Watch & Share: The Next Great American Novelist – “Gravity’s Rainbow”
Listen & Share: The Next Great American Novelist – “Drag”
Listen & Share: The Next Great American Novelist – “Kubler”
Listen & Share: The Next Great American Novelist – “Baby Duck Song”
Watch & Share: The Great American Novelist – “Blackberry”
“NGAN’s music is incredibly relaxed and fun…a perseverant indie rock defiance that oozes what one can only describe as “Brooklyn cool.”
– Atwood Magazine
Photo credit: Shervin Lainez
Brooklyn-based indie rock band, The Next Great American Novelist (aka NGAN), share their new single, “Gravity’s Rainbow,” from their forthcoming, sophomore record, Careless Moon. Today, they also announce their forthcoming album’s release date for October 2, 2020. The Deli NYC calls their music “nerd rock-inflected” and compares NGAN to both Queen and Weezer. BTR Today says the band “blends dreamy, melodic indie rock with hints of sun-kissed pop in a way that feels somewhat more West Coast than Brooklyn in a super refreshing way.”
Songwriter Sean Cahill explains the new single, “Gravity’s Rainbow,” saying:
“The title is a tip of the hat to Thomas Pynchon, author of the post-modern classic, Gravity’s Rainbow. Though, you’d be hard pressed to find any other reference to his book in the song lyrics. It’s just that massive title, Gravity’s Rainbow, it’s loaded with imagery and there is so much there to play with.
Our band will use any excuse to play with delay pedals and Mellotron and I will use any excuse to write a song with metaphors about space. Im one of those, “science is cool,” Sagan inspired kind of people. One of my favorite moments recording this was during the last chorus, we stacked my voice on several different tracks filling out the chord tones and then ran it through a rotary speaker. The effect makes it sound like an old organ playing but it’s actually my voice stacked in a three part harmony.
The production of this video came together when we found Jackie Cross, who played the lead roll and roller skater. At first we were looking for someone to perform a simple “love interest,” but when we found out she is a professional roller skater as well as a trained physicist it brought the video to new heights. Her knowledge of physics shines in her performance as there is a depth to her movement.”
Director Alex Brown, who says making the video was a “life long dream come true” tells the story of the video’s creation, saying:
“Well, first and foremost, I’ve wanted to work with Sean forever. We’ve been friends since we were kids and I’ve been a huge fan of him, in general, but I guess pertinent to this, I’ve always been a huge fan of his music. Two years ago I got to use one of NGAN’s songs (Wicked) in a project for The Walking Dead, since then Sean and I talked about making a music video.
The vision for this video came from walking around Los Feliz in Los Angeles and watching people from the other side of the street as they interacted in a sort of every-day dance. From that a celestial, gravitational love story started to form. When Sean and I began talking about ideas for this video he referenced Elliot Smith’s iconic video, “Miss Misery,” as an inspiration. Coincidentally, I was walking in the same neighborhood where that was filmed as I was seeking inspiration for our project. Ultimately, our video was all shot within a mile of where “Miss Misery” took place and a bit of its DNA definitely ended up in “Act One” of our video.
I wanted the aesthetic to be similar to a student film or theater production and work within the limitations of what that kind of production would be. The song has an epic scale to it, it’s over four minutes long and there are these beautiful interludes that seemed to set it up into acts which, again, reinforced the whole theatrical notion. It’s a contemplative love song with steady-deliberate pacing and I wanted to match that tone with choreography and acts that move through longing, then celebration with a steady forward momentum. So I did a treatment based on a low-rent production of an epic love story, including elements that would be in any “high-school-morning show.” And finally, there’s a big bang of a final act as payoff.
In keeping with Novelist and space themes, the tone poem, Also sprach Zarathustra, provided all of our chapter titles. Pretentious right? I know. But it did help tie together the build we were trying to accomplish in the five acts. Well, the 5th act is a suggested one and I guess that title actually comes from 2001. For the two people who might care.
We had this whole plan and choreography lined up and then I met the inimitable, lovely, incredible, insanely talented Jackie Cross who added an entire other element to the shoot. Initially, there was no plan to have roller skates, and I met Jackie as the talented actor she is and then found out she roller skates. That really opened up a lot more movement and helped the dance even more.
I would also love to thank the band, the actors and friends who helped out, and not just because she’s the love of my life, I really could not have done this without the tireless help from my wife, Steph. She helped with all the costumes, produced, helped cater, set dressed, and even supported us having a green screen as a living room for three days. This was such a great opportunity and genuinely a life long dream come true and I couldn’t be more proud to’ve gotten to work with one of my absolute favorite bands again.”
Atwood Magazine, who debuted the first song from the band’s upcoming sophomore album, say, “the infectiously alternative new single “Blackberry” embraces insatiable lust, reconciling the act of being an artist with the guilt that comes with it.” They add, ‘“Blackberry” enchants with a heavy alternative sound that simply wasn’t present in NGAN’s previous repertoire — and yet, this growth feels natural and exciting. It’s a long-awaited next step for a band had their share of hurdles along the way.”
Cahill explains more on the song, saying, “It came from a memory of being a child, standing in front of a massive blackberry vine and reaching through its thorns to get the fruit. As pretentious as our band name may make us seem, we keep the lyrics pretty simple in telling a story. The upbeat pacing and dynamics were a good way to open the record. When we were in the studio, we became enchanted with playing the mellotron and found every excuse to use it. We played with atmospheric sounds to float into a psychedelic range. Sometimes all it takes is a delay pedal to tap into feelings of nostalgia and give the impression of a memory.”
Cahill tells Atwood, “For a while I felt guilty about playing music, playing shows, as if it was a shameful or self-serving pursuit. After some reflection, I’m realizing that music is the best way I can spend my time, as it brings more light into the darkness and opens up an avenue for sharing joy.”
Speaking more on the forthcoming release, Cahill says, “Careless Moon is about the relationship between romance and indifference. How it’s possible to see different concepts in the same symbol. One night, you could look at the moon and see an illuminating presence, brimming with light, offering clarity to a sky that is otherwise shrouded in darkness. The ridges of its surface appear as something familiar, a face, looking down and bringing you comfort. Other nights the moon can seem callous: an indifferent rock suspended unwillingly by gravity. You remember that the moon drifts from the earth by 3.8 cm each year, orbiting away from you as it barrels out into space. Your life changes but the moon doesn’t, each night you can find it waiting for you. When you realize that it has no attachment to you, it is frightening.”
Atwood says the new LP is “bigger, edgier, and more alternative; an unabashed outpouring of raw dynamism. The Next Great American Novelist are ready to be your Next Favorite American Band.”
Photo credit:Shervin Lainez
BIO [Written by Benjamin Kaye of Consequence of Sound]
Chance encounters have a habit of making enormous impacts on our lives. Complete strangers can fold themselves into our stories in ways that irrevocably alter the plot. Brooklyn’s Sean Cahill, for example, was on the verge of ending his The Next Great American Novelist project before it really even got off the ground. Then he met Jason Cummings, and together they made the band’s sensational sophomore full-length, Careless Moon.
But we’ll get there.
“I was working in life insurance, and I had a gig at some small venue in Bushwick,” Cahill recalls. “I almost didn’t do it because I was so depressed from my living situation and work. I knew nobody, and my girlfriend didn’t show up. I played the show solo, and I was so over everything. I just didn’t give a shit, so I was very open and honest on stage. And this guy who was super shy came up to me afterwards and was like, ‘Hey, I really like your music. I’m a sound engineer, you should come by my studio,’ and gave me his card.”
That shy fan was Justin Helm, an engineer at New York’s The Cutting Room. Cahill later stopped by the studio and met the in-house producer, who happened to be Cummings. The two quickly hit it off, connecting over a love of The Beatles and Dirty Projectors. With Helm co-producing and engineering, Cummings would go on to co-produce and play on I’ll See You in the Art You Love, Cahill’s partially crowd-funded debut as The Next Great American Novelist.
It wasn’t long before the pair went from friends to true creative collaborators. As soon as Art You Love was completed, together they started reapproaching a few dozen bedroom demos Sean had written. Eventually, Cummings expressed a not-so-secret desire to join NGAN, and Cahill was happy to welcome him to the foil.
From that moment, the band’s trajectory dramatically changed.
Cahill had never fostered a strong ambition to take his music beyond a personal escape. He’d studied classical guitar in college, but left the program when the criticism and perfection of academia began to suck the fun out of the art. Now with Cummings to play off of, however, Cahill was rediscovering the joys that attracted him to writing and performing in the first place. “When it’s a shared experience, it’s more meaningful,” he says. “When you have someone to chime in and say, ‘Let’s move this a little bit and let’s add a harmony here,’ your song becomes something more.  That’s the really fun part of having a creative partnership.” Since then, the pair have applied creative efforts outside the band as well, writing jingles for everything from Swedish Fish to dog medication.
More than ever, Cahill wanted NGAN to become a band people brought their friends to to come see live. Holding them back was the fact that the Art You Love material was emo-folk born of alcohol-crutched post-collegiate depression — strong stuff, but not exactly the makings of raucous concert experiences. United, Cahill and Cummings set to work creating new songs that would “make sense live.” Under that guiding principle, the music began shifting towards an indie, psych-rock feel with a nod back to the pop-punk bands of Cahill’s youth. It all came together in the studio with drummer Danny Sher of Horse Torso (his outfit with Baroness bassist Nick Jost) laying down the rhythm live to tape as they built towards their new record, Careless Moon.
Like an author taking influence from the classics, NGAN found inspiration in the sort of musicians they themselves enjoyed watching. Tracks like album opener “Blackberry” aim for Alabama Shakes riffs, while single “Bad Animation” takes on a Nirvana’s grunge with an outlaw country bent. “Wicked”, a track that won the band a placement in the AMC smash The Walking Dead, blends Weezer’s nerd rock with Deerhoof’s experimentation. No more direct homage could be paid to Parquet Courts than it is on the track “Parquet Shorts”. Yet for his part, Cahill sees closer “Ice Moon” as the most defining song of NGAN’s new incarnation, its gentle psych haze building towards a mellotron-led storm with an ending refrain borrowed from Rage Against the Machine.
“The first album came from a place of struggling with depression, since then I’ve sought a more joyful approach,” explains Cahill. “We meant to write feel good songs that could still carry a bit of psychic pain. We just wanted to be a rock band. We’re trying to capture all of that.”
Though Careless Moon explores a new range of sound, NGAN remains the band Art You Love fans recognize. Tightly woven harmonies are maintained in every chorus, only now they rip where they previously wooed. Cahill’s lyrics are still evocative “little short stories,” tales that stir minor, beautiful revelations both familiar and peculiar. Drawing as much on psychotropic awakenings (“Thursday”, “Gravity’s Rainbow”) as romance and heartbreak (“Kubler”, also “Gravity’s Rainbow”), the songs on Careless Moon are Cahill “processing the experience of being an artist.” An artist, that is, who went from using music as an emotional outlet to one striving to give his all to the form.
And he has Cummings to thank for that. With his dear friend and new bandmate at his side, he’s explored this reinvigorated creative desire during the three years since I’ll See You in the Art You Love, resulting in 10 painstakingly crafted songs that uncover the true potential of The Next Great American Novelist. Absorbing the influence of each other as well as their favorite artists, they’ve hit upon a varied, engaging sound that demands a presence on stage. The result may be called Careless Moon but it’s also the careful evolution of an electrifying musical partnership that’s only just getting started.
Photo credit:Shervin Lainez
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