ROAD-TESTED Cournoyer, Wallace, Jaehnig, and Hayden (clockwise from top left). [Photo by Dustin Genereux]
The long-awaited debut album by Northern Lands is finally here. He Took a Dive (75orLess Records) is a well-rounded and rousing introduction to the Providence-based foursome and fully captures the impassioned (and damn-near possessed) vocals of lead singer Joshua Cournoyer. Elements of roots and classic rock mingle with Pete Hayden's fuzzed-out guitar riffs and the rumbling rhythm section of drummer Josh Wallace and bassist Aaron Jaehnig, PVD's all-time favorite dive-bar doorman/proprietor. He Took a Dive will be available on disc at the release show on Saturday (also check 75orlessrecords.com), followed by an official release via iTunes and Spotify on June 4.
Nearly two years have blown by since Cournoyer and Wallace sent over a demo of "This Old War" and I was instantly smitten (the song was on our Best Music Poll ballot last year). Jaehnig and Hayden signed on in late 2011 and began work on a debut; what I assumed was a completely scrapped first attempt instead served as a sonic blueprint, according to Cournoyer.
"Hearing our original ideas on record gave us the motivation to continue writing and developing our sound live before committing to a larger scale release," he said. "I think we all agreed that we had something there with the original recordings, but at the time we had no label and no deadlines so we chose to let the process happen organically over time," Cournoyer told me. "The nine tracks that made the record were the best out of about 50 that were written and/or demoed. At this point, nearly two years in, all the songs on the record have been road-tested and played a hundred times," noted Cournoyer.
The band had a manager and producer in place, but no label. Mark MacDougall of Warren-based imprint 75orLess Records met Cournoyer and the two ironed out a deal. "75orLess was the missing piece of the puzzle," Josh said. "Mark stepped up at the last minute and agreed over drinks to release the album." Northern Lands should fit in perfectly alongside stellar live label acts like Broadcaster, Coma Coma, and MacDougall's Six Star General.
Cournoyer and his mates excel in the live setting as well. One of the more memorable NL gigs I've attended took place at the 2012 WBRU Rock Hunt Finals, where the band closed with a cover of Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." Cournoyer said to "expect some surprises" at the upcoming show.
Oh, and what CD release bash would be complete without your own lager available on tap? Cournoyer reached out to Revival's brewmaster Sean Larkin, and a few weeks later the first 28 kegs were ready to roll.
"We're a band who has pretty much made our living working at music venues and bars, and this ended up with us being labeled as a 'bar rock' band, which isn't an unfair tag," Cournoyer said. "So we figured why not team up with another Providence staple and have a beer that embodies our love for this incredible city." Northern Lands Lager will be available at the Met, plus the Parlour and Nolan's Corner Pub, among others.