellers Mazzy Star, Jonathan Wilson, or contemporary peers Local Natives and Autolux, to take this band away from their home would be like extracting an essential organ. Shot through shimmering sun-kissed melodies of reverb-laden guitar, the band’s lyrics have been set within the city landscape ever since Nate first met Shane Alch (keys) at high school; two 15-year-old guys who simply dressed the same and found common ground over their love of music; “Shane and I started crafting songs over 5 years ago - making ideas, throwing them away, learning how to write songs, learning how to sing,” tells Nate. “For about a year we had all these songs, just a bunch of ideas and then we knew we were ready for it to become a real band.”
That moment sparked a move from the city suburbs to the City of Angels itself; a musician’s playground of recording studios, new faces and a whole world of unpredictability at their feet. Through mutual friends, emails were exchanged and a jamming session set up with Augusto Vega (bass) and Bruno Calenda (drums) - immediately Northern American’s line-up was completed.“When Shane and I met Bruno and Augusto we clicked right away,” Nate recalls. “Literally, ever since that day we met we’ve been hanging out in the studio together. It was instant, really natural.”
Setting up their base in a Chinatown studio, the foursome’s preference for analogue recording seamlessly collides with modern technology. Amongst tripwires of cables and gear stacked up against the walls it’s where the band work and play, day in and day out. “It’s our primary home; we’re there all the time. Sometimes it’s where we write and record, other times we’ll chill or party. You never know what could happen.”
Whilst most artists have their own roles to play within their band, Northern American is a fully collaborative project with all band members contributing lyrics, melody, and rhythm to the process. “We write really organically,” explains Nate. “There’s not many people we know that write the way we do; it gives our songs an extra energy. We’re all getting things off our chests; it’s this weird thing that just happens.”
This ‘weird thing’ has already had a remarkable response. Mixed by Norm Block, formerly of Plexi, Mark Lanegan Band and now with QOTSA tour support Sweethead, the band’s Happiness Hungover EP was released in L.A. earlier this year. Before long, appearances at Echo Park Rising and Chinatown’s Moon Festival ensued not to mention sold out shows at The Silverlake Lounge and The Echo. Described as “deliciously smooth” by tipster blog LA Buzzbands and with transatlantic radio support in the UK from BBC6music to Amazing Radio, word is quickly spreading ahead of the band’s debut single ‘Wander’ due for worldwide release through UK label Heist Or Hit in early 2014.
Quite rightly, Northern American have been biding their time. Whilst current west coast darlings Deap Valley, Fidlar, and Wavves revel in the raw noise of their home-taped, lo-fi approach, this is a band who have unwittingly marked out their own territory – still capturing that feeling of youthful exuberance but under their own terms. Riding high on intuition, this is a band who, by their very nature take things as they come.
“We’re always changing.” says Nate of the band still in its infancy. “Our music is really free. We try to be as loose with it as possible; it’s the best version of all of us.”