Boundless, Frightening Enthusiasm:
News on the March Gets Mobile
(clockwise from top left) Brent Randel, Austin Sepulvado, Jason Willis, & Ryan Odom.
Photo by James Dillon.
News on the March are one of those bands that tends to leave me feeling tongue-tied and at a loss for adequate words to describe what they really, truly sound like. "They're, um, kind of old-timey-sounding? You know, like the music from O Brother, Where Art Thou?" -- that's usually how it goes, and it does a disservice to the band's actual sound.
If you listen close, it's not the "old-timey," ragtime, or country influences that really make the thing work, at least, not on News on the March's debut EP, Glory Be! (the EP!). Instead, it's the gorgeously harmony-filled pop masked by the jangly guitars and bumping rhythms that drives it along. Strip away the instrumentation, and News on the March blaze bright as stellar pop songcrafters in the same vein as the Beach Boys or Teenage Fanclub.
Then there's the darker edge to it all, the murder-balladry lurking even deeper down, which makes the shiny barbershop harmonies -- which, by the way, are truly stunning -- and jangly guitars seem like cover for the grim reality at the core. All put together, it makes for something pretty damn unique.
And now that unique, hard-to-describe sound is ready to be spread far and wide. The News on the March crew are about to venture forth into the world at large, so we decided to check in with singer/guitarist Brent Randel before they take the plunge into the unknown.
News on the March plays its tour kickoff show Sunday, March 21st, at Mango's (403 Westheimer; $6, 7PM), along with Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, Buxton, The Candeliers, & Smoky Mountain.
SCR: How's SXSW going? How many damn shows are you guys playing, anyway?
Brent: SXSW is going well; we are mostly helping out at Casa de Gallo, a house show our friends set up. So we are keeping a bit of a low profile. We played at Casa de Gallo, as well as Stem and Leaf, on Saturday. 10PM and 3:50PM, respectively.
You guys definitely have been keeping a low profile, in general -- what's the deal? Have you all been locked in the studio the whole time, or did you have to step away from the band somewhat for a while?
It's really a combination of the two. We have been writing a ton of new songs for the LP, as well as changing up some that we have played before.
Both Joe [Weber] and Gillian [Williams] left the band, and in their place Jason Willis from Buxton and sIngs joined up with us. Getting him up to speed and figuring out our new dynamic has definitely made off-time a necessity. We had been planning a tour for quite some time, as well as the LP, so we decided against slowing down and have really thrown everything at those two goals.
So, what's the new stuff sound like? Would you say it's a departure from your previous stuff? All I've heard so far is "Silver Doesn't Rust," and it sounds quite a bit different from the old-timey, bandstand-sounding stuff, to me. Speaking of the general sound, how the heck did you come up with that?
The new songs could certainly be considered different, but our fondness for bygone genres is still there. We have never tried to stick to a "sound," per se, we just write whatever we think sounds awesome. It just so happens that a lot of that is old C&W and ragtime with layered harmonies. Writing without the cello has changed a few things; there's a lot more dual-guitar work, and I have been writing more and more for piano.
The LP is shaping up to be a little more pop-centered, although there are plenty of country-influenced songs, as well.
As far as where it all came from...it really is nothing more than a few people with similar tastes and influences trying to make something pretty and fun.
Is there a date for the new LP, by the way?
Our LP is about halfway done. We'll be getting back to work right after tour. If Glory Be! taught us anything, it's not to rush to try to get something done, so I'm not gonna give a date, but we are hoping for around late fall/early winter. We don't want to be obsessive, but we also want to make sure we give the time necessary to make the album amazing, and we're really happy with everything so far. Steve Christensen is a quality guy, and we're all very happy working with him. He has a great ear and is a technical machine, so I have no doubt that the final product will sound wonderful.
News on the March, Glory Be! (the EP!)
News on the March
Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned
Are you looking forward to touring? This is the first time, correct? Have you gotten any good on-the-road advice to see you on your way?
Tour is something we've been foaming at the mouth about since we started. This is the first point all the necessary elements have come together. It will just be us, our decrepit van, and boundless, frightening enthusiasm. As long as our four-wheeled timebomb decides to see us through, this is the start of what we plan to do as much as possible.
What do you think of the current state of things in town right now? Any bands you particularly like?
Houston, as it has been, is such a powderkeg of potential. Along with us, you have so many great bands with or making new albums. Wild Moccasins, Buxton, listenlisten, Elaine Greer, and so on and so forth.
I think that if everyone can capitalize on this momentum and get out and tour and make people know about the great stuff coming out of our city, really great things can and should happen. I think with a lot of us going on tours, the right mindset is kinda setting in. Get out and make people take notice of Houston -- there is no better time to just go and play and try to get some buzz going for the city.
Any parting words, before you dive back into the sweaty Austin throngs?
We're ridiculously excited for the new album as well as tour. Our kick-off show has some amazing people playing with us. Not just from Houston -- Buxton, Smoky Mountain -- but great people we've met from out of state as well -- Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, from NY, The Candeliers, from WI. Plus, we finally got t-shirts, so our cold-blooded capitalist hearts are aching to see you wrapped in our swag. END