-Interview- Lord North: The Cranberries, The American Revolution and Red State Conservatives

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Lord North’s Naked EP left us stunned (click here for full review). In just four tracks, we were amazed are the purity of their style and the ferocity of their sound. Greg recently sat down with Lord North’s Joey Todd and Chris Hendrik to discuss their origins, upcoming album and influences.

That is, before things turned violent…

Greg of Nanobot Rock Reviews: You live by the belief that “Honesty is the best policy.” So I expect only truths from you guys.

How did you land on the name Lord North?

Chris: Joey and I are pretty avid history buffs. Lord North was the Prime Minister of Britain for the majority of the American Revolution, known mainly as the P.M. who “lost America”. He was fighting a lost cause in trying to regain control of the American colonies, and personally introduced the Intolerable Acts. We chose this name because we feel like we are trying to regain control of what’s important about music. Passion, honesty, skill. Things that are really taking a beating from pop trends today.

If that means we have to be a little intolerable too, so be it.

Intolerable? Are you thinking of blowing up drum kits live on television and trashing hotel rooms anytime soon?

Chris: We’ve definitely destroyed our fair share of gear in previous shows. On the crazy, belligerent scale, there is nowhere to go but up.

Goal driven, I admire that.

Chris: We do what we want. Whether or not that is what it takes for a particular crowd is beside the point, but it usually is.

So you’re history buffs that are hell bent on being crazy and belligerent, yet your sound is anchored in blues. The Naked EP doesn’t strike me as “Sex Pistols meets Prim and Proper British History.” Where did you find your sound?

Joey: Well, it seemed only logical that aggressive rock n roll would be the bedrock of our sound because not only do we all feel that at our core, that’s who we are, but that it’s the ideal basis from which to evolve. We all hail from the North Texas’ hardcore scene, and have each served some time in a hardcore /punk band or two, but at the end of the day, we each found out on our own that our respective experiences in these bands were a little…eh…one dimensional at best.

In bands like those, there didn’t seem to be much room to for the music to evolve without purists (or your bandmates) crying foul. We had always known each other from various endeavors in the scene, and were friends, and one day, around the same time, we all happened to just look around and say “What the hell are we doing? It’s time to do something real.”

And in the end, we just drew from our surroundings. Living in Oklahoma, we’ve never really thought of ourselves as “Southerners,” we tend to think of ourselves as “The Frontier!” or “The Wild West” and I know it’s been that way for most Oklahomans. As hokey as it sounds, but at the same time, though we don’t agree with most of (actually, hardly any) of our Red State’s Conservative values, we should each draw a bit of influence from our stomping grounds which, at the very least, make for interesting and off the beaten path writing material. I mean, I grew up next to a Cheyenne/Arapaho reservation, for God’s sake!

Furthermore, I feel as though it gives us a distinctly different feel than most of our more Southern rock n roll counterparts in the way that we’re lucky enough for our music to have come out with a distinct high energy, an energy I feel we share with The Flaming Lips, Kings of Leon, and most bands that hail from our neck of the woods.

Yet Naked doesn’t hold close to one distinct style, per se. It begins rock with “Six Gun Hands” and ends with the folk-stomp “I’m So Over It.” Were these four tracks meant to be a sort of “here we are” moment for you guys?

Joey: We’re not here to follow any preconceived rules on what rock n roll is supposed to be as set forth by some bearded douche on pitchfork.com, we’re simply here to chase our passions with as much vigor as possible, and hoping our bodies don’t give out before our minds! (laughs)

I feel, and I know that I can speak for the other boys in the band when I say this, that rock n roll is more of a sentiment or a feeling than a strict sound. Take bands like The Avett Brothers, or even Mumford and Sons, for example; they’re ALMOST strictly acoustic folk bands, that stay fairly true to the Appalachian tradition from which they draw their instrumentation, yet play with a totally unexpected intensity. And when I see a band giving all they’ve got, and who have the songs and performance ability to keep your foot stomping, and your heart full, whatever the sub-genre they may claim, that’s rock n roll! If we can pride ourselves on nothing else, it’s our ability to stay true to ourselves, and move freely between sounds and genres, while maintaining that rock n roll feel. I guess we just picked our four most diverse numbers and said, to answer your question, “Here we are, this is what we’re all about, take it or leave it.”

I must admit, I was rather taken back when I heard your sound came from Oklahoma and not some place like LA or NY. Does the fact you’re coming out of, what is generalized as, “cowboy country” have any influence on your sound either way? Do you feel you have something to prove because of the prevalence of Country Music?

Joey: Well, I definitely wanna reiterate that we don’t really fall in line with any of our state’s politics. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that politically we stand for gender equality, freedom to marry, more effective gun control, and a woman’s right to choose, so I suppose from the get go we have to struggle a bit to rise above the stereotype of the backwards Oklahoman that most of our nation attribute to us as a people.

As for country music, when I was a kid I was pretty jazzed about it becoming so internationally popular, it seemed like organic music with strong songwriting was on the rise. Now, though, country isn’t even country anymore. You’ll always have people like Hayes Carll, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Hank Williams III holding it down as best they can, but for each one of them, you have about 30 Sugarlands destroying country music, basically turning it into backwash, and 20,000,000 teenage girls in North America alone to swallow the drink, regardless.

We’ve actually been treated pretty well by the Texas country scene down here. There’s a growing movement in Texas, aptly called “Texas Music,” that’s taking things sort of back to basics, and they’ve embraced us, and bands like us, with open arms, and playing alongside us. It’s the local post hardcore scene that treats us like crap. There’s no autotune in any of our songs. Strike one. There’s only the occasional breakdown. Strike two. And no choreographed stage moves. Strike three, we’re out.

I’m sure Chris has more to say than I do on that subject.

Chris: Exactly. It’s weird to say that we get along more with the country crowd than our peers in the scene-y scene. I definitely thought it would be the other way around when we started. Even still though, I don’t feel like we have anything to prove with either group, in my opinion we have solid writing, image, and performance. We’ve proved to ourselves that we can survive in stormy musical-politico seas. We can hold our own, and more often than not, outperform, in any genre, which to go back to the question about how we didn’t nail a distinct style down with the E.P. It’s more or less just to show how diverse our skillset really is.

Joey: Can’t really afford to take prisoners, ya know? They’ll slow us down. (laughs)

So shoot on sight?

Joey: On the way up? Of course. We can afford prisoner care when we’re at the top. (laughs)

The “Texas Music” scene, who are “they”? Do you guys stick close to other local groups or do you have kind of a band of “screw their ideals” brotherhood?

Joey: People on the local scale, like Dustin Perkins, Chance Cody & Spur 503, and Sean Franks, and the more national scale, Darell Dodd, Ray Wylie Hubbard, my personal fav Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll, Bart Crow, and independent radio legend (and one of our dearest supporters) Brett Dillon would just about sum up the movement. But even then, as welcoming as that scene is, there’s still a degree of separation between us and them that WE didn’t put there. We do, however, share that kind of a shared cause in bands as musically isolated as we in locals like The Phuss, Fairbanks, Missile, The Kill Bills, and the incomparable Virgin Wolves.

Not to mention our good friends Connor Oakley & The Winners.

But you said you’re not quite there, what degree of separation is there between you and them?

Joey: It sort of feels that where the musicians say “come be a part of this,” that built in crowd sort of gives off the vibe of (sarcastic tone) “Oh, you invited a dirty rock n roll band to the party. How great.”

Chris: Let’s just say that on a scale from Scott Weiland to Keith Richards, we were Syd Barrett.

Joey: Though we ARE courteous about it. It was Keith Richards that said “I’ve never turned blue in someone else’s bathroom. I consider it the height of bad manners.”

Chris: Exactly. Facetiously posh.

Joey: Posh panache.

Are you implying you guys are the equivalent to an early Rolling Stones or Floyd? Or are you simply saying there is a good chance you’ll out-live Twinkies and cockroaches while being a recluse?

Joey: What it means is we trace our musical lineage to, and respect these men. And if even half of their, how shall I say, eccentricities rub off on us, we’ll be doing alright. More stories for the book, I suppose.

You guys are rather young, but your music holds a very seasoned sound. What bands were influential to you growing up?

Chris: Zeppelin, Floyd, and Queen in my formative years, stuff my parents had listened to. Then to The Offspring, Brand New, Del McCoury, Nickel Creek, OWEN, Gorillaz, and AFI. Now I’m pretty well into new MCR, Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, and old Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Joey: Funny enough, for me, my earliest influences as a kid were people like Dylan, The Stones, The Beatles, The Cranberries, Queen, Van Halen, U2, Adam & The Ants, Boomtown Rats, The Smiths, Randy Newman, and Harry Nillsion. I was REALLY affected by the chain reaction of Britpop into Garage Revival. Oasis, Blur, Suade, The Bluetones, Pulp, that sort of thing, on into The Hives, The Vines, The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Black Keys, Silvertide, and The Datsuns which made me look back on bands like The Kinks, The New York Dolls, and Johnny Thunders. But when I heard Tom Waits, it was all over. (laughs)

I’d say my favorite three artists would be Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, and The Stones.

Chris: Top 3 for me AFI, Biffy Clyro, Gorillaz

Joey: Funny enough, as a band, I find us listening to Biffy, and Gorillaz more than anything else!

The Cranberries, Tom Waits and the Gorillaz all in one. Very interesting.

On the new album, Faithless Living, are you guys aimed at a full length or is this going to be a new EP?

Joey:  Ten plus songs containing all we’ve got, my friend.

Wow! That’s quite the undertaking.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to “Am I Still Here?” and I must say, it sounds like the loose ends have been tied off and you’ve found a really tight sound. Take me through the recording process. What, if anything, are you doing differently?

Joey: Well, we record all of our songs with Bryan David who has engineered for, among others, Miley Cyrus and Shakira, but his real magic is working with rock bands. He’s got this innate ability to know exactly what you’re trying to say in eight bars of less. We’ve become a super cohesive team, Lord North and Bryan. We’ve made it clear who we are to Bryan, just as we know exactly what to expect from him, which is nothing less than stellar work. One of the main differences in how this album is being recorded is that we only allow ourselves a maximum of two takes per member. If it can’t be nailed in two takes or less, it stays, regardless. It sounds a bit counterproductive, but mentally, it’s a mindset that pushes us the be the best versions of ourselves we can be, with or without an instrument in our hands, and musically, we treasure these limited takes because once they’re laid down, they essentially become snapshots of who we were, individually or as a band, in THAT particular moment in time that we’ll have forever.

I can’t hide the fact that I find that rather risky. Aren’t you the least bit afraid of the end result? Do you have, even the slightest, concern that something won’t come out like you want it?

Joey: We’re certainly not afraid. We’re a pretty well practiced band. We share a pretty rare chemistry. But even if we do have a bruise or two in the recording process, it’s gotta stay. There’s a remarkable lack honestly in music lately, and we won’t be a part of it.

So you’re scared? Don’t lie; you are the ones who said “honesty is the best policy.” Chris is scared.

Chris: Nah, I’m not scared. I never need the second take anyway.

Joey: You’re talking to Lord North here. Not Lil Wayne. No need for any cut-and-paste post-production.

You clearly have a direction and drive, as well as strong beliefs; is any of that coming through on the record?

Joey: It definitely explores a lot of territory, but I’d like to think it reflects us pretty excellently.

Chris: Definitely. The material you’re going to hear on this record is some of the most passionate, heavy, and pervasive music we have ever written.

Joey: Hide your fine china.

I, for one, am excited to hear it. Do you have a release date set?

Chris: Not a set date yet, but we’re shooting for summer or fall 2013

Can’t wait.

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me today guys. Before we go, anything else you want us to know?

Chris: F**k Joey Todd, this interview is clearly over. *flips table*

Joey: Don’t mind Chris. He’s kinda like a love child of Brian Jones and Courtney Love that was sent to live with Uncle Johnny Thunders’ growing up. He’s got potential for disaster. I love it.

Just remember, we’re not asking you people to do what we do, but you sure as hell oughtta do what we say.

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