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Near Northeast

Song premiere and interview with Near Northeast

Near Northeast's latest single “Clusters” functions as a sort of response to the current craze for musical wallpaper. Demanding attention with a meditative and creeping intro, “Clusters” requires the listener to shut off distraction for its entirety. In return, the song conjures up the feelings one might get from a sudden realization about the meaning of life made on a quiet Saturday night spent at home. Decidedly proggy, the song avoids any sort of verse/chorus structure, keeping the music enticing and staying true to its theme of meditative contemplation throughout.

After listening I had some questions for the group, who were nice enough to answer.  Here's what they had to say. 

AM: Avy Mallik (guitarist)
AB: Austin Blanton (bassist)
KS: Kelly Servick (vocalist)
AS: Antonio Skarica (drummer)

If you imagine folk music to be a spectrum, with the Mountain Goats on one side and klezmer music on the other, where do you think you guys fit?

AB: If the term folk music originated to describe groups of people all sharing the same culture and making music, then we make folk music. We were all growing up and starting to make music around the time of Napster, Limewire, etc. I would download anything that caught my fancy, share burned CD-Rs with friends (you can fit a lot of mp3s in 700 megabytes), rip as many CDs from the library as I could get my hands on. We all grew up under different geographies and cultures, but we share a voracious appetite for all types of music and like to steal whatever speaks to us. Folk as a genre is an entry point for us - there's nothing like a simple acoustic guitar with vocal harmonies.

AM: We've always been inspired by different types of music, "folk" and otherwise, and we try not to put labels on our songs and our style. That said, the two songs coming out on the Etxe Compilation album do showcase very different sides of the band -- "Clusters" to me is an expansive song, with soundscapes reminiscent of Boards of Canada and some post-rock bands we love. The heart of our songs still have a folk music center, with Kelly's vocals and an acoustic guitar as the basis for the song -- but then we intentionally and mindfully mess it up. A whole lot.

Given that you frequently mention “meditation” in descriptions of your music, and that your music itself is—in a shallow sense of the word—less “stimulating” than a lot of other stuff being put out there, would you say that your group has a certain aversion to consumerism?

KS: It's true that in some of our recent music--including this new song, Clusters--we take our time to explore a tone and feeling, resting in sparse, repetitive moments. Hooks are powerful, and catchiness can be a virtue, but open space can enhance those rewards -- both for the performer and the listener. We hope people who consume our music are game to spend some time in these musical spaces with us. It's not a statement about consumerism; It's just what feels right to us right now.

AM: This question reminds me of a conversation we had last year. We were lucky enough to do a weeklong tour of Bosnia and Croatia in September 2017, and we got to meet musicians and visual artists and creative people from all over this very tragic region during our tour. One of our concert bookers, a funk musician based in Sarajevo who played in a very fun cover band, had the most apt compliment for us -- he said "I love your music, incredibly deep and innovative, zero commercial potential, but I do love it!" We wear that as a badge of honor.

As a band and as people, what are your hopes for the near-future?

AM: We've got a couple of fun things in the horizon -- the Etxe Compilation show is this Saturday, Jan 20 at Capital Fringe, a venue in Northeast DC that we love (show info here) -- besides performing our own music, we will be featuring our friend Isabelle on cello on our other new song "Feuilles", which has a more traditional folk song. We will also be performing with our label mates Teething Veils on their 20+ min epic 2014 piece Constellations, something they've never performed in their entirety before. Beyond this Etxe release, we are also working with a San Francisco-based visual artist and filmmaker on an instrumental soundtrack for a "found film" shot circa 1918 -- it is an anti-Western which was found in an abandoned underground cinema in the New Mexico desert that this artist is rearranging and getting scored in different ways. Beyond that, who knows -- perhaps another album or EP? A tour of a new part of the country or the world the we are curious about?

Catch Near Northeast on Saturday, January 20 at Capital Fringe at the release show for "Etxe at 10 Years: a Compilation" -- RSVP, and Thursday, January 25 at Gypsy Sally's, playing with Seattle-based Kuinka - RSVP

-Mike Dranove


Whimsical grief twinged indie-pop on eerie Near Northeast music video

The first few seconds of Near Northeast's Indali are ethereal, almost like the sound we imagine people hear when they are approaching the gates of heaven. Slowly creeping through the ambiance are reverb heavy guitar lines, keeping the music somewhere in between shoegaze and indie pop, with the legato feel helping the music steer clear of twee.

A certain seriousness is essential for the song given its subject matter: a mother and child being dragged out to sea by riptide. The video's visuals underscore the tragedy in the music, with images of playful beachgoers intermingled with footage of people being drowned in tsunamis. As drummer Antonio Skarica put it in an interview with DC Music Download, “The line is so thin between carefree frolicking and complete destruction.”

Near Northeast's new album True Mirror drops May 3rd.  You can catch the album release show at St Stephen's church on Newton St this Friday night.

 -Written by Michael Dranove


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