When you take a look at some of our city’s most prominent bands in recent years, Northe is one of the more renowned groups that come to mind. Since forming in 2011, the four-piece band, comprised of lead vocalist, Joel Hirezi, lead guitarist, Scion Watson, bassist, Kevin Scala and drummer, Jeff Rivera, have played at nearly every local festival or venue.
With the recent release of their excellent EP, Voyager, we decided to do a quick Q&A with Northe to find out what plans they have for the remainder of 2014, 2015, and the years to come.
Q: Start off by giving me a brief background on how you guys got into music, working your way up until you all met and formed Northe.
Watson: I started playing music at 16 to help my parents pay rent. My grandfather made me a little acoustic guitar back then and that’s what really got me started. I then moved all around Jacksonville, eventually setting up in Mandarin. My mother and I went to the local guitar store in the area several times to play. That’s where I would eventually meet Joel and co-form Northe.
Rivera: I grew up listening to my father, who was a bassist, play in multiple rock and Latin rock bands, which got me into loving music in general. It was watching the film, “That Thing You Do,” that actually made me realize I wanted to play drums for a living. I happened to come to one of Northe’s practices. After hearing them play for awhile, they asked me to come up and play a song with them and that was that. It was clear after playing with each other for just a night that we all had good musical chemistry.
Q: How were things early on for the band? When did you guys really feel like you had something? Was there a particular show or moment?
Rivera: After a few ups and downs and a few member changes, we finally had our set lineup. In my opinion we’ve been getting closer and closer to reaching our goal. I’d say I thought we had something the first day I met and practiced with them.
Watson: Loose. Back then, we didn’t have we didn’t have nearly as much of a musical foundation as we do today. I would write music and Joel would write lyrics, which kind of formed the techniques we use write today.
Q: When you released your first EP/LP how was the reaction?
Rivera: Releasing our first EP, Oh Darla, was an extremely exciting moment for the band. The feedback from fans seemed to be very positive and really helped us gain a lot of new ones as well.
Q: Reference a few of your influences.
Watson: Well I really took to blues at a young age. The passion, soul and hurt it contains was just so real to me. So my first is Jimi Hendrix. As stereotypical as it may be, his guitar playing still hits me in ways few other artists do. Paul McCartney would have to be my second. He’s just a beautiful person. Third would have to be Radiohead. No explanation needed.
Rivera: Copeland, The Strokes, Dredg
Q: As the band became a more serious venture, how did you balance your personal lives with the band?
Rivera: Each band member has a day job, but the band part of our lives is something we each take very seriously. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, like playing a show, driving home all night, then working in the morning. But we do it because it’s what we love.
Watson: This, honestly, was not difficult for me at all. I’m a natural introvert, so I never did much outside of aspire to learn new things (as any 6-year-old boy) and paint. The hardest part was being able to get on stage without the shakes.
Q: How did you get the name Northe?
Watson: I read a lot of books … Not really. Actually Joel and I were walking around Target and he asked me, ” Would you rather the name be Jolie and the Outlaws or Northe?” I chose the latter.
Q: I know you guys have branched out of Jacksonville now, where else have you played and what are some of your best experiences on the road?
Rivera: We’ve played all over Florida, through Georgia and as far as Virginia and Washington D.C. I wouldnt call it a “good” road story, but as far as an interesting fact, on our trip to D.C., our managers at the time had surprised us with what is now is our music video for “Your Love Is Everywhere.” The problem was, each member caught a cold literally the day before the video, so if you look closely, everyone in the video looks just a little sick. Despite the cold, we ended up having a great time making the video and to this day, it’s still one of our favorite videos.
Watson: We’ve played all over Florida. We just did Connection Festival in Downtown Jax. That was rad. We did a couple shows in D.C. and a couple in Georgia. We’re looking to play in Chicago in a few weeks, which is wild. There are talks about playing in other states as well, but only time will tell. The best part of touring is listening to Comedy Bang Bang and being stuck in the sitting position for hours … Easily.
Q: How has Voyager been received so far? Are you all happy with how the album turned out?
Rivera: I think everyone in the band is incredibly happy with the way Voyager came out and how it’s been received. The feedback from the fans has been very positive so far, and our new single, “Yeti Fire,” has even won a contest with Livenation. They’re gonna be flying us out to play a couple of shows at the Chicago House Of Blues and open for some great musicians.
Watson: It’s been great. There’s a bit of a learning curve in understanding how to see and track its progress, which takes months. I certainly am pleased. As the guitarist, I put a lot of subtle work and detail in the background of each piece, especially “Ghostlight.” I think that was the funnest song to record.
Q: Tell me a little about your upcoming show in Chicago. What does it really mean to you guys to have an opportunity like that?
Hirezi: It’s definitely a blessing; an achievement for all of us as a band. Throughout the years we’ve worked really hard to get where we are today and it’s a wonderful feeling to see all we’ve endured together blossom into something even bigger than us.
Watson: Honestly, it’s an eye-opener. Our manager entered “Yeti Fire” into a contest, and the judges picked us. That’s wild. I’m gonna really dig being able to say I went to Chicago for a song that we wrote. I think it’s going to be an experience that I’ll remember for a long time.
Q: After the release of Voyager, what’s the plan for the band?
Rivera: We have a lot of things planned for promoting the EP since it’s been released. We’ll be writing more, playing more shows and planning our upcoming tour.
Q: Where do you guys see Northe in the next 5-10 years?
Watson: Honestly, no clue. I’ve only been working with Joel for four years. Kevin and Jeff haven’t been in the band for more than half of that. We’ve gotten so much done in such little time. The only thing I can wish for is to keep it up and continue on the path we’re on. I want to give a little shout out to Terry Brent. For being one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. A great friend and manager. Secondly, to every Jacksonville band reading this, I respect each and every one of you for what you have done or strive to have to go through to follow your dreams. Much love to The Elbow as well. DUVAL!