Growing up in the North Country ingrains a different way of thinking from someone who was raised in the city. On their second album, The May North set to capture the restless spirit that roams the North Country and interpret it into their music. Interstate Lives is curiously exposed, living in both the past and present. It stretches over decades of music, bringing together bits and pieces of lives that dwell within those songs.
George McCorkell (guitar and vocals)
Stephanie McCorkell (fiddle and vocals)
Matthew Byrnes (banjo)
Chris O'Brien (dobro and vocals)
Jeff Swanner (upright bass)
Gimme Noise: What has the band been up to since the release of Songs from the North Country?
We've spent a lot of time writing and arranging new material over the past few months and also had a chance to play some great shows like Midwest Music Festival in Winona, Muskie Days in Nevis, MN, and Sweetwater Shakedown up at Lutsen Mountain.
On a personal level, we've also done quite a bit of traveling outside of the band, which always helps to keep the creative fires burning. We (George and Steph) went to Norway for two weeks in August, and Chris spent time out in the mountains of South Dakota, Colorado, and Montana. Seems like mountains are a common theme in our travels.
You have a new band member. What does Chris bring to the sound/band?
Lots more female fans, and he's a rippin' dobro player, vocalist, and songwriter to boot.
Songs was a debut album, which I'm sure included a learning curve in putting out music. What did you learn from putting out that album that made this one a lot easier?
Like the first album, we recorded live in the studio with only a couple small overdubs. However, this time around, we were a bit more thorough in our preparation and recorded all the songs together at home around a single mic. That helped to get a better understanding of the arrangements, volume levels between instruments, and song dynamics before we actually went into the studio to record for real. I think it helped us get a more polished performance on the record while still playing and improvising like we did for this album.
Do you feel Interstate Lives is a deviation or an extension of the last album?
In terms of the music, it is an extension of the last album in that the basic sound of the band is similar, but with the addition of the dobro and more vocal harmonies.
Lyrically, this album probably covers more ground with a song like "Trigger Solution," which is based on a senseless shooting that happened a few months ago in St. Paul -- certainly not what you'd expect from a bluegrass tune. Then again, that's one of the things we try to do in this band is to push the boundaries of the genre at times. No subject matter is off limits if the song is coming from a place that's sincere and meaningful.
You say that there's a restless spirit that flows through the North Country. How did you capture it, literally and figuratively, for this album?
Starting with the title track, "Interstate Lives," the album is really about dropping everything and trying to go find yourself adventure. Whether it's a relationship or an epic road trip or whatever makes you feel alive, that's what we're talking about in the music. You can't tame a restless spirit. You gotta feed it!
How was writing for this album approached differently from the last album?
The band knows each other better as musicians and people than they did for our first album, so we feel there was more honest group thought and collaboration that went into the making of this second album versus the first album.
What's your favorite thing about the North Country, and how do you integrate it into the songs?
It seems like you don't have to go too far to find some fairly wild and natural places. A lot of our songs make reference to those natural wonders that we might otherwise take for granted.
What would you tell anyone who has never seen a May North show to get them out to the album release show?
We've been lucky to find an audience that's excited about original music, and the bands we tend to play with are very generous and positive people. Sans Souci Quartet is going to share the night with us on October 20th; we're really grateful to have them there. They're great guys, and they just bring down the house every time. Plus, we'll be at "full strength" with our banjo player, Matthew Byrnes, in town from Winona -- the guy is an unbelievable picker. Also, we'll have a new bassist, Jeff Swanner, playing this show with us. He's got a great energy and really knows how to make the tunes move. Should be an awesome night!
The May North will release Interstate Lives with Sans Souci Quartet at the 331 Club on Saturday, October 20, 2012.
21+, Free, 10 pm