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Song Premiere and Interview: The North Country “Island”

Photo by Mikhail Bezruchko. 

Washington, D.C. is a bit of a mess, to be frank. It mostly reminiscent of a cheeto-powered man and a great deal of anxiety. Fortunately, there seems to be a beacon of light in the city’s music scene, especially with fresh acts like The North Country.

Their latest single, “Island,” is part of the band’s upcoming release, In Defense of Cosmic Altruism, and is a gleaming preview of the humbling quality The North Country does so well. Accompanied by an ethereal video, “Island” is honest and quite necessary to hear, with the reminder that we are all a bit lost when guitarist and lead vocalist Andrew Grossman sings, “What have I done with my life?” It’s an approachable brand of adulthood, inviting us to be lost in the puzzle of life with him. Juxtaposed against the perpetual conundrum of life are mellowed strumming and riffs reminiscent of Andrew Bird circa Noble Beast.

Grossman gave us a little insight into the making of the upcoming album.

This new release was inspired by your days as a mathematician. It’s so refreshing to hear that, and two seemingly different fields colliding.

I studied physics in college, but to my parent’s disappointment still became a musician. But math informs the way I think about certain quantitative things in music, like rhythmic ideas, or music theory as systems of numerical patterns. It also gave me a leg up when I got a couple of analog synthesizers.

What was the recording process like for this album?

I had written a batch of songs that I knew were different from the previous album, so I assembled a whole new band to record them. In an attempt to do the whole thing quickly, we spent a few weeks of practices learning and arranging them, played a couple shows, then went right into the studio and banged out all the rhythm tracks (drums, bass, guitar, keys) live in something like two days. My dreams of a quick recording process though were dashed over the next year as producing and overdubbing came at the cost of relentless over-analysis and neurotic self-examination.

What do you think sets the DC music scene apart from others?

DC is a city that’s constantly in flux. There are a lot of people who move in to work on behalf of some political cause and then leave after a few years. It’s almost like a college, in that every couple years half the population changes. For people who’ve lived here for a few of those cycles it can be disorienting. That being said, the people who do live here tend to be really passionate and ambitious which can make for a stimulating artistic landscape. There’s been a concerted effort by our community here to make bills more diverse in terms of race, gender, etc. It’s been really cool, I feel I’ve been clued into a lot of awesome music that’s been going on in this city that I had no idea about.

The North Country’s upcoming album In Defense of Cosmic Altruism is out on September 29th. Keep up with the band here.

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