The result of four-track tape trading of song ideas between singer-guitarist Solon Bixler and singer-keyboardist Rachel Stolte, with the later addition of bassist Ashley Dzerigian and drummer Davey Latter, Great Northern started as any other band might. But as their name implies, the foursome certainly aren't complacent to stay small-time. And if they happen to change the face of what we call indie while they're at it, they surely won't complain either.
For starters, just look at the sounds they hybridize. “We get Beatles meets Radiohead a lot for comparisons to bands,” says Stolte, “but I think I tend to write more sad, dark stuff and Solon's a little more upbeat. When you put them together, it's kind of darker songs but with a light at the end of the tunnel.”
While those may seem like ambitious and even presumptuous names to drop, one listen to the cinematic aural landscape that Great Northern paints and it's clear that much as she does in her music, Stolte speaks nothing but the truth.
“When we first started playing, our songs were totally emotional,” says Stolte. “Solon and I said if we're really going to do this, let's match our performance to what we're digging down deep to write these songs with. It's a process to not be afraid to show emotion and feel what you're doing instead of trying to be cool.”
Considering the genre they most closely fit into, even if only because of their locale and personal style, Stolte and her band mates are admirably integrating their epic vision into a scene she admittedly finds to be lacking substance at times.
“I think music is an outlet to express your emotions, but there's this indie scene where everyone is ü ber-hip, you can't smile too much and you have to be so cool that it's painful. It's bullshit really,” says Stolte. “I think music has always been something that can strike an emotional chord in people and make you think about your life.”
She adds, “We mean what we're doing. It comes from our hearts. You can sift through what's real and what's not, and I feel like all of us are so devoted to making these songs the best they can be and performing the best we can.”
While Great Northern is already redefining the L.A. indie scene, Stolte is open to the possibility that her band just may be the one to help usher in a new era of indie coming out of the underground. Citing Silversun Pickups, one of her favorite artists right now and their success in changing mainstream views of indie, Stolte has high hopes that a door has been opened to new audiences for her band.
“Of course we want to have some form of success, so that we can make a living doing this and not have to do anything else, evolve and get better, see the world, probably what every band wants,” she says with a laugh. “I'd like to think there's a market for us.”
With no delusions of ego-motivated fake modesty, she and her band can find a balance between their artistic integrity and their understanding of the industry, without compromising one for the sake of the other. As Stolte can attest to with the music she herself loves, popularity is worthless if there's no meaning behind it, which is why she understands the importance of creating a bond with her listeners.
“That's what really good art does for me; it makes you feel connected, like you're not alone, even if your life is shitty and you're having the worst day. That's why it's so powerful. It shifts something in you and makes you feel connected to something bigger than you.”
And if ever there was a band that is only going to be getting bigger…
Great Northern's Trading Twilight for Daylight will be available May 15. For more information, visit www.greatnorthernmusic.com.