Interview: Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights — "A lot of rock bands nowadays don't really understand the R&B side of rock 'n' roll…"
Thu, 11 Mar 2010 08:22:24
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights (Web Site) have got the power to revive rock 'n' roll.
There's an energy surging through their F-Stop/Atlantic Records debut, Pardon Me (Due out April 27), that's simply uncontainable. Bluesy riffs ricochet around anthemic rockers like "Gypsy Woman," and Jonathan Tyler's howl is equal parts Chris Robinson and Robert Plant. Plus, he's got stage swagger to spare, tearing up stages alongside everyone from AC/DC and Erykah Badu. Pardon Me certainly references the classics with reverence but, at the same time, young Tyler and his cohorts conjure a sound that's as fresh as it is fiery, making Pardon Me one of the most simultaneously explosive and engaging rock records of 2010.
Jonathan Tyler sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino to talk about Pardon Me in this exclusive interview. Jonathan explained how important R&B truly is to rock 'n' roll and why Quadrophenia speaks to him…
Download "Pardon Me" here!
You've definitely got an old school vibe, but the music still feels new and personal.
We were shooting for exactly what you just said [Laughs]. We wanted to make an album that was about the classic vibe and the good times of rock 'n' roll but, at the same time, we wanted to keep it 2010 and not 1960. I'm glad that you noticed that!
That's not an easy thing to do. What do you feel like you did to create that aesthetic?
It was all about the sonics in the studio. Going in, we tried to mix both worlds. We were recording to tape but taking the tape to Pro Tools. We tried to form the songs with sections for ethereal, spacey sound and we got some cool sounds out of the drums and guitars. The song structures and chord patterns are classic in a way, but we tried to do build in sections that were spacier and more modern. I think the sonics were the biggest part of that.
On "Devil's Basement" and "Gypsy Woman" that experimentation definitely feels palpable.
The idea of those songs goes back to really old blues recordings and even some country recordings. You'll hear a song completely a capella, and the thing that stands out is the fact that you feel like you're there. It's not so polished that you can't feel the real recording. We wrote "Gypsy Woman" and "Devil's Basement" from the acoustic perspective. They rely heavily on the live feel and the energy that the band brings. Those songs could be really lame if there wasn't this aggression within the performances.
Where do you usually come from lyrically? Do you read a lot or do you write poetry? What encourages that process?
I'm really into poetry actually. I don't try to be too poetic with the song lyrics. I think there are ways of putting certain emotions into words that can take a person to the same place where you feel a certain way. It's really hard to put it into words. Poetry is about attempting to put certain emotions and feelings into words. It's about communicating things that are sometimes hard to say and things that people don't know how to say. I think my job is trying to contain it in a four or five minute song. Music really helps with that because you can direct the energy of a song's spirit through the chord changes, the music and the way that you play. The lyrics can pinpoint it a little bit for you. For me, getting to do that is the beauty of writing. I spend a lot of time on the lyrics. Writing songs is a healing process for me because we all go through things. The best way to cope and sort through something is to write a song about it. After, I've got this explanation of what it is that I've been going through.
You're honest, and that's the most important thing for any rock 'n' roll band.
I agree. I think it's the most important thing for any artist. People have different reasons to make things. We're making music for ourselves because we love to make music. We're just lucky that other people happen to like it as well.
What was it like working with The Black Crowes' Rich Robinson on "Where the Wind Blows?"
We were hanging out in New York going over lots of stuff in the studio about four or five months before we officially started recording the album. I just showed Rich the songs. I wrote lyrics over some music that he had for a song. I showed him "Where the Wind Blows" and we tracked it down and demoed it. That was the first time we worked on it.
You've played with everyone from AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock and Erykah Badu. What separates your live show?
A lot of rock bands nowadays don't really understand the R&B side of rock 'n' roll—the rhythm side and the blues side. They're very straight. We have a groove though. At our live show, people dance and they move. We're very different than Erykah Badu, but there's a common thread of R&B in our music and hers that can gel together. When we play with bands like AC/DC, we'll mold the set to the crowd. If we're playing an AC/DC, we're going to bring the rock a lot more than we would if we were playing with James Taylor. It's been amazing getting to perform with all of the different artists, especially bands we respect.
If this record were a movie what would it be?
Quadrophenia…if you see that film, it's a coming-of-age type movie where the main character is really starting to see things for himself. He's waking up to his own self and becoming a man. For me and the band, Pardon Me was all of the different phases of that process. All of these songs were written around 22, 23 and 24-years-old for me. It's been a really hectic couple of years. A lot of different things have happened emotionally and physically too as far as love being lost and friends passing away. It's about the way that certain things in the world start to change. In the movie, this guy goes through all of these phases. He's questioning himself and experiencing aggression against the system and the man. He's going through love and all of these different things. At the end of the movie, he wakes up to what's really happening. It's a liberating thing. This album is about being liberated from all of that and becoming free and self-respecting. It's about living in the moment.
Check out Jonathan's web site here and download "Pardon Me" here!
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…