Midnight Stroll (Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory) No Kind of Rider, Star Club
Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 9pm
- $8 advance / $10 day of show
"It's a band now. It's no longer my solo project," says Aaron Behrens, describing the evolution of The Midnight Stroll, a creative mind-meld with multi-instrumentalist Jonas Wilson that performs live as a duo, backed by a massive analogue accompaniment of spinning tape reels and stacks of speakers.
"We had to start fresh so it could a real band and not a side project," adds Wilson. "It's something we whole-heartedly artistically believe in. And it's the most creatively equal band I've ever been in."
Well known for his work as the singer of Ghostland Observatory, Behrens' dynamic vocals howl over a vastly different sonic landscape on 'Western Static,' a sound based more on channeling auras than sparking dance parties.
"It's primitive. The experimental technique we used is called trusting your guts," says Behrens, describing The Midnight Stroll's songwriting process. "I'll start on an acoustic guitar or piano in a quiet, alone space and then I'll hand it to Jonas. He's the real mastermind behind the sound. He plays like I wish I could play, so I try to stay out of his way."
Wilson plays almost every instrument on the album. "We would track any thing. I got very into using found objects and gear. Broken amps, outdated, crappy keyboards," he says. "My wife brought home a barely working cassette deck from her office that I wound up using as a distortion pedal and delay. We worked with whatever instrument was close by and would just play."
Live, Wilson plays the guitar over recordings of the backing tracks, relayed through analog tape decks to a tower of speakers, creating an incredibly full sound that blows away the normal laptop musician's setup.
Despite the pre-recorded tracks, there's still plenty of room for improvisation. "We've got totally different arrangements of all our songs on various reels that change nightly," Wilson explains. "It lets me focus on what I do best, which is playing guitar. But we wanted do something less produced, something more punk that can cause more problems. It's not supposed to be perfect. Comfort is the enemy."
That theme is present through 'Western Static,' an ambiguous title that nonetheless carries a lot of meaning. "Once the songs were coming together, we kept seeing themes of modern western culture that lead to people feeling trapped and isolated," says Wilson.
"It can mean a lot of things to different people depending on their position in life. All of these songs are about the times we exist in," says Behrens. "Religion, technology, love and loss. It's all western static..
It’s never been easy to tie No Kind of Rider to a single city or region, given their formation as teenagers in Tulsa, subsequent move to Portland, and the recent relocation of drummer Jon Van Patten to Brooklyn. But with the completion of their first full-length, Savage Coast, NKOR’s many influences merge to form a unique statement on devotion, commitment, grief, and hope.
During production, three of the five bandmates’ fathers passed away, and from the opening instrumental to the closing nautical soundscape, the band guides listeners through an urgent, tense, and deeply moving 45 minutes of music. By the end, it’s clear that those five teenagers from Tulsa can never go home again.
The experience is made all the more immediate by the crystal-clear production, led by veteran Andrew Stonestreet (Joseph, Greylag) and mixed by Jeremy Sherrer (Modest Mouse, Radiation City, Dandy Warhols). The haunting melodies, delivered by lead singer, Sam Alexander, are right out front where they belong, buoyed by Wes Johnson’s bass, Jeremy Louis' guitar, Joe Page’s synths, and Van Patten’s wide-ranging work on the drums. With three EP’s and extensive touring under their collective belt, it’s a quintet that knows how to play with and for each other.
In the chorus of standout track Time is Unkind, Alexander repeats the question, “Am I a fool / for believing.” It’s a line that sticks with you, and as the album winds along you realize it was no rhetorical trick — he’s truly searching. As the name implies, Savage Coast is both a departure and a landing, an in-between place where the promise of easy comfort has faded and the need to hold onto something real has taken its place.
Star Club is an Art Wave band from Portland Oregon. Star Club is currently writing, releasing music, creating art, and playing live shows. The sound of Star Club employs inspirations from many avenues; soul, proto-punk, art rock, no-wave, glam, lounge, and post punk to name a few. Star Club wants to share art and use music as a tool to improve place, experience and time. The name Star Club has many meanings but at its root invites all to experience, manipulate, critique, question and enjoy the universe.