"Soul may have originated in Memphis, but it infected bands from all over the south. It's certainly not lost on The Nightowls from Austin, Tx. Today's premiere is sure to get you on your feet, so tie on your dancing shoes and toss on Get Up!"
"Get Up!" named The Atlantic's "Track of the Day"
There’s no shortage of great music being made in Texas, by Texans: from slide guitars to 808s, from accordions to distortion pedals, the tapestry of Texas includes the traditions of George Strait, Pantera, UGK, At the Drive-In, and Freddy Fender. Today’s burgeoning artists are tomorrow’s legends, and on the Daily Post’s song and video premieres, artists explain why their latest tracks are worthy of your time and attention.
This week, Austin’s retro-soul revival ten-piece The Nightowls drop a video for “Get Up!” from forthcoming album, Fame Sessions. Watch the video, and then read on as lead singer Ryan Harkrider answers our questions.
Last year Austin-based soul ensemble The Nightowls made a pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals, AL to record their second album. The ten-member group landed at the celebrated FAME Studios where they were joined by David Hood and Spooner Oldham from the original FAME Studios house band The Swampers. On Friday Super Sonic Sounds will release the aptly titled Fame Sessions (It is now available for pre-order). The Nightowls' lead singerRyan Harkrider tells Relix, " For our sophomore album, we wanted to make a pilgrimage to one of the meccas of southern soul music and immerse ourselves in the music and the artists that inspired our band since its formation in 2011. So, we packed up the van, drove to Muscle Shoals, Al and spent 3 days recording at Fame Studios with members of the legendary house band, The Swampers. In the end, we hope that Fame Sessions provides people with both a window into the history of soul music and a soundtrack to get up on their feet and dance!"
ustin-based band the Nightowls pays homage to the heyday of Motown on a track from their upcoming album, Fame Sessions. The group trekked to the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals for a little extra authenticity and came home with the eight tracks that comprise Fame Sessions, including this cut, "Highline."
"'Highline' is the dark horse of our new album," wrote Nightowls singer and songwriter Ryan Harkrider. "It was originally conceived as a dance-heavy, funk song but when it was presented to the band, the idea was tossed out completely and the current version was written. In the studio, we spent a lot of time searching for the right instrumentation that would create a dense musical texture to match the somber tone of the lyrics. It’s a departure from our usual line-up that doesn’t have any horns or background vocals but features instead a sweeping slide guitar."
The Nightowls frontman Ryan Harkrider chats with Pollstar about Fame Sessions, the 10-piece soul band’s love-letter to FAME Studios. The album was recorded at FAME, with select tracks written in the studio and on the group’s pilgrimage from Austin to Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Fame Sessions, which was released earlier this month on Super Sonic Sounds, is the follow-up to 2014’s debut, Good As Gold. But Harkrider notes that in some ways the new LP is the group’s first as a band, thanks to the lineup recently firming up, as well as the writing and recording process being more of a collaborative effort.
The band features Harkrider on lead vocals; Amos Traystman on guitar; Rob Alton on bass; Ben Petree on drums; Oscar Interiano on keyboards, Michael Rey, Joseph Serrato and Javier Stuppard on horns; and Ellie Harkrider and Tara Williamson on background vocals.
This is the sophomore release for the Austin, TX horn-based soul band. Products of their environment, these youngsters cut their teeth on Stax and Motown royalty. So much so, that they actually cut principal tracks at Muscle Shoals, AL’s legendary Fame studios. Tunes like “Get Up” and “Highline” will certainly inspire one to shake a tail feather. And the heartfelt sentiment of Ryan Harkrider’s vocals on the melancholy “Sad Sad Song” can’t be denied.
Check out this interview that Ryan did with Houston based radio, Coog Radio, backstage at Austin City Limits Music Festival.
"The element of surprise is definitely on our side,” jokes Ryan Harkrider, 29, lead vocalist for The Nightowls. He’s not talking about secret shows or unplanned set lists—he’s talking about the band in general. Because as anyone who’s been to one of the 10-piece’s raucous live shows can attest, their expertly crafted brand of soul, which often draws comparisons to the likes of Al Green and Jackson 5, is the last thing you’d expect from a group of 30-somethings wearing sneakers"
An up-and-coming Motown band out of Austin, The Nightowls, is making waves in the music world and coming to the Grand Stafford Theatre on Feb. 6. We sat down with lead vocalist Ryan Harkrider to hear about how a soul band came out of a country music state.
The Nightowls, a local ten-piece soul band, are on fire. They just released their second CD, recorded a third, have been playing big events around town and are now gearing up to play ACL for the first time.
The last EP is not exactly Twangville material. The only twang you’re going to hear out of The Nightowls is if someone breaks a string in a live show. An Austin band by way of 60’s Detroit, with some Bootsy Collins thrown in for good measure, The Nightowls have dropped an EP of “B-sides” from their album last year, Good As Gold. If you’re old enough to know what a B-side is, you’ll remember that it was no reflection on the material, more just a commentary on what the label liked, and this set reflects that. The Feel Good gives you a taste of Funkadelic-style soul. Nobody Ever Wants To Leave was chosen as the official song of the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. After All has some old school Stevie Wonder sounds to go with the Motown vibe. Either Way finishes the EP on a high note with the horns asserting themselves in all the right places.
Ryan Harkrider wasn’t expecting the moon when he wrote to local concert promoter C3 Presents to ask about a gig on the indoor stage at Stubb’s, where his band the Nightowls has played several times over the past year or two. So imagine his surprise when he ended up on the bill for C3’s marquee event, the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
“I had emailed, saying, ‘Hey, we want to do another show at Stubb’s, can you please please let us in?’ And they said, ‘Sure, how about you play ACL, too?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”
The Nightowls celebrate the release of a new EP on Friday at Stubb’s.
It was a very nice surprise for the 10-piece Austin soul revue, though not entirely out of the blue given the dues the Nightowls have paid since forming in 2011. After building a devoted local fan base playing early week residency gigs at South Lamar hangouts the Highball and One-2-One Bar and Rainey Street indoor/outdoor bar Icenhauer’s, the band put out a record last year with the express purpose of raising the stakes.
“When we made the album in August, that’s essentially when we signed on and hired McGuckin (a local public relations firm) to work for us,” Harkrider says. “And our specific goals were: We want to play Blues on the Green, we want to play ACL. Let’s do that in two years.”
They realized both goals a year ahead of schedule, playing KGSR’s popular Blues on the Green series in Zilker Park this past July as a prelude to next month’s ACL gig. They’ll play Oct. 11 at noon on the Austin Ventures stage, following Riders Against the Storm in a one-two punch that should kick off the fest’s final Saturday with a prime local flair.
“Good As Gold,” the album the Nightowls released last December, brought fresh focus to a band that had established itself as a worthy pairing with the local cover act Matchmaker at the “Motown Monday” series, which recently returned to the reopened Highball after an extended stay at the One-2-One Bar.
Like Matchmaker, the Nightowls are adept at churning out entertaining versions of Motown classics. This past Sunday at Icenhauer’s, the back patio was filled with patrons basking in the sun and snacking on free chicken and waffles as singers Harkrider and Tara Williamson and seven backing musicians ran through hits such as “Heat Wave,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
But “Good As Gold” proved the group is fully capable of bringing its own original material to the fore. Renowned local jazz guitarist Jake Langley helped the Nightowls craft nine songs that represent their stylistic range as well as their tight professionalism with arrangements and production.
Four more cuts that didn’t make it onto the album have been gathered on a follow-up EP, “Good As Gold B-Sides,” which receives a formal release party this Friday at Stubb’s. Among the highlights is “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave,” a song Harkrider wrote five years ago for an Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau contest. Harkrider’s tune ended up winning the contest and was adopted as the bureau’s official theme song for the city.
“I traveled all over the U.S. with the bureau,” Harkrider says, recounting trips to locales including Chicago and Alaska. “Sometimes when they’re bidding on a convention for Austin, they’ll send me as an Austin ambassador to go sing this song.”
Lyrically it’s a pretty simple tune, and not overly specific to Austin; other than brief references to the Hill Country and Congress Avenue, it could probably be adapted for other cities. Musically, though, it’s an instantly likable and memorable number, one that seemed ripe for revisiting beyond the initial recording Harkrider made in 2009.
An Austin native, Harkrider finished up a music degree at the University of Texas that year and was recording his solo debut, “Days Like This.” But he’s learned a lot since then, and that experience is brought to bear on the new version of “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave,” which streamlines some of the verses and punches up the instrumentation with a more sophisticated touch.
The first recording “was part of my first attempt at making a record as myself,” says Harkrider, who gigged around town in high school and early college with the band Hallow. “The learning curve was very high at that point. I feel like, five years later, I have a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t. And I’ve got a better band.”
Harkrider refers to guitarist Amos Traystman, also a principle in Matchmaker, as “my right hand man” and a key player in planning the group’s business affairs in addition to his onstage contributions. Bassist Rob Alton, a graduate of Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, is the band’s musical director.
At the fore vocally along with Harkrider are Williamson, a recent West Coast transplant, and Harkrider’s wife, Ellie Carroll. Drummer Ben Petree and keyboardist Oscar Interiano fill out the back line, with Austin scene veteran Sweney Tidball sometimes filling in for Interiano on keys.
Out front with the vocalists are the “Fresh 2 Def Horns” – Javier Stuppard on trombone, Michael Rey on trumpet and Joseph Serrato on saxophone. (Williamson’s husband, Justin Smith, sometimes fills in on trumpet.)
Though the band celebrates the new EP at Stubb’s this Friday, Harkrider is already excited about a new recording the band made last month at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where much of the iconic soul music that has influenced the Nightowls was made in the 1960s and ’70s.
“We wanted to make a pilgrimage to one of the birthplaces of Southern soul music,” Harkrider says, noting that they enlisted house studio greats including Spooner Oldham and David Hood to play on the sessions. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to write something on the fly, be inspired by the history of the studio, and allow that inspiration to come out creatively.
“And it was terrifying!” he adds with a laugh. “But we’re really proud of it. I think that it’s going to be something special. We definitely want to reach a bigger audience with this thing. It ties into the history of soul music for the last 50 years, so there’s definitely a wider appeal for it.”
My favorite part of Sunday Funday at Icenhauers is enjoying tunes from live local band, The Nightowls. Motown is in my soul and they could not perfect the sounds so sweetly. If you miss the chance to see this 10-piece group on any given Sunday from 4-7 PM, they’ll be playing at Austin City Limits Music Festival in October 2014. My advice? See these guys before they make it big.
"Riding last year's debut LP Good As Gold, The Nightowls continue carving out a Motown-inflected niche in Austin, with Ryan Harkrider leading a nine-piece groove machine through sauve, energetic, blue-eyed soul."