Night Moves channel the past
"We've officially made it as a band now that we've got a six-person tent," jokes Night Moves bassist Micky Alfano. And he kind of has a point. The burgeoning Minneapolis retro-rock band might be on the cusp of something really big, but they're still at the (weather-permitting) camping phase in their development.
During happy hour at the Driftwood Char Bar in south Minneapolis, the group's three core members — vocalist/guitarist John Pelant, Alfano, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Ritsema — all wear worn-out and self-satisfied looks after finishing an honest day's work.
"I only had a two-person tent, so John and I had to share it while the other guys slept in the van," Alfano explains, while recalling spending a chilly night in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park. Pelant chimes in, "It was the worst night, the coldest night ever." But even as long-time friends, both guys joke that they were reluctant to cling to each other for warmth, and instead just lay there shivering waiting for the sun to rise.
They should experience a far balmier reception as Night Moves celebrate the release of their debut album, Colored Emotions, with a record-release show at the Entry on Tuesday. It has been a year and a half since the album was unveiled as a free download online. Since then, the venerable U.K. indie label Domino Records brought the band to L.A. for a week earlier this year to re-record the songs with producer Thom Monahan. According to Alfano, the most significant difference in the new versions is, "We can simply perform these songs better now."
"[Thom] really caught on with what we wanted really quick," says Pelant. "He would just be able to dial something in and capture the exact sound we were looking for." That sound — augmented by their twangy vintage guitars and Pelant's silky croon — is a modern twist on classic radio staples of the '70s in the vein of "Life's Been Good," "Dream On," and "Love the One You're With," which appropriately enough were playing nonstop in the bar throughout our conversation.
But never once did we hear the familiar, gravelly voice of Bob Seger, who became a national star after releasing hit single "Night Moves" in 1976. That would have been just too perfect.
"After my first practice with the band three years ago, John threw out the idea of either doing a song called 'Night Moves' or that the band should be called Night Moves," Alfano claims. "And I had never even heard of Bob Seger at that point. I just feel like a lot of people in our generation haven't really paid attention to Bob Seger."
Pelant adds, "We all like older, classic rock and retro music, but it's not like it was a conscious thing to let people know that 'Yeah, we really like Seger.'" Ritsema then jokes that the band is contemplating "renting a Silver Bullet Party Bus" for their release show at the Entry and "being photographed drinking nothing but Bud Light on tour." To avoid any confusion (and a potential lawsuit), the Colored Emotions standout that was originally titled "Night Moves" has been renamed "Country Queen."
The rest of the record has a studied, polished sound, especially for a debut. Songs like "Horses" still manage to have an artfully relaxed vibe as well. The guitar solos soar, but never sound overblown, while the expansive arrangements suggest the musical confidence and adventurousness of a band deep into their career, not just starting out. Completing the throwback vibe is the album's resplendent cover art, by Erik Hamline of Steady Print Shop in northeast Minneapolis, featuring a psychedelic sunrise (or sunset) peeking from behind the branches of a tree, bringing to mind that a new day is indeed dawning for Night Moves.
While the band did sign to Domino, they have yet to visit the U.K. or even leave the States as a group, and are instead focusing their excitement on hitting the road in the U.S. this October, and perhaps testing out their new tent in the process.
When it comes to the local scene, the band has nothing but nice things to say about the support shown to them. "I think a lot of people have been really kind to us," says Alfano, making a point to single out Radio K, which first played their songs early on. "Everyone has been really supportive, and seems to dig what we're doing, which is a really nice feeling because they are people that I look up to."
Establishing their own distinct place in the local music scene is a bit of a work-in-progress for the young band, however. The group members all searched long and hard for a perfect answer as to what it means to be a Minneapolis band these days. "It's a tricky question," says Pelant eventually. While Ritsema chimed in, "A lot of local bands collaborate with each other, which is cool, but we're just trying to do our own thing, which hopefully makes us stand out a little bit more."
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