Following the footsteps of some of the loudest bands in the scene such as The Dead Weather and Ty Segall, garage-psych duo North By North are back with their new single “Into the Haze”, a dark, riff-heavy psych rocker full of soaring vocals and moody keyboard textures. Last Days of Magic, the band’s latest record, is a concept album that investigates the space where science-fiction and fantasy meet modern society to the soundtrack of the duo’s fusion of ‘60s psychedelia and modern lo-fi garage.
Chicago garage duo North By North’s surf-inspired rock & roll conjures images of catching waves off the Hawaiian coast all day before chasing the sun and sand with a swanky cabaret-club nightcap. They start from a foundation that channels bands like The Black Keys & The White Stripes, but quickly set themselves apart by adding adventurous, esoteric instrumentation—from cello and trumpet to tack piano. Their uncanny ability to blend blues, surf and cabaret into a heady rock & roll stew has scored them shows with Eagles of Death Metal, Tegan & Sara, Nikki Lane, Wussy & more, not mention heavy rotation at radio throughout the Midwest, including influential Chicago station WXRT.
Not many artists have the sense of purpose and ambition to release a double album for a debut. And even fewer have the audacity to release yet another double-length as a follow-up. But North By North aren’t your average twenty-somethings slamming down three-chord anthems between bong rips. Their new album Last Days of Magic (out Oct. 14 on Double Hex Records) is a Stephen King-inspired, femme-fatale-filled concept album that investigates the space where science-fiction and fantasy meet modern society. “These stories exist in our world and explore how magic plays into superstition and society,” says singer-guitarist Nate Girard. “But this particular story takes place in a time where magic is on its way out.”
Last Days of Magic was produced by Don Bates, who was also at the helm for North By North’s 2014 debut Something Wicked. Bates traveled to Chicago to track instruments with the duo, then brought them down to his hometown of Nashville to cut vocals. “Recording in two different cities really allowed us to step back and reflect on what was and wasn’t working,” Girard says. It was this reflection that led Last Days of Magic to become the heavily textured, genre-defying blend of ‘70s psychedelia and pop-infused lo-fi garage rock that it is.
“We were experimenting with a more theatrical and orchestral writing style,” keyboardist Kendra Blank says. “We focused more on different instrumentation and new guitar tones this time than we did previously.”
Girard and Blank met in high school and have played in various groups together, off and on, since 2007. But it wasn’t until 2011 that North By North officially formed. The two musicians immediately fell in sync, with Blank’s classical piano training taking Girard’s self-taught approach to new levels, and with Girard guiding Blank to go beyond the rigid structure to which she was accustomed. Almost immediately, the two began writing the material that would eventually become Something Wicked. Before releasing their debut, however, the duo was already hard at work on a follow-up. “Some of these songs on Last Days of Magic were written back in 2013,” Blank says. The duo was named one of Chicago RedEye’s “Bands to Watch” following the release of Something Wicked. The early success led them to hire a touring drummer and hit the road on a series of shoestring budget DIY runs, as the band battled its way back and forth from Chicago to Texas, building a devoted cult fanbase along the way.
In support of the forthcoming Last Days of Magic, North by North have a thirteen-week nationwide fall tour planned during which they’ll hit every major U.S. market from New England to the West Coast. True to form, the duo already has some material in the works for their next record, but right now the focus is on the upcoming release and tour. “We’ve been working hard to surprise people by how full our live sound is since it’s just the three of us,” says Blank. With their focus, dedication and dogged work ethic, North By North are poised for a breakthrough.