Great Northern: The name evokes a feeling of a place and time in which . . . to dream, perhaps, to get away from it all, or away from one’s self. It’s late afternoon, strolling into night. There’s a slight breeze – but you’re warm in your coat, or...
Great Northern: The name evokes a feeling of a place and time in which . . . to dream, perhaps, to get away from it all, or away from one’s self. It’s late afternoon, strolling into night. There’s a slight breeze – but you’re warm in your coat, or bundled in cotton as you gaze out the window…
An appropriately evocative soundtrack for all this – widescreen grand nudging fuzzy intimate – is something akin to what Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte sought when they formed Great Northern. The two longtime friends had often talked about making music together and Bixler eventually approached Stolte with material he’d been developing quietly.
“Rachel and I had known each other for about seven years,” says Bixler, “and I was touring and playing a lot with this four-track on the road with me, just writing songs.”
“We had similar tastes in music,” says Stolte. “I was taking a break from being in a band, and one night he gave me all these tapes he’d been working on and said, `Do you want to play piano and sing on these?’ And I was like, `Yeah!’ We went back and forth from my four-track to his for six/seven months and then finally got in the studio together and started recording.”
by The Big Takeover What a debut from this L.A. four! This is widescale, cinematic rock with great range, from Radiohead’s frozen piano ballads, to a Breeders-meets-Delgados buzz, to Belly’s star-kissed melodic flair,...
Getting to Know Great Northern by Filter Magazine A sense of purpose is a hard thing to gain, so we search for it with relentless passion—at home, on the road, in drugs or through the bottle...wherever it stands a chance of being found. It's said...
by The Big Takeover What a debut from this L.A. four! This is widescale, cinematic rock with great range, from Radiohead’s frozen piano ballads, to a Breeders-meets-Delgados buzz, to Belly’s star-kissed melodic flair, to Snow Patrol’s “twilight” twinge. Wonderfully recorded, Trading’s every nuance is pushed to the front, yet never crosses the line into lamentable bombast, as Solon Bixler and especially golden-voiced Rachel Stolte (akin to Kim Deal, Tanya Donelly, Emma Pollock, Mojave 3’s Rachel Goswell, and Metric’s Emily Haines, and that’s hard-earned praise) sing their simple hearts out. There’s surprises everywhere; several ELO-ish orchestral sweeps; Stolte’s languorous piano; a short, sharp harmony; a tight acoustic guitar by Bixler; a time-change from quick ‘n’ nippy to slow and hypnotic. This is the most assured semi-orchestral pop since Delgados’ Hate, which is matches for ambition and creative flair, and it’s flat out great. Would that more bands debut like this; we’d finally put to rest that stupid saw that the kids don’t know how to craft magic like their forebears.
Getting to Know Great Northern by Filter Magazine A sense of purpose is a hard thing to gain, so we search for it with relentless passion—at home, on the road, in drugs or through the bottle...wherever it stands a chance of being found. It's said that home is where the heart is, but for any wandering soul, this banal notion of contentment is much easier dreamt about than achieved. And as the particularly dreamy Los Angeles rock quartet Great Northern will tell you, this takes time.
To get the confidence to even write my own songs, let alone play them for someone else, took years," says Solon Bixler, 30, the founding member of Great Northern, as he sits in the driver's seat of his band's van in Austin, Texas. "I'd been a side player for years, and it got to a point where I was like, 'How can I do this anymore?' It was scary to go off and do my own thing, but it's so rewarding at the end of the day.
For several overlapping tours, Bixler and stone-faced drummer Davey Latter did double duty in Los Angeles indie mainstay Earlimart. Latter nixes the question before it even comes up.
No offense to Earlimart, but we're trying to distance ourselves," he says, reaching from the van's bench seat, grabbing my notepad and crossing his previous band's name off of the page. "Great Northern is set up more like a team, where there's tons of input—25 percent from everybody--and you're not just playing someone else's song." The van nods along as if in agreement.
Scenealogy aside, this band was born when Bixler shared his private four-track recordings with Rachel Stolte, the golden-voiced, redheaded beauty he'd grow to love. Running in the same east-of-L.A. circle, the two often talked about the possibility of collaborating. Three years ago, he popped the question:
One night we both ended up at a show," says Stolte, sitting shotgun and gazing into Bixler's sunglasses, "and he was like, 'I've been working on these ideas and I have these tapes... Do you want to sing and do piano on them?" I took the tapes home and I loved all the ideas. We went back and forth on a four-track—me working at my house, him working at his—and the songs emerged.
Latter joined soon after, originally playing bass, then moving to drums when Ashley Dzerigian completed the quartet last year. The culmination of their efforts is Trading Twilight for Daylight, Great Northern's full-length debut, an album that balances sincerity and intimacy against the epic, the visceral and the cinematic. The sound and scene are set with the opening track, "Our Bleeding Hearts," where Bixler and Stolte sing in soft voices of an uncontrollable aimlessness over a slowly building swell of keys, synthesizer, chimes, drums, guitar and strings. Trading is fueled by loneliness, despair, addiction, confusion and escapism, but each song is wrapped tight with a redemption that calms our personal insecurities.
Those dueling aspects exist in life," says Stolte. "We talk about that in almost every song: trying to find that place where you feel understood—like people know who you are and where you're coming from—and you feel connected to something. No matter what you go through, I think it's a lifelong search.
Ironically, sitting in a hot grey box-on-wheels thousands of miles away from a place called home, these four seem calm and confident, as if they have found that very balance. Only half-joking, Bixler says this is his home now, that he feels safe here thanks to the Ford's protective armor. But that isn't quite it.
It's like you finally decide to invest 100 percent of yourself," says Stolte, "not just kind of commit with one foot out the door. You invest your whole soul in something and it really pays off.
As Great Northern will tell you, it's not so much an issue of being lost and then found. Rather, it's a matter of finding what you can in being lost—a rediscovered sense of direction, newfound purpose or simple contentment. It's a matter of standing on your own and taking crucial steps. Even if you're not sure where exactly you're headed.