Today’s Feature – April 13-14: North Col

April 15, 2008 at 1:11 am (Today's Feature)

The Baltimore-based band, North Col is a lot of things. They’re smart, talented, busy as hell and completely honest. To a lot of people on the outside, the music business looks like one big party. I mean, the credo is “drugs, sex and rock n’ roll!” However, the members of North Col had to take a few lumps to arrive where they are today – some shots that nearly put an end to their musical careers.

For years, the group toured as the band, Thin Dark Line, having a label-released album in stores to promote. After the tour, the guys took some time off, “because of the emotional, financial and relationship strains that they incurred.” It took about a year, but after everyone got their lives back in order, the band came back as they are today, North Col, with a very different mindset: Music this time was for fun; “A stress reliever, not a stressor.”

It’s with this attitude the band crafted the new EP, “Three.” The collection was recorded free of charge to the group, so in turn you can now download it absolutely free at http://www.northcolmusic.com. Not a bad concept, eh? The album is all about being who they really are, “they’re not trying too hard to do any one thing… They had a good time making this EP and they think you’ll probably have a good time listening to it.” North Col plans on getting some new tracks together while their drummer recovers from shoulder surgery (a bizarre snowboarding accident actually). Come summer, they’ll be hitting the stage hardcore – so keep an eye out. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: NorthCol

Penseyeview.com (PEV): How and when did the band first get involved with music and form as North Col?

North Col (NC): We formed years ago as a rock band called Thin Dark Line. After several years of touring around the country to promote our first label-released album in stores, we decided to take a long break from music-as-business because of the emotional, financial and relationship strains that we incurred. In June 2007, after about a year of rest and getting our lives back in order, we (Bryan Barnes, Mike Barnes and Brent Kaminski) hooked up with our very first drummer (Ian Dexter) and began to write some new music – this time, for fun. A stress reliever, not a stressor.

PEV: Calling Baltimore home, what kind of music where you listening to growing up? The first band that we all found to have in common was a love for the band Saves The Day. When TDL first started, we would cover a song or two to start practice. Over time, we found that we shared other influences like The Beatles, The Eagles, Thrice, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and a variety of other bands. Each of us has his own taste, of course, but we manage to find some common ground in artists we like.

PEV: When and where was your first live performance? How have you changed since that first one?

Our first live TDL performance was at a video-game arcade (remember them?!) in 2002. Brent wasn’t even part of the band at that point, but we felt like we were kings of the world. Tons of kids came to our first show, along with parents and friends. Our first performance as North Col was last month and we were surrounded by some of our best friends. It still feels great even after all of these shows. I’d say we’ve changed tremendously since our first TDL show and maybe even a little since last month at our first North Col show. We’re mixing a few things up and adding a cover song for our second show.

PEV: Tell us about your EP “Three”. What can fans expect from it?

NC: “Three” is a result of the maturing of our style as songwriters. We recorded the EP in our free time at the expense of our friends. We didn’t pay for any of the recording, but we think it sounds top-quality. The songs are the first three that we wrote in a stress-free, fun environment. As a result, we didn’t think we could charge for something that we got for free, so we’ve made it entirely free at our website: www.northcolmusic.com.

PEV: How is “Three” different from other music out today?

NC: Maybe this is more about our band than this specific EP, but we’re not trying too hard to do any one thing or be anyone we’re not. We actually don’t even care if you listen to our music. We had a good time making this EP and we think you’ll probably have a good time listening to it. We’re happy to have you as a fan, but we can’t please everyone.

PEV: When you sit down to write music like “Three”, what kind of environment do your surround yourselves in?

NC: We’re usually joking around or fiddling at practice and then someone stumbles on something and we build from it. Then we just play for a while and maybe something will come out of it. Occasionally, one member will write and record an entire demo and bring it to practice, but that’s not the usual scenario.

PEV: What is your take on the current mainstream music scene today?

NC: There’s a lot of pretty cool stuff out there. There’s a lot of pretty uncool stuff out there, too, but the most experienced musician and listeners can find something they like about any piece of music.

PEV: How has your musical styling changed since your first years in music or over the years?

Obviously, everyone changes and matures and you’ve heard it all before on the Behind The Music specials on VH1. We just know more about music, what we like and don’t like. Some people may describe our sound as less-aggressive.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you stepped into a recording studio as a band. What was going through your head?

NC: We were so focussed on the end product: a CD of ourselves! We recorded 5 songs in 5 hours including mixing. We recorded with Paul Leavitt, who has gone on to produce some very successful bands and who still records / mixes for us today. Check him out! www.paulleavitt.net

PEV: What is “road life” like for you? What are the best and worst parts?

NC: Not that we’re ever going to go out on the road again, but by the time we stopped touring, we were a machine! We had every aspect of touring down to a science. We knew how to save money, sell CDs, eat, find places to stay and “make it!” Best parts are the times you share with your closest friends. Worst parts are the times you’re away from the people you love. And all the rest of it.. the emotional, sometimes financial and relationship drains.

PEV: In all your travels, which city (International or US) do you think offers the best music scene?

NC: Nashville, TN is a place we always liked, but for the most part, although people complain about their scene or think that another one is better, every scene is pretty much the same. We promise.

PEV: Who is currently in your CD player right now?

NC: Iron and Wine, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley

PEV: Is there an up and coming band that you think we should all be listening?

NC: North Col, probably.

PEV: Who would you wish to collaborate with that you have not had a chance to yet?

NC: Kanye West or anyone from the Wu Tang Clan… or Bill Murray.

PEV: What do your friends and family think about your musical career?

NC: By now, they’re all supportive. They better be. Why, do you know something? It’s my dad, isn’t it. He wants me to grow up and get a real job, doesn’t he?

PEV: What has been the most memorable part of your career so far? Why?

NC: Seeing Sean P. Diddy Combs while we were visiting our label in New York City. Why? Because he has seen JLo’s butt in person.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of North Col?

NC: We’re all single.

PEV: Where do you think the band will be in 20 years?

NC: In our memory, filed under “fond.”

PEV: What one word best describes North Col?

NC: YOU.

PEV: So, what is next for North Col?

NC: We’re playing our second show on 3/29 and then our drummer is going to have surgery to repair his shoulder which was recently damaged in a bizarre snowboarding accident. During his recovery, we’re going to be recording some new tracks and we hope to be back in the swing of things this summer with some new tunes and some new shows. Ya dig? Thanks for reading, babes.

For more information on North Col and their music (for free), check out www.NorthColMusic.com or at www.www.myspace.com/northcol

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