When people think about the local music scene here in Austin today, the first bands that come to mind typically fill some sort of indie niche. Bands like Bright Light Social Hour and Octopus Project have blown up in this town and even generated large, national level buzz. This makes sense, I suppose, given the Austin Mystique. There are a lot of great local bands that ooze quirk and have come to represent all that is great and glorious about this city. Still, as a result it’s sometimes the case that great bands that, for lack of a better term, play it straight, get pushed to sidelines and become marginalized within their scene.
That’s a shame, really. Because no matter how you look at it, and no matter what your musical proclivities may be, you cannot deny that talent is still talent.
Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case with The Nightowls. Though the town may be known for its love of quirk, The Nightowls play it straight with their modern take on the classic Motown sound. Between their raucous live show and killer debut record, Good as Gold, this nine-piece throwback group has made some waves in the past few months.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Nightowls frontman and bandleader, Ryan Harkrider, as he scoured the racks and shelves of the South Congress costume store Lucy in Disguise to find the perfect outfit for his 60’s and 70’s themed show this Friday at Stubb’s.
James Roberts: The Nightowls are generating quite a bit of buzz around Austin. How does that feel as a working band?
Ryan Harkrider: It feels great. We’ve worked our ass off for the last two or three years and we continue to do so. It’s nice to see the fruits of our labor. I’ve been in Austin my whole life and I know the music industry here in town and the community, so I’m aware of the music climate and I’ve watched bands succeed and do well, so it means a lot to me for my own project to, like you said, start to generate some buzz. It’s a very special thing.
What was the process of putting the band together like? Were you all friends and it just sort of happened, or did you actively seek the best people for the roles?
We had all been in other projects together before the Nightowls and had kind of all cut our teeth playing Motown, soul, and funk covers. My background is as a songwriter, I’ve got a couple records out as a solo artist, and I had all these great players at my disposal. I decided I was going to write some songs and, you know, here we are.