Note: This is a co-article, Alex Brade CXG did the review, myself the interview.
To coincide with the interview of the ‘Night Owls’ we were sent two tracks from their forthcoming demo tape ‘Have You Heard Of Night Owls?’, and demo tape is the perfect way to describe it. It has a feeling reminiscent of an old school sound that reminds you that this is music made by musicians. To say that the recordings feel unpolished that is in no way a bad thing, it only adds to their list of positives. It’s refreshing that this release doesn’t have the shine and polish that a lot of current releases have but it’s that charm that makes it an interesting listen.
The two tracks that were sent our way were ‘One More Round’ and ‘Absent Charm’ and both showcase the bands style and sound and at the same time are two completely different songs. ‘Night Owls’ have a distinctive style that seems to have a lot of 60’s influence and it certainly gives the band a unique selling point as they combine that with a modern sensibility inspired by indie/alternative bands from the last two decades.
‘One More Round’ has a straight up indie-rock vibe that sounds like an Arctic Monkeys song that has a certain swing style to it that comes out from the drums and rhythm of the song. The second song ‘Absent Charm’ sounds like it could have come straight out of the 60’s and has influences from the likes of Cream, Beach Boys & The Beatles as it goes from a rock song intro to a beach boys vocal style chorus.
The songs have a way of sounding simple yet intricately written, as there are a lot of vocal & musical harmonies, repeated riffs and constant rhythms. It would be very interesting to hear more and see them perform live as there is only so much that two songs can tell you, but with these two songs they show themselves and their abilities with a great deal of enthusiasm.
‘Night Owls’ are certainly different to the mainstream which is a great stylistic move, and it may or may not be your thing but I recommend giving these songs a listen as its their ability to meld 60’s pop and current gen indie that give them their unique style you won’t hear anywhere else.
Q. What is the Night Owls sound?
Isaac: Good guitar music, good pop music.
Joe: Though certainly not easy to label.
Isaac: It’s just something that is easy to dance to, something you might go out of a gig humming the chorus of.
Joe: But we listen to a lot of Hip Hop between the four of us and have a wide range of influences, we all (or at least I) hate straight Rock music, so we like to have a groove that people can dance to when we play live.
Q. I know that you moved to Manchester from Wolverhampton, both heavily industrialised cities, would you say that your music is inspired by the day to day life in these places or are the tunes more escapist than that?
Joe: Lyrically no, the songs aren’t about either of those areas; I don’t think anyone wants to hear about grey life in an industrial city, if you wanted to hear about that you’d read a newspaper. Lyrically we’re still banging on about girls and nights out really, we’re not a ‘I Am The Walrus’ nonsense kind of band, but we’re not social commentary ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ either. If the place we come from is a grey industrial world, then our music is red.
Isaac: When I’m playing, I’m thinking ‘this is going to put me in a better place’, I can move somewhere with it. In that sense it might be escapist, but then again, going out to the pub with your mates is escapist too.
Q. Now your adopted home city of course has an incredible musical legacy, which seems to be founded upon quite brutish and simple but also extremely relatable and popular working class music. Whereas recently fuss has been made in the indie music press (what with bands like Money, Champion Lover, Los Porcos etc) about a concerted move away from that foundation towards more contrarian music. In light of this do you see yourselves as Manchester classists or part of this new wave of antagonistic Mancunian music?
Joe: I think we could all agree in saying that we are by no means a ‘Manchester band’, in the Stone Roses sense. Our cultural outlook is not one of a Mancunian, we’re as much inspired by bands like The Strokes as we are anything from Manchester.
Isaac: But then again, we’re not actively pushing musical boundaries or making conceptual stuff.
Joe: I don’t think we have an interest in being part of any particular scene. We just want to make music that people like and for people to be into our band because they like the music, rather than because we’re part of a trendy scene.
Isaac: Genres don’t make songs good or not, and just going back to the often classist view that ‘Indie Rock is losing its working class roots’. None of that really matters, either you like the songs or not. You can sit there and be contrived about it, saying ‘you can’t be a musician because you went to public school or your dad did whatever’ but…
Joe: To say ‘you can’t be a musician because you’re from a certain place’ (Joe Strummer being a good example) is ridiculous because, arguably, no man has given an accurate depiction of public feeling and angst better than him.
Q. Night Owls started out as a solo project for you, Joe, has the absorption of the rest of the band meant you had to sacrifice any pre-conceived ideals to accommodate? Do you act as the catalyst to which all else follows? Or is it a mutual, respectful relationship?
Isaac: Previously nobody could drink Coca-Cola in his presence.
Joe: Nobodies allowed meat, cause I’m not a fan. Being serious though: No (there was no awkward accommodation curve), we’re a far better outfit for it not just being me on my own. I browned the garlic of making music on my own, and realised that I wasn’t very good at it, so I needed some stooges to come and play with me. It’s a very collaborative band and it’s fair to say that the songs on the demotape are by no means ‘my song’ or ‘Alex’s song’.
Q. Finally, what is your plan for the year ahead?
Joe: Playing a lot of shows, around the Manchester area…and possibly Sheffield.
Isaac: Gigs, gigs, gigs and more gigs.
Joe: We’ll probably also be releasing something in the summertime. We’ve got the songs; it’s just getting a case of getting in the studio.
For a free download of Night Owls’ new demotape ‘Have You Heard Of Night Owls?’ go to their soundcloud below.