Dayton, Ohio alternative rock band Novagold are an emerging Midwestern tour-de-force that demonstrates ’90s sensibilities with touches of post-rock flair. As these things go, the band formed in 2016 when members’ previous bands fizzled out. The band, featuring guitarist/vocalist Ryan Jones, formerly of party punk troupe Nightbeast, as well as God Bless and Asher Jones, guitarist Jacob Oxley, also of God Bless and Asher Jones, bassist Nigel Verboon of Parade Rainer, and drummer Josh Gonzales of Hey There Morgan and Once-ler, release their debut album, A Pretty Burn, on November 17.
Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of debuting the groovy, Glassjaw-reminiscent single “Latitude/Longitude” (below). We also caught up with Jones to discuss the band. This is what he told us.
How and under what circumstances did Novagold get together?
Novagold kind of rose from the ashes of my and Jacob’s previous band, God Bless and Asher Jones, which had been slowly imploding for a long time at that point. This was early 2015, I think…it was pre-sobriety so my timeline is definitely a little fuzzy.
Jacob and I have been in literally every band together over the years, even when I was in Nightbeast he would fill in on guitar from time to time, so naturally we looked to each other and said, “What’s next?” For the first time in years we had the opportunity to play for ourselves and not write music that felt like it had to meet people’s expectations. This was something brand new and both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Jacob recruited Nigel to play bass and we started writing together in his basement. Over the next year we built up enough material to play a handful of shows under the name Dead Sea Gold but it kind of floundered due to life events and empty drum thrones. The three of us continued to write though and in 2016 Josh signed on to play drums. That’s when we became Novagold…the stuff of legends [laughter].
This is a departure from some of your previous bands. Why the left turn?
I’ve always been very self conscious and consumed at times with what people think when it comes to the music I make. In GB&AJ and Nightbeast I hid behind a persona. That’s not to say that the music wasn’t great or I didn’t enjoy performing or writing any of that stuff, but it wasn’t really me. I was putting on a show because that’s what i thought people wanted to see and I was getting a reaction. The truth was it took a head full of cocaine and a belly full of liquor to become that persona and eventually the line – pun intended – became completely blurred between reality and fantasy. Novagold is the first time I have been able to remove that mask and take the stage as myself.
What is it about this band that makes it a rewarding endeavor?
The music, hands down. We’re making the music that we want to make and I don’t feel like I’ve compromised any part of myself in creating it. If somebody else doesn’t like it, fuck it, I can stand in front of and behind what we’ve made and feel great about it. I can’t really speak for the other guys but that’s huge for me.
It’s also incredibly rewarding being able to experience all of this with a clear head. I can actually remember playing shows and feeling the audience reacting to what we’re doing. It’s a whole new thing.
When and under what circumstances did your write and record the record?
We started recording this album at Reel Love Recording Company with Patrick Himes the week between Christmas and New Years of 2016. Originally the idea was to put out an EP as kind of a demo/promotional thing. So we rehearsed the shit out of six songs and went to work. The decision was made a few weeks later to go back and add two more newly written songs to make it a full album. They ended up being the opening and closing tracks.
What are your favorite moments there?
My favorite moment actually came long after we had recorded and listened through several mixes of the album. When we were working on the title track “A Pretty Burn” our drummer Josh mentioned that the instrumental section of the song was begging for a string section, Patrick very casually said he could make that happen. No one thought a whole lot more about it.
Fast forward nine months and we get back a mix of the song featuring John Lardinois of the Dayton Philharmonic on violin and I was absolutely floored. He had incorporated my vocal melody into the string parts and I’m not too proud to say I was a blubbering mess the first time I heard it. That was a very cool moment, bucket list kind of thing.
What messages or spirit were you hoping to impart or capture with the record?
There seems to be a sense of veiled optimism in my lyrics lately. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but it’s all over this album. Like even though some of the songs are dark the message ends up being one of “you can overcome” or “things will get better.” I like that. Definitely a change for me. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to help people through my own experiences.
Novagold has been playing out quite a bit over the last 12 months. What have been your favorite outings?
The show opening for Six Gallery is the one that really stands out for me. Very rarely am I left speechless with my jaw on the floor after watching a band, even national acts, but those dudes are something else. They should be on top the world man.
Favorite show as far as our performance goes would have to be a regional showcase we played at Oddbody’s in Dayton. That was the first time we were in front of an audience that was completely unfamiliar with us and it went over really well. That’s always a good feeling when your being complimented by the crowd, the other bands and the venue. Really cool experience.
Do you plan to tour at all in support of the record?
We only have local shows on the books for now. I would love to be out on the road a little bit by the Spring, at least some weekend warrior stuff, but we all work and fund this thing ourselves. Until music feeds the baby’s we’ll be living the double lives.
You guys recently did something special for Halloween right?
Yeah, we all painted our faces like skeletons and played two hour long sets at The Trolley Stop in Dayton. First time I’ve ever played during Hauntfest on Fifth where they shut down the street and everyone loses their fucking minds. I usually try to avoid that like the plague. It was cool though. We had to learn a bunch of covers to fill that amount of time, everyone sang along with our version of “Zombie” by the Cranberries.
What are your loftiest goals for Novagold?
Rockstardom, world tour, sold out stadium fantasies aside, I would really love for all of us to be able to survive and support our people with Novagold. That’s the dream. I wonder how well I would sleep knowing getting up and going to work meant playing in a rock and roll band.
(Catch Novagold live here:
12/15 – Record Release Show. Blind Bobs, Dayton, Ohio, with Swimming With Sharks, TBA
Visit the band here: http://www.novagoldband.com.)