It's been about a year since we last checked in on Northern Lands, the most scrappy bare-bones honest-to-goodness rock ‘n’ roll band in town. They’ve spent the last two years refining their rough hewn sound in New England hellholes and dives, grinding it out in the studio and learning the secrets to writing killer songs.
The handful of unfinished tracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to over the past few days blaze with all the urgency and emotional honesty that first drew me to Northern Lands, and its pretty safe to say that the final polished versions will still have that same raw hum and drunken swagger once the band is finally done with them. They’ve admitted to slowing things down a bit in the studio this time around, recording with Dan Sawyer (B. Dolan, Prayers For Atheists) and bringing in Nick Iddon from Viking Jesus to get the sweetest drum sound possible. They also played around with great vintage gear and experimented with highly advanced studio techniques such as tuning the guitars and wearing headphones. The bulk of the original record was done in March of 2012 while attempting to record an entire record in a day. After 70 plus vocal takes, this boozy rough version served as the foundation for their upcoming He Took A Dive.
I sat with the gnarled voice of Northern Lands, Josh Cournoyer, to chat about the ragged state of the band and other made-up facts. The completion of this record is very personal for him, and there’s a definite feeling, at the ripe age of 27 that he has something big to prove this time around. He left his old band just months before they made the leap to the majors with Atlantic Records. He moved himself to the front man position and reunited with longtime friend and band mate Josh Wallace, whose nonsense-free drumming provides the perfect backdrop and foil to Cournoyer’s moody morality tales. “The songs became more of a celebration of the beauty of the dark and light side of life. All of the sudden I was writing because it made me feel fulfilled again. Our melodies started to dance, and eventually so did the people who came to see us,” he says.
The band’s live sound has also matured with a bit of age. Their sets have expanded from a tight 20 minutes to a more exploratory hour-plus, having played to rooms all over New England and New York. “We can change things now with just a look on stage rather than a week’s worth of rehearsal.”
The band can play it slow now too, like on the newer tracks “Lucky Tonight” and “With Regards to Gregg Allman,” where they get into a nice tight boogie, briefly reminiscent of The Band’s “Ophelia,” before launching into their distinct Northern Lands territory with full throttled chords and that growling voice of Cournoyer’s, singing as always as if its his last song on Earth and he’ll be damned if there isn’t blood on the microphone. On “Home Free” the band, with Wallace on drums, Peter Hayden on guitar and Aaron Jaehnig on bass, propel themselves recklessly forward with such heartfelt abandon, from tight and quiet to enormously large so effortlessly, its easy to see why Northern Lands are such an incredible outfit both live and on record. Says Cournoyer “I’m most proud of the fact that two years ago I set out to make a record and ended up having an incredible journey with people I’ve known and loved as musicians for half of my life.”