First Impressions: Latenights
Shoegaze and surf rock are separated by a smaller distance than they might seen. For proof, see Latenights, a lush and loud Columbia four-piece that enliven the booming riffs of the former with the slyly romantic whimsy of the latter. The approach is taken to the thicker end of the spectrum on the band’s self-titled debut, released this January as a free download. The potent style blurs across the album’s ten songs in an energetically murky display. Kinetic melodies and bass lines reverberate within effects and fuzz, becoming bigger without forsaking raucous rock & roll energy. Surprise Surprise, a similarly free single released a couple weeks ago, plays as a belated primer. The A-side is a catchy rock number that follows the patterns of their debut. But B-side “Maui Wowee” is a different animal, a pitch-perfect Beach Boys slow burner that cheekily heaps pristine harmony onto lightweight phrases such as “froth on my beer.” With just two releases behind them, Latenights already have a surprisingly strong grip on the sounds they’re mixing together. Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with drummer Nate Puza via e-mail to chat about the band’s young catalog and how they think their sound will evolve.
Shuffle: How did Latenights get started?
Nate Puza: Well, we have been playing as Latenights for around a year and a half or so now, but Justin (Hallas, guitar and vocals) and CJ (Rhodes, bass) and I have been playing music together since we were like 15. We pretty much learned how to play by jamming together. We had a band called Hello Tomorrow for a few years, and after that ran its course we decided to kind of start over with Latenights. We met Keaten (North, guitar) through mutual friends at the University of South Carolina, and now we get together and play tunes.
Shuffle: Tell me about your sound. It’s follows the infectious rhythms of surf rock with the heft of shoegaze riffs. How did you end up sounding like this?
NP: Honestly, it’s just a huge mash-up of stuff that we are all into. Our first band had a more straight-forward indie-pop sound. We were young and just kind of mimicking whatever we thought was cool at the time. With this group we have definitely made an effort to get away from that and experiment and not limit ourselves. We knew we wanted to be kind of heavy and mimic the sort of humungous guitar sounds on records like Pinkerton and have tunes that were really just rooted in solid melodies, but also not be afraid to be spacey or weird or whatever.
Shuffle: So far this year you’ve released a full-length and a two-song single. Why so productive?
NP: It’s funny. We’ve always been a pretty productive group. Justin is constantly cranking out demos and working on something, but we never had the means to record anything, and we are all pretty broke. The biggest difference now is that we just said, ‘Fuck it,’ and started to record it ourselves. We spent a bunch of money recording in studios and would go back and listen to the demos we did and like them better. Our full-length was all done in our bedrooms using GarageBand. We wanted to really be able to take the time to make a coherent record and not have the pressure of paying 50 bucks an hour or whatever in a studio. I know personally making a record or an EP or something is just fun, the whole process and then finally having this product at the end that you can be proud of and give to people.
Shuffle: With your recently released Surprise Surprise single, you paired a distorted party jam with a classic slice of Beach Boys melancholy. Why go for that dichotomy? To me, it sort of sums up your two stylistic poles.
Those songs were both originally part of a five-song EP we wrote last summer and were going to release anonymously just for fun, just kind of a distraction really. Justin and I got really heavy into surf rock and kind of went on a binge listening to The Ventures and The Sonics and Man or Astroman and stuff. I remember we all drove down to Folly Beach in the middle of the night last summer and just blasted “Walk Don’t Run” on repeat the whole way. Something about that music and nice weather and your friends, it’s some real transcendental kind of shit I guess. As far as the single goes, Kenny McWilliams approached us about working on a song at Archer Avenue and we thought it would be fun to release a surf tune for summer. Going along with the kind of vintage theme we figured it needed a B-side and put “Maui Wowee” on there, mainly because we knew we could record it pretty quickly. I wish I could say it was some premeditated stroke of genius to have the fast-slow thing going on, but it was sort of just a happy accident. We recorded them both, and it worked out. I think the reason they work together well is that they are so similar thematically.
Shuffle: How far do you think you can push the stylistic mix that you’ve arrived at? Is it something you feel like you guys will refine and focus on, or do you see yourselves adding more elements to your sound?
NP: The plan all along has been to sort of not have a plan, and I think that is how we have come to the style that we have now. We are pretty deep into demoing the next record and it is definitely a development from our first. Some of those songs on the first record were like five-years-old, I guess we needed to make that, so we could move on and keep pushing forward. The new stuff is a step forward but still pretty firmly rooted in what we’ve always done. It’s a bit more experimental, and we’re introducing more instrumentation and general weirdness to the songs. We want it be something you can blast out of shitty iPod speakers at a party or listen to in headphones alone in your room.
Shuffle: What’s next for Latenights? Any more releases in the works?
NP: Hopefully we will get out on the road a little bit. We’ve never done a tour or anything, so that is for sure something we are trying to make happen. Besides that we are going to try to get the new stuff out and in peoples hands by the apocalypse in December (or maybe early 2013 if we somehow avoid our imminent doom). We have plans to do a whole deluxe package with it, colored vinyl and all kinds of other goodies in a neatly packaged bundle of joy, something you can be happy spending 10 bucks on.