Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights sat down with Rabbits Black to talk about their album Pardon Me, transitioning to a major record label, and making honest music that rocks. The interview was conducted before JTNL’s 9/22 show @ The Viper Room.
Rabbits Black (RB): Rabbits Black is here with Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights about to go onstage at The Viper Room in Los Angeles. It’s been a while since you’ve been in Los Angeles…
Jonathan Tyler (JT): Ya, it’s been 6 months or so.
RB: You tour heavily in Texas and Oklahoma, so when we first learned about you we thought it might take a while to hear you play live out west. Is this the first major tour for [your album] Pardon Me?
JT: Well, we’ve done several major tours for the album, but this is the first full country, kind of all at the same time, back to back dates, tour that we’ve done. Its two and a half months long. All the tours before this have all been split up into like two and three week runs, you know sometimes maybe five weeks at the most. But this definitely takes the cake as far as ground that we’ll cover and the length of time that we spend out.
RB: Do you spend most of your time writing and rehearsing in the Dallas area?
JT: Ya we live there, we have a house there and Chase our base player lives in Nashville. We don’t really have to rehearse that much just because we play so much. At a certain point there’s not really a purpose in trying to get together and go over the songs we’ve played night after night. As far as the writing and stuff like that, you know it happens at home and on the road as well, just wherever we are.
RB: You’ve said that you write from your life experiences, do you find there are more life experiences on the road? Is it easier to write on the road?
JT: Well you have to live to write and experience things to write, you know, to have things to write about and have a good perspective on things so I think touring definitely helps. We see different crazy unexpected things happen on a regular basis. But you know I think we’re learning to write on the road because we’re just right now having to write for a new album and I think that being out on the road is a new experience for us because typically we just write at home.
RB: So it took about 3 years between the release of Hot Trottin’ and Pardon Me, can we expect a similar turnaround for the next album?
JT: No, we were just making a transition from being an independent band to signing with a label and it took a little bit longer. This time around there have been a lot of business things that have happened since we recorded the album so we’ve just been stretching this one out. From this point on I don’t plan on taking very long between albums again, I think a year at most from now on really.
RB: That’s great news for everybody.
JT: Ya it’s just too long for me personally.
RB: So how did everyone in the band meet, how did Jonathan Tyler meet The Northern Lights?
JT: I met Brandon first. We were church kids back in high school. We met when we were like 16. And then we met Jordan, kind of the same situation, through the music circuit in Dallas. Mo [Emotion Brown] we met 5 or 6 years later at a bar in Dallas downtown. I was just walking down kind of a strip of bars and she was inside performing and I walked in, listened to it, and asked her if she wanted to come sing background and she joined in. Chase we met … he used to play in another band called The Effects, and we toured together, so when our last bass player decided to step out we called Chase up since we were friends from the road.
RB: Its nice when you can call up your friends to build a band.
JT: Ya well the chemistry is better for getting along on these two and a half month long runs.
RB: You cite the Rolling Stones as one of your major influences, can you talk about that?
JT: The thing about [The Rolling Stones] that I really connected with was the songwriting, the blues songwriting for sure, I mean there is a lot of … you know, it’s about being down and out, you know what I mean? It’s really simple, it’s not pretentious at all. It’s just fun, you know, easy to listen to music. I think that’s what really gets me. And obviously they’re incredible players and incredible songwriters you know, but it’s not pretentious, and I think that’s the main thing that draws me to the Stones. It’s just dirty kind of down and out music.
RB: You’re pretty well known in Texas for your live shows. Is there a conscious approach to each performance or is each one organic?
JT: It’s always different. You know whenever the crowd energy is there to party we party with them. If the crowd is more of a listening crowd then we play to that. It’s really just reading the room and kind of trying to play to whatever the vibe is. … We [usually] don’t have a set list.
RB: So an interesting question for our readers, you’re a Texas band so are you going to play South by Southwest this year?
JT: We didn’t last year. I think we will this year. I think so, I want to.
RB: So what are Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights listening to that our readers should be checking out? We’re going to need something from everybody on this one!
Brandon Pinckard (Brandon): Listening to some Allman Brothers right now, so some old stuff.
Emotion Brown (Mo): I’m listening to Busdriver, who’s actually from here [LA], Little Dragon, and I’d probably just always say some older Aretha Franklin, any Aretha Franklin!
JT: I’ve been getting into a lot of Afro Beats so like Fela Kuti and funkadelic.
Chase McGillis: This year I’d say Tony Joe White for something old school throwback.
Jordan Cain (Jordan): My Morning Jacket’s new record I love. Charles Bradley, Booker T Jones. I think those are all good.
RB: Alright, so before we go what’s one thing you want our readers to know about JTNL?
JT: We’re full of love!
Brandon: We’re coming for ya!
Mo: We’re honest.
JT: I can’t really some it up …
Jordan: Wait did you say I can’t really sober up? Haha.
RB: Alright, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with us. I know we’re looking forward to the show tonight!
Rabbits Black would like to thank Jonathan Tyler, Brandon Pinckard, Emotion Brown, Jordan Cain, and Chase McGillis for their time. To help support this band, or just to check out what they’re doing next, visit their official site, or check them out on facebook. You can also follow Jonathan Tyler on Twitter @ Jonathan_Tyler or Jordan Cain @ JordanRCain.