On the Road Again
Solon Bixler plays Guitar Hero. Stop the presses. We don’t have presses. He might have been kidding.
Great Northern teased the local scene with their debut EP Sleepy Eepee, promising a dream-like career that might have fallen to the wayside in the land of Silverlake/Echo Park. But then their guitar-heavy debut LP, Trading Twilight for Daylight, warranted a double take. All that noise was from guitarist/lead singer/founder/all around nice guy Solon Bixler, who took these interview Qs from the road. Topics that were touched: scary stuff, experimenting, bad diets and oh yeah, music.
How’s this tour treating you?
It’s been great. We just got started about… I don’t know, we’re on like our fifth or sixth show.
On the new album, Rachel jumped on the guitar for this one a whole lot more, does that meanthat you have to showboat a bit on your side?
It was kind of a thing where she didn’t have the ability to move around on stage for her [because of the keyboards] and it was kind of becoming limiting for her in some ways. And with writing the record it became a bit more guitar driven, so we thought it was the right move.
It really does sound like a different band…well, not a differentband, but more like a new filter from the last album.
Yeah, there are still elements of keyboard, but a little more driving a little more … I don’t know… guitar-ness.
I don’t know if you’re up to date on stuff like this, but Ben Harper’s got a new band and that guy says that he’s got to stay on his toes because of the new lineup. Do you sort of feel that way now?
Of course! Mostly through Guitar Hero. Ha, no not really. It’s always an evolution and it’s shifting. It’s … I’ve always kind of liked to try new things – we all do. Whether it’s trying new equipment or experimenting on things we’ve never used before. It’s always good to try new things and experience that and sort of push yourself through those new styles.
What’s the freedom like when you have a home studio?
It’s free! It’s nice to just have an open-ended environment where you can kind of go and create whenever you feel like it and not have those time constraints. If your creativity is coming out at two in the morning it’s fine – if it comes out whenever, you don’t have to wait till somebody else is ready to push record to get your ideas.
I guess the next logical step is to get a Bengal tiger and maybe some Go-Go cages.
Exactly, the next tour we’re going to do a whole side-show.
You met your last bassist at a party you didn’t want to go to – was there anything like that with this new lineup?
Just pretty much you meet folks through friends through other friends and it all sort of works out that way. And sometimes you luck out and sometimes you don’t and fortunately we have, the timing was right for this record in a lot of ways.
What type of music was being played in your house growing up?
Probably a lot of jazz, and a lot of seventies rock and anywhere from Led Zeppelin, to Jimi Hendrix to the Beatles to Stevie Wonder, to Sly and the Family Stone to uh… the BeeGees, yeah.. ha.
Your father was a composer though, right?
Well he owned a nightclub, he and my mom both and they had a band together. And he’s a music teacher. In the composing world I was never really drawn to that, but as far as listening to music and being turned on to other forms of classical music, he definitely played a role in that. The same with Rachel’s parents, there are some classical musicians in her family line. So for sure, it helps in the orchestration department.
It wouldn’t have the same impact if you break a violin or swing a cello around on stage.
It’d be cool to light it on fire to get some interesting sounds out of it.
What’s it like to be on the road – I mean the comforts of home are far away and your diet must be different. Are you going to tell me that you eat salads every day?
No, not at all. We eat street food man. Well no… We find safe things to nourish ourselves and lots of vitamin supplements and the occasional stop at a health food store, which is few and far between and we try to load up on healthy things – I say as we pull up into a McDonalds right now. It’s definitely hard to stay healthy on tour, but we’re trying.
Yeah, well don’t get any of those McFlurries, I hear they have lots of sugar.
Oh yeah, McFlurrie or Duncan Donuts coffee are quite sugary.
Have you ever written any lyrics and taken a step back and said to yourself, “this is too personal, I can’t let the world see this side of me.”
I don’t know. Not really with this band. Years ago when I was ripe that might have been the case, but it’s just something that’s very personal to me and Rachel. Especially this record, it was terrifying at times and you learn to be honest with yourself and working with producers for the first time that wouldn’t allow it to go any other way, after that experience… I don’t know… there are still songs that you write and your almost acting out a part and telling a story from a perspective from a different person, but for the most part we try to keep it personal without dragging on and making it too dramatic. I don’t know - if you’re putting as much time as any other artist, you might as well make it personal and worth your while. Even if it’s scary.
Great Northern will be @ the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., attheecho.com, May 23 with The Dears and Eulogies.
By Nathan Solis