THE NOVEL IDEAS
- May 2014 -
HAVE A BEER WITH THE NOVEL IDEAS
The Novel Ideas are a country folk quintet of friends from the great state of Massachusetts. Featuring the voices of three different songwriters, The Novel Ideas create a blend of pastoral, harmony driven, and plaintive Americana. They spent the past year playing shows in support of their debut album, Home and recently wrapped up a month-long tour with Austin-based band Nelo. They've also shared the stage with acts such as Lord Huron, Caveman and Little Green Cars.
We caught up with the band in the green room at the Hard Rock Café to talk about their creative process, life on the road, Nintendo 64 and why they enjoy telling “dad jokes.”
The Show: Nelo with The Novel Ideas at Hard Rock Café // May 2014
Drinks of Choice: Daniel (Guitar/Vocals): Light beer, Tangerine Wheat; Sarah (Vocals): Guinness or Shiner Bock; Danny (Pedal Steel/Guitar/Vocals): Diet ginger ale; James (Bass/Backing Vocals): The Final Ward (rye whiskey and chartreuse); Nick (Drums): Bombay gin on ice
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: Let's talk about the band's history.
Daniel from The Novel Ideas: The name has been around for a while, but this formation of the band has only been around about a year-and-a-half. The band really started with Danny, James and myself. We made an album and sort of formed a band around that album. We weren't planning to do that. Then we met Sarah and Nick, and it became much more of a collaborative thing; we all write songs very collaboratively now. That's the basic history.
Kristen: So, would you say you sort of accidentally formed the band?
Daniel: Well, when we were making the record, we weren't planning on forming a band around it. Danny had written these songs, I had written some other songs, I knew James from college, and we decided to record an album just to do it. Then we were like, "We could play these live. That could be good." It started as basic as that.
Kristen: In that way it's kind of nice because there's no real pressure when you're making that record. You don't have to be anything defined.
Daniel: Yeah, the only tricky thing was that we orchestrated the songs in a way that ended up making them really hard to play live.
Danny from The Novel Ideas: They were very layered. There was a lot of layering.
Daniel: With the newer songs, there's not much more than the five of us on the tracks.
Nick from The Novel Ideas: I actually joined the band after that album was created, and I remember listening to it and actually trying to transcribe parts—picking out the drum parts to it. I was like, "How the heck did their drummer do this?" This is humanly impossible!
Nick: Then it was like, "Oh, ok, that's five snare drums."
Daniel: That's me by myself hitting the drum one at a time.
Kristen: Are you all originally from Boston?
Nick: I'm originally from Austin, Texas, but everyone else is from Massachusetts.
Kristen: Did you record the album out east then?
Daniel: We recorded in a barn in New Hampshire actually. We brought a car full of gear to a barn next to my family's cabin and fleshed out songs that we'd written with just a guitar and vocals. We kept adding stuff to them.
Kristen: And what's forthcoming?
Danny: We have one song that we premiered last month called "Montana," and that will be part of a two-song 10” that we’ll be releasing soon. Basically since we completed our first album, me and Daniel have been writing more songs and Sarah's been writing more songs…As Daniel said, at that time we were writing as we recorded and now we've been really writing as a band and getting them to a place where we can play them live comfortably. Now that a lot of the songs are falling into place, we're definitely looking ahead to working on another record sometime later this year.
Daniel: No details though. I wish we had more details.
Danny: Yeah, there's just not much else to say. We have songs and we want to make a record. We're still just working on it.
Kristen: What it like having one of your songs on Interview magazine?
Danny: I had actually never heard of Interview magazine before.
Danny: But I asked Sarah and she was like, "No, that's pretty cool." When it was actually put up online it was pretty awesome.
Kristen: They're a great publication.
James: I just think that's what's great about the songwriting process with these five different perspectives is that we're all very willing to try songs live before we feel like it's completely fleshed out. Some of the stuff that we're planning on putting on the album we've been playing for six or seven months now, and it just feels so much more complete than the idea that was originally brought to the table. Yeah, we added a bunch of layers and made it into a song, but these feel so seasoned and so much more like us because we've invested so much energy into them. And now we're just waiting to release them.
Kristen: And you're currently on the road. Have you been touring consistently?
Daniel: No, this is our first tour actually, in earnest. We've played regional dates in New York and a one-off in Utah, but this is our first time driving together as a band and playing shows every night. We started to tour with Nelo just recently. We started with them at Jammin’ Java in Virginia two weeks ago. We end in Austin in their hometown on May 22. So it's about a three-week tour.
Kristen: What's it like being in a van together?
James: Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
Sarah from The Novel Ideas: We're lucky we have the van that we do. We have this big Chevy conversion van. It's blue.
James: It's got a lot of Harley Davidson decor on it. That's us. It came like that.
Danny: We bought it a couple months ago and the former owner was a Harley enthusiast, but Daniel had the idea of putting those little stickers that families put on cars with the little stick figures, so we put those on with four boys and one girl.
Kristen: That's awesome. You should also get an honor student sticker.
Danny: And a "Baby on Board" sticker just to really get things going.
Kristen: I will invest in that sticker for you guys. You played Daytrotter on this leg of the tour. What was that experience like?
Daniel: I had done a Daytrotter before, so I knew how quick it was going to be. You have to get in and out. We did a stripped down set to keep things simple, and we were all really happy with how it turned out.
Nick: We've had so much experience playing for family now at little gatherings for one reason or the other, either for the band or, for instance, my dad's 60th birthday party. So, we've gotten quite good at playing stripped-down acoustics. It was cool to whip that out in the studio.
James: And to be completely comfortable with it.
Kristen: What's your favorite thing about Boston?
Daniel: My top recommendation for food or otherwise is Anna's Taqueria. I played with a band from L.A. and they were like, "Oh, yeah right, recommend us something that's Mexican." Then they went, and they were like, "That was so good." It can hold up to the west coast burritos.
Kristen: They're pretty cocky about their Mexican food out there.
Daniel: Yeah they are. I always get asked that though, about what my favorite thing about being home is. And I was home before tour on like a Friday night and the rest of my roommates were out on the town, and I was just sitting at home watching True Detective. I was like, "Well, I think I feel okay staying home.” When you're out on tour you're out every night. You're not just in your bed or on your computer…you're doing stuff.
Kristen: I don't know how bands do it being out on the road.
Daniel: I guess I would say that the best thing to do if you're in Boston is to go out and walk everywhere. It's very walkable and you can see a lot.
Sarah: There are a lot of beautiful parks.
James: It's so clean, too. I was not expecting that when I went out there for school. But all the sidewalks are pristine.
Danny: It all sort of depends on what kind of time you want to have when you're there. And how much money you want to spend. You can definitely go to some really nice areas and walk around and have a great time, like Newbury Street, where they have awesome shops and awesome bars. There's this chocolate bar—I think it's on Newbury—it’s just amazing. One of the coolest bars I've been to. But then you can to South Boston or Dorchester [said in Boston accent].
Kristen: None of you have the Boston accents.
Daniel: You totally have a Chicago accent.
Sarah: We have certain words we say. We definitely say "wicked."
Kristen: We don't really have a phrase like that here.
Daniel: What about “Don't cha know?”
Kristen: Yeah I guess "You know what I mean?" is probably the closest. What's the music scene like in Boston?
Nick: It's nichey I'd say, and there’s a huge folk scene. But I think there always has been. You have Club Passim or places that have been around since the '60s or earlier. The Americana scene in general is huge in New England but it's spread out, so you don't have large centers where a lot of music is going on at once, which is something that's very different from Austin. Music is everywhere there. You throw a rock from one venue and you hit another. The style of music is also really different there.
Kristen: What's the least rock-'n'-roll you've done in the past year?
Danny: As a band, our puns are pretty bad.
James: We make a lot of puns.
Kristen: What's a pun that you're most proud of?
Danny: Earlier today, Nick was like, "I'm hot guys." And I said, "You're only one guy." I don't know if that's really a pun.
Sarah: That's terrible!
Danny: It's more dad jokes than puns I guess. "Am I right, or am I left?"
Daniel: That was really stupid.
Kristen: You probably just get so bored driving that it's like, "Well, I guess we should tell dad jokes now."
Sarah: It's great that we have a TV in the van and we also have WiFi going. We have a Roku. We have Nintendo.
Kristen: Important question. Is it Nintendo 64?
Danny: Oh yeah. But Nick and I keep each other pretty much entertained.
Nick: We're pretty much over-stimulated all the time.
Kristen: What's your favorite game on Nintendo64?
Sarah: Mario Kart.
Daniel: Definitely Mario Kart.
Kristen: Me too. I do love 007, though. I haven't played that in years. I want to get my game system from my parent’s house now.
Daniel: The graphics are worse than you remember.
Kristen: You think about your childhood and think, "That was the best game ever!" Then you see it again and it's not so great. Totally pixelated.
James: That's one of the biggest letdowns I think.
Kristen: Yeah, like with Oregon Trail.
Danny: Well, yeah, and you spend all your time hunting and then you can't carry any of the buffalo meat back. "You killed twenty buffalo. You can bring one-fourth of one back."
Kristen: It's all about rationing.
James: Pokemon Snap is like that, too. I remember spending months playing that game when I was younger and now it's like so easy to beat it.
Danny: That's pretty darn rock-'n'-roll. Pokemon Snap.
Sarah: It's not as fun as it sounds.
Kristen: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Daniel: I can't remember who said this. I think a lot of people have said this, but the general idea is to surround yourself with people that are more talented than you. And you will become a better person for it. I know everyone in this band is a better musician than I am.
Sarah: Oh, please.
Daniel: I'm serious. I don't feel very skilled compared to Danny on guitar or pedals or Nick on the drums. James picked up bass in a month and Sarah's voice is just ridiculous. And it's like, "I need to be at that level in order to be in this band." That's something that keeps me going.
Danny: Someone at my office before I left for tour was like, "Go. Don't even think about work. Just go have fun. Youth is wasted on the young."
Daniel: Like, the youth often waste their youth? Is that the idea?
Danny: When you're old enough to appreciate the freedom and everything else that comes with being young, you're too old to truly appreciate what it was.
James: Something my dad always used to say to me was to not let short-term emotions color long-term aspirations. And I think that's relevant with a lot of the stuff we're doing right now. Sometimes you leave a show and only eight or nine people show up. Or you don't play as well as you can. You have to keep your eyes on the prize the whole time. There's a way to keep improving or to learn from whatever experience didn't go as well as you hoped. You have to keep those long-term aspirations on your mind despite some of the pitfalls that come with touring.
Danny: That's extremely relevant. One other thing is that my mom always told me to carry around a pen so that when you have to sign a receipt after you charge your card you don't have to get the germs from the pen. That's another relevant thing that I think is really important for the band.
James: There are a lot of nasty pens on this tour.
Kristen: Any plans to return to Chicago?
Daniel: We're definitely coming back in August for the Beats and Eats Festival in August, and then we'll definitely be playing another Chicago show in August. We'll be back soon.