Five-piece folk-pop ensemble New Century Masters do a good job of keeping it mysterious. Their Facebook cites Hamm's as a major influence, and you'll be hard-pressed to figure out who the members of the talented group are unless you sit down for an interview with them. The band released their debut album last September, a polished, well-produced collection of harmonic songs that sound clean, crisp, and tight. Four-fifths of the band took the time to chat about their upcoming SoundTown gig and how they nabbed Joey Ryan (of Joey Ryan and the Inks) as their final member.
Members: Jorge Raasch - keyboard Paul Flowers - guitar/main songwriter Joey Ryan - bass Derek Jackson - drums Tony Najm - guitar (not present for interview)
When did New Century Masters officially form? When was your album out? Paul: I believe we started in March 2009. When we first stepped into a room... I just had a bunch of songs laying around. Our first record was released in September 2010... We were really wanting to do a really solid recording, and we needed to learn what we did and didn't like. Jorge: There wasn't really any recording format for us. Derek: We didn't even play live shows before we that record out. There was just a lot of experimentation, saying to each other, "What direction did we want to take this? Saying, "What do we think this is going to be about?" Jorge: Most bands are playing first, recording later; we had the opposite experience. We didn't have any shows booked for the first year. Derek: We needed to make a lot of decisions--like going from a four-piece to a five-piece, so we could have people playing less and playing better, giving ourselves space to form a process, so that recording and playing wouldn't be so nutso-buttso all the time. Jorge: (laughing) Oh, man, please make sure you include the phrase "nutso-buttso."
(laughing) Will do. So, tell me about your plans. Anything in the works? Paul: We've got some songs... We're not recording right now, so I'm not sure what we're gonna do with them. We might decide to a 6-song EP... We'll see.
Tell me about playing SoundTown. What are you guys looking forward to? Jorge: Oh, definitely watching all of the bands. Paul: Uh, I'm looking forward to being done so I don't have to be so nervous. (laughs) Jorge: The track records of festivals in this state is poor--the Taste, the 10,000 Lakes Fest--so I've got my fingers crossed. Hopefully the price point is right, and hopefully people will go. I know the organization has long-term plans for the fest, so that's cool. Yeah, it'll be interesting. You manage to accomplish a really nice, clean, indie-pop sound. Tell me about your process. How do you guys work as a band?
Derek: Well, I'm happy to defer to the songwriter on that one. (Nods to Paul.) Paul: (laughs) Well, I'm happy to say that out of the 6 people that have liked my songs, 4 of them are in my band... We're not really trying to key in on anything other than being interesting, really. Jorge: We hang out a lot outside of the band, so there's a huge trust factor. Joey: As the new guy, I'm having a blast. For me to come into a situation where we've got a history, good atmosphere, and it's a group of friends... it couldn't be better. We know each other pretty well. (To Joey) How is joining the band working for you?
Joey: I learn from these guys every time I play. Part of it is just a really good experience for my brain.
Right, and it's not like you didn't have enough going on anyway, with your other band... Derek: It was pretty much Joey's idea to join, actually. Jorge: Yeah, honestly, he wasn't even on the list. We figured he was so busy. And then we were talking about it and Joey was like, "Oh, I could do it." Joey: (laughs) I wouldn't have joined if I didn't think they were doing great things.
One thing I have noticed about your sound is that it's not totally easily categorized. It's Beach Boys reminiscent, but it doesn't really sound like anything else I'm hearing in different corners of the Twin Cities. What are your thoughts on fitting in? Paul: I hope we never do, to be honest. People here... their tastes are distinct I would hope every band looks forward to fitting in somewhere else. The world is expansive. Jorge: When we're booking shows, I have a hard time... but we're booking the ones we want to. Paul: We can't really be attached to anything, as long as we make albums we like. I like pop music and that's what's important--I just assume no one's gonna like it when I'm writing it. (Joey, Jorge and Derek collectively snort and roll their eyes.)
Excellent. Okay, last question. What are you guys hoping to get out of SoundTown?
Derek: Meeting new people, supporting a good affordable project... also, just making connections to people who might like to come see our live shows. Paul: (laughs) And it pays the rent for our space. Jorge: (laughs) That, but it's nice to perform with talented people and have some fresh faces. It should be a good time.
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