You ready for a band so uncategorizable that I can’t even tell you who they sound like? They are not like any female fronted band I’ve seen on the scene here in LA. What wowed me is they have the perfect balance of musical theatre-esqe vocal power, and perfectly crafted complimentary alt-rock instrumentals (I’m not even sure that genre fits, indie folk also could work, oi, listen to their album, you’ll get what I mean). Badass Band 79 is No Way North.
No Way North found me, and how they did is not important. What you need to know is I booked them one night at Silverlake Lounge and all I can relate their set to is how the Sirens in Greek mythology used to lure sailors to shipwreck on their island via their beautiful singing voices. However, not only does NWN have the vocal power to lure you in, but they have the amazing musicianship to back it up. This is why ended up I shipwrecked on NWN island. What happens on stage during their set is a slew of amazing artists come together to create a variety of sounds that keep you guessing, smiling, and utterly drawn to their energy.
NWN is composed of Brandon Miller, Emily Dykes, and Matthew “P-Touch” Scoggins, Eyal Dehan, Steve Fisher, and Celina Dean. They released their debut album “The Sum of All You’ve Seen” in 2012 and each track boasts strong, resonating vocals, subtle, clever metaphors woven into their lyrics, and an array of instrumentals that compliment the vocals in a way that gives them that musical theatre power quality. My suggested tracks include, “Why Don’t You Stay?” with its metallic guitar that you can practically feel being strummed, mellow beats, and vocals that are soft yet forceful. The vocals truly convey the emotion behind the question/chorus ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and at the song’s climax the instrumentals sound almost symphonic complimenting dual vocals that will nearly break your heart. Another notable track is, “Bird to Glass” which is comprised of upbeat melodies, heavy guitar and rhythms, and backing vocals that are surprisingly just as strong as the lead vocals. When Emily and Celina harmonize, the lyrics flourish and come alive. This song showcases lyrics that really drive the metaphor at the root of the chorus, “Twisted blankets in a foreign bed, throbbing rhythm pounding in my head, its not a place you want to drink alone, though the drink has never led me home, A Bird to Glass.” Overall, this band is truly a standout on the LA scene, and their album, is a must for anyone seeking something that melds the best of the indie folk/alt rock and musical theatre.
The radical folks of NWN were kind enough to take some time from recording to have a chat with BBB, so continue reading to find out what a freeway has to do with their name, who their amazing array of musical influences are and why food keeps the boys in the band.
When and why did you start playing music?
Brandon- I started because of music I was listening to. You sort of get that overwhelming feeling to make those songs that mean so much to you.
P-Touch- For me it was my dad’s band. As far back as I can remember his band would practice every Thursday night in our basement. Every Thursday night I would sit on the steps and watch them practice until my mom made me go to bed. Its not something I chose to do, I have to. It’s a compulsion. I wake up in the morning with songs in my head and I go to bed with songs in my head. I have to play, its what I do.
Steve- I was about 14 and I was really into skateboarding. I was out in the country skating a friend’s half pipe and someone had an electric guitar there. I went over and picked it up, thought it was really cool and I knew I had to get one. So my friend and I bought one together from like, JC Penny or something and I started taking lessons.
Jo: Did you share custody of it?
Steve: Yeah, we did actually. He had it for one week, and then I had it for one week. Eventually, I bought his half out so I could keep it.
Brandon: Did you make a profit, like stiff him a little bit?
Steve: Nah, I just broke even.
Eyal: My father was a drummer. At one point I said, ”Over my dead body I’ll be a drummer.” Then he bought me a drum set and sure enough I am a drummer. I don’t know when I began; I’m just good at it I guess.
Emily: My dad was a singer/songwriter, and he taught me how to play the piano when I was little. Then my parents divorced and we had to sell the piano. I was then in musical theatre, and that’s how I met Celina in Canada years ago. It was melding two different art forms together. Eventually when I was about 15 my mom really realized how upset I was that I didn’t have a piano, so as a single mom she financed one. I picked the cheapest one because I knew what she was doing when she let me go play every piano. She paid it off over years and years and kept encouraging me. Both of my parents wanted to be artists, but they had to have real jobs, so they encouraged it, both my brother and sister are artists, so we’re all broke. My parents were adamant about us getting the opportunities they didn’t when we were young, so it wasn’t an option.
Celina: My dad is also a songwriter. He was super active in Canada and was President of the Alberta Association of Music so I was always around bands and musical people. I would find any excuse to stay up when they were doing stuff or any excuse to be around. My parents also have great taste in music so it made me want to sing music.
How did all of you meet?
Brandon: Emily and I played in a band before this and when that band broke up, the guitar player and drummer assumed they were going to move on and play without us. She and I knew we were still going to do stuff. We started writing songs, which ended up being what about half our first record was. Then I went on the road and met P-Touch, who is one of those guys you just get a musical bond with. I called Emily and said, “We have a third member in our band!” and she said, “Ohh we do!” He played drums on the record. We had this record that we were really proud of but we realized that there were so many parts to the songs that we needed a band, so we started looking. Celina was first, and it was like P-Touch, where Emily called and was like, “Hey we have another singer in the band.”
Emily: It was just not even an option, we met for dinner one night and I mentioned she should sing with us and she was in.
Brandon: We won the Craigslist lottery with Steve and Eyal.
Steve: Yeah, I had been looking for a long time for a band to join and they had already released the album so I could listen to their stuff. I thought it was great songs, great singing and good musicians. It really resonated with me so I went for an audition. I thought it went well, they told me it went well, but Brandon and P-Touch go out on the road so they were gone for several weeks so it took them a long time to decide. I think from the time I auditioned to the time Emily called to ask me to join, it was probably six months.
P-Touch-:Its funny because Brandon and I were on the road together but we didn’t know each other. We were on the same bus and one night he played me some of the demos that he and Emily recorded and I thought they were great. I moved here in 2007 and was looking for a band the whole time; I just couldn’t find the right people. Then Brandon mentioned needing a drummer, and I told him I played drums. We found out we lived a mile down the road from each other.
Brandon-: Yeah, we toured the country together and end up living literally a mile from each other.
P-Touch: The day tour was over, I got my drum kit and came over. But then when we were auditioning drummers, we went through a few but Eyal came in and played it perfectly. I knew within a minute that he was the drummer. As all six of us, we had our first practice on November 14th, and we played a gig on the 15th. It was great.
So why the name No Way North?
Emily: That one is my fault. We were ‘Steve’ at first because I had a questionable landlord named Steve. We kept trying to figure out a band name.
P-Touch: So one day we had just been discussing band names in the studio…
Brandon: And Emily has this habit of taking off earrings and then leaving them at the studio. She almost always will forget them. She called and I assumed she forgot her earrings. I hit speaker and she says, “Guys, I just tried to get on the freeway and there is no way North! That’s a great band name huh?” I looked at P-Touch and said, “No Way North?” and he said, “The No Way North?” and Em says, “Just No Way North”. We agreed. It was just that point that it seemed right.
How does your creative process typically work?
Brandon: The cool part about this new album is that everyone came in at the start of one of them. The process can go six different ways. Sometimes it’s a riff, sometimes Emily comes in with a melody on the piano and we’ll play with it. Eyal writes songs in a prolific fashion on his IPhone and he will come in with them all organized and we’ll play them.
Eyal: Yeah, I don’t know music theory and I don’t know how to play keyboard, so I found Garage Band, I just started messing with it and started to develop as a musician. Two months later we are using some of those ideas and recording an EP.
Emily: Yeah, we are recording and EP funded by some money we got from being in a commercial a couple months ago. It’s a world wide commercial for the website company called ‘Wix’ where you can build a website. I submitted us never thinking we would get called in and we did. It paid for our new EP.
P-Touch: Now we just need 3 more commercials and we can finish it!
Brandon: The cool thing about writing with Emily is that she can come up with melodies and lyrics so quickly, many times that she doesn’t even know she’s saying. She spits stuff out spontaneously.
Celina: Steve brought it in this amazing song that we went bananas for and Emily just started this stream of consciousness of lyrics to go with it, and its perfect.
Emily: I have to say, this does not ALWAYS happen. Celina co-lyricized a few of the new songs and its nice to have someone to share that with.
Who are your musical influences?
Emily: Obviously, Jeff Buckley is Jesus. Queen. I like really eclectic things. I really love local artists too, like you interviewed The Janks, we love them! There is nothing quite like listening to what the people around you have to say.
Brandon: I listened to a lot of obscure punk rock, which clearly suits this band perfect, like Alkaline Trio, who are now almost too popular to listen to. But I also have sappy stuff like James Taylor in my collection.
P-Touch: The Beatles are probably my biggest influence growing up. They were always on the stereo at our house or in the car. When I started playing music, my biggest influences were mid 90’s indie rock, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sonic Youth, all that kind of stuff. Nowadays there is a lot of good stuff out there, Band of Horses, Dr. Dog, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, etc.
Steve: For me, when I was young, it was Michael Jackson, Van Halen, and then I started getting into Minor Threat and stuff like that. When I started playing into guitar it was Metallica, Guns and Roses, and Led Zeppelin. Nowadays, its bands like the Foo Fighters and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
Eyal: The Scorpions, Bad Religion, Breaking Benjamin, stuff like that. I am starting to get to know The Beatles.
Celina: I love Carol King, and James Taylor. Brandon has worked with Carol King for a long time. I also love Cat Stevens and Kenny Loggins (who Brandon has also worked for).
Brandon: I also got P-Touch a gig with Kenny so we work together and he puts on a great show. He’s impressive, he really is.
What does NWN have coming up for the rest of this year?
Steve: We just finished our EP. So we are working on mixing that.
Emily: We will be releasing some B-sides. We need to play more shows.
Steve: We would love to do a West Coast tour, probably from September on.
One song you never get tired of.
Emily- “Lover, you should’ve come over” -Jeff Buckley
Steve- “Rhapsody in Blue”-George Gershwin
P-Touch- “Its Been a Long time Comin’”-Sam Cooke, “Georgia on my Mind”- Ray Charles
Brandon- “Try Me”- James Brown
Best live show you’ve ever been to?
P-Touch- I saw Paul McCartney at The Joint in Las Vegas, which is at the Hard Rock. I was there the night before at the soft opening mixing a band called Atreyu. Paul McCartney was the main act the next night. I sweet-talked their Front of House guy into letting me be front of house for the Paul McCartney show. It was super intimate and amazing.
Brandon- My favorite show is a show that I went to when I was 19/20 and it was my favorite band at the time, Alkaline Trio. It was an acoustic show that was not advertised to anybody. Every time I walked by there I thought, “That’s where it was!” It was at this tiny little club in SF, now its nothing, but it was maybe 150 people who knew every word. It was one of the best nights.
Emily- There is a band here called ‘Vaud &The Villains’ it’s a burlesque band, with dancers, horns, a flaming tuba and it’s amazing! Even the people that go to their shows dress up in flapper costumes! It’s awesome.
Steve- For me, I saw Fugazi in this church basement in Washington, DC and it was packed, hot and so much energy. It was so cool.
If you could be a fictional character, who would it be?
Brandon- Bugs Bunny
Steve- Kramer from Seinfeld
Favorite things to do not musically related.
P-Touch- I like to mountain bike. I also love to play Mrs. Pac Man.
Brandon- I hike to that tree in the backyard once in a while.
Emily- I like to talk about going to yoga class.
Steve- I hang out with my pets, I used to be into car racing, I used to race them, but haven’t done much of that since moving to LA.
Eyal- I love surfing.
Emily- Celina is the best chef I have ever met.
Celina- I love cooking!
Steve- That’s actually the reason I am still in the band. While we recorded both Celina and Emily brought amazing food.
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