This article first appeared in The Alt on August 15, 2017.
While listening to Northern Faces’ latest single “Messin’ With Me,” it’s easy to get caught up in its upbeat, summery vibe. The melody is catchy and you can’t help singing along to the chorus. But when you listen to the lyrics, there’s a dark juxtaposition you can’t miss.
There’s the chorus, “Oh yeah I know you’re above me/ But watch how you’re talking to me/ Yeah you keep your mouth running/ But I know you’re messin’ with me.” And then the verse, “I always underestimate/ what words can do/ you said my time was running out/ But I’ve got something to prove.”
Band member Bryan Shortell (vocals and guitar) loves these opposing vibes between the lyrics and sound, likening them to a Paramore record, and says this style is consistent throughout much of their upcoming album. “I think it’s our most concise record sonically and ‘Messin’ With Me’ is a good introduction. Like ‘Messin’,’ most of the songs have an upbeat feel that totally juxtapose the devastating lyrics,” Shortell said.
Although there is no official release date yet, Shortell said the record will be out sometime this year, probably in the fall, and more singles will be released over the next month or so. This will be Northern Faces’ sophomore album, following the release of their first full self-titled album in April 2015.
Along with Shortell, Marco Testa (vocals and guitar) and Matt Ippolito (bass) have been playing together for about 10 years. After previously playing in another band, they formed Northern Faces in 2013 and signed with Equal Vision Records, releasing their EP titled Southern Places soon after. They have fully committed to making music their career, though they’ve watched other members come and go, due to the unique and risky lifestyle of the music industry.
“For a lot of people, it’s not a lifestyle they can commit to for a long time, being on the road and not always knowing what’s next. But for us, it’s the only lifestyle we know. It feels normal, like home to us. I can’t imagine not doing it,” Shortell said.
After coming off of a summer tour with Electric Six, the band is already itching to get back out on the road. The atmosphere of this tour was unique, according to Shortell, because of the smaller venues they’ve performed, like Omaha, Nebraska. “It wasn’t places like L.A. where there’s five different bands playing every day. These shows were at smaller places and the people were more excited to be there. It was awesome,” Shortell said.
While people are quick to label them as an indie or indie rock group, Shortell shies away from these genres and considers their sound alternative rock. Growing up listening to grunge music and following bands like Oasis, alternative rock felt broad enough to capture their evolving sound.
Starting off their careers in the Capital Region wasn’t exactly ideal at first. “It was confusing for us because, back then, alternative bands that were selling out shows across the country would come to Albany and would only have venues a quarter full,” Shortell said. “It showed us that we needed to do shows in Albany, but also needed to do anything we could to do shows in other areas too.”
In the last few years, though, Shortell has noticed a change in Albany, where there has been a “boom” in alternative rock music. He credits The Hollow as one of the venues filling the past void, along with popular events like PearlPalooza in downtown Albany.
Their upcoming record is not only a staple of this alternative sound, but a portrayal of their dedication to make it as far in the music industry as they can. Shortell is confident that this album, including “Messin’”, is the band’s best work yet; although, the songs were ironically written about a perceived low point in the band’s career.
While their producer was on tour with another band, Northern Faces was busy writing music and making demos. They soon got a call from their producer, encouraging them to send over the demos so the distinguished band he was on tour with could give them some helpful criticism. Late that night, after sending over the demos, Shortell remembers the shock and disappointment he felt after he opened the video message from the band.
“They sent us a video message and it was clear they had been drinking after a show. And they basically shredded all of our songs,” Shortell said. “They told us we were handing our producer an empty frame when it should’ve been a finished painting.”
Turns out, the entire video was a joke. The band hadn’t even listened to the demos yet. “We didn’t realize that until later,” Shortell laughs. “We wrote five songs right after we got the message and they were way better than the songs we had before. Honestly, half the record wouldn’t exist if all that didn’t happen.”
As humorous as this misunderstanding was, Shortell looks back on it as much more than a funny story. It’s what inspired the juxtaposing lyrics in “Messin’” and what pushed the band to make the album even better.
“It was a situation where you thought you had reached the top of your abilities, but then someone tells you it’s not good enough and you realize there’s more left in you,” Shortell said.
The theme of questioning yourself and the future is prevalent in most of the songs on the album and is a concept Shortell hopes people can relate to. “We don’t care what people take away as long as they take away something,” Shortell said. “We don’t want to be a middle-of-the-road band, we would rather be polarizing. Some people might think the album is too pop sounding and then some will love that it’s melodic. All that matters is that they feel something. This album deals with themes around our age, right in your 20s, when you’re seeing people settle down and you have this quarter life crisis. I hope this album can help people through these times and let them know they’re not alone.”
Shortell predicts that the cover art used for the single, which is a visual of fingers being crossed, will be illustrated on the album cover as well. “Fingers crossed” encapsulates the album lyrically and the band’s mindset throughout its creation, as they have put years of hard work into this record and are crossing their fingers for what will come next.
“We’re so fortunate to be in this position that other bands would kill to be in,” Shortell said. “But we want to take the band as far as we possibly can. This is our fingers crossed record. This could be the one.”