by: Ryan Heape
This is going to seem totally stupid, but in my head I couldn’t stop relating the grounded trajectory of Dallas duo Rise & Shine to the arrival of The Weeknd last year. One of the more amusing things on the internet in 2011 was watching established publications and reputable music blogs scramble to unmask who we now know as Abel Tesfaye, based on a couple of foggy YouTube clips and a timely Drake/OVO endorsement via blog post. It wasn’t flattering when you consider that much of the mysterious allure of The Weeknd was probably a calculated effort, a clever idea hatched in a smoked-out Toronto basement.
Things like buzz bands and internet hype have been around for a long time, but that one stood out. Tesfaye turned out to be a confident talent worthy of all the consternation. In an era where we know everything about everyone, we were enthralled by this artist we knew enough about to Google, but couldn’t find anything once we did. Truthfully, we didn’t want to find anything. Nobody is ever excited for freshman orientation, but everyone seems to get up for a good costume party.
To be clear, I’m not comparing Rise & Shine musically to “House Of Balloons” or saying anything otherwise completely ridiculous. However, no matter how silly, there’s something to be said for our culture of expectation and rabid consumption. When some band messes with that and eschews The Way Things Are Done In 2012, it grabs our attention. Sorry for getting pop culture in your rock n’ roll there, you guys.
We do know things about Rise & Shine: they are Jordan Cain and Brandon “Kansas” Pinkcard, whom you may know from Jonathan Tyler’s Northern Lights band. They’ve been lightly touring parts of Texas and Oklahoma since last summer, and plan on releasing an album called “This Is Your Captain Speaking” in the fall. Last week, you could only stream one song from their Facebook page ( Only 50 likes!). It was a cover of a song Johnny Cash immortalized shortly before his death: “Ain’t No Grave.” That’s been it, though. Most of the artists coming through our area have fully formed social media strategies (some even have their own iPhone apps). These two guys want to surprise you. It’s nice.
Let’s step back for a moment.
Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights made their splash back in 2010 with “Pardon Me,” a good record that ignited annoying zeal from media types claiming that rock n’ roll had been saved again or something. No, we should instead give JTNL credit for being their own unique iteration of soulful, loud, rock indulgence. There’s not been many “Texas bands” as daring as they are, playing alongside the likes of the Tejas Brothers at Crude Fest in May with something on their setlist as comparatively pornographic as “Gypsy Woman.” That unhinged attitude seems to have translated nicely to new and exciting places.
Cain and Pinkcard’s quick-take imagining of “Ain’t No Grave” is grimy and hollow, lulling you in with handclaps and stomps. The lo-fi vocal harmonies were recorded inside what I can only assume was a small, sweaty shed in a forest. What makes it become sinister is the psych-rock ooziness of it all. Black Angels-style guitar tones spring out of nowhere as if they are ordering the other instruments around. The song plays on a loop on their Facebook page if you don’t click the pause button, and the when this happens it becomes extra fucking eerie. This is only one song, and a hastily recorded cover at that. But whereas Jonathan Tyler’s music is sometimes lovely and always very Dallas, Rise & Shine’s aesthetic would be more at home in a place like Austin. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were playing Psych Fest next year alongside bands like Acid Baby Jesus, Night Beats, or The Wolf. There’s a good chance I’m wrong, but again: the speculation has been fun.
When I approached Rise & Shine for an interview, I was slightly surprised by the quick response I got, but Pinkcard acknowledged the mysterious nature of their Rise & Shine project. “We are trying to keep it that way,” he said, “until the album drops.” Here’s to pulling back the curtain when “This Is Your Captain Speaking” arrives this fall.
New Slang: How much about your sound are we allowed to glean from your cover of “Ain’t No Grave”?
Brandon Pinckard: That was a song that Jordan first brought in. When we first decided to play a show, this place told us they needed a band and we decided to go, just the two of us and split up the money or whatever and that was one of the first songs we worked on. Countless people have done that song. Of course, one of them was Johnny Cash. But if you listen to any other version of it, it’s totally old country gospel stuff.
For us, when we sat down with it, it ended up carrying this real ominous sound. After that we kind of brought it back to old Delta Blues, to a place where it became more electrified in a way. And yeah, I think that recording is a pretty good representation of at least some of what we’re doing on the album. There’s some harmony, some dual vocals, some ethereal guitar. But there’s also rock n’ roll on there.
NS: There’s something psychedelic about it, especially with the way it’s roughly recorded.
BP: [Laughs] Yeah, there’s definitely some psych in there.
Jordan Cain: Honestly though, that was something we recorded in ten minutes in Brandon’s living room. The record we have I feel is so much more dynamic, the tones you’ll hear are going to be leaps and bounds above that recording. Not to knock that recording but…
BP: We needed to have that up for somebody to hear, and we just kind of hit record and went. It was all very unintentional, the sounds that we were getting. It’s a vibe we were trying to tap into on the album. But once we hit that point we were being much more deliberate with what we were doing.
New Slang: Has a lot of the mystery behind you two been intentional?
BP: I think so. I mean, we started this band as a two-piece last year, we just finished recording an album in May. We just kind of wanted to wait. We wanted to have something up for people to see but wait to debut stuff until we were ready to release it all at once. We want to have it all ready, cool artwork, et cetera. But like having the one song up there, we wanted to pique people’s interest a bit.
JC: And like, [laughs] we’re not Facebookers or “online people” really. We had to have Brandon’s girlfriend take care of pretty much everything you see on the internet about us.
BP: I definitely understand the importance of “hustling your product,” you know. But it’s really something I want to have people listen to and flock to because they enjoy rather than any other reason besides the music.
NS: Y’all will be out here with Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights to play the Blue Light in September. Has balancing projects been difficult?
JC: We’ve had a lot of time off with JTNL due to the fact that we’re actually working on another JTNL album that’s probably gonna be out next year. So that’s freed up time for Brandon and I to create something else. We don’t like to sit around, we like to make music.
BP: It hasn’t been hard at all, really. Sometimes it’s been convenient.
NS: “Pardon Me” was recorded completely live for the most part. Do you bring a similar mindset to recording stuff for Rise & Shine?
BP: Oh yeah. It was Jordan sitting in a room with him on drums and me on a guitar. Had the amp in a different room. We counted the songs off, played ‘em over and over again until we got good ones.
NS: Talk about how y’all have worked through the two-piece band dynamic, especially live. The White Stripes were good at it, but it was never perfect.
JC: It’s definitely an art being a duet. There’s not much there to cover up any mixtapes. In JTNL if someone messes up you probably won’t know but with only two instruments there, you notice everything. It’s improved our musicianship for sure. It’s been good for us.
NS: With just you two on stage, is there any pressure carry more of the weight of a live performance?
JC: I mean, with the first few shows, we were just concentrating on playing our instruments and getting through the songs mistake-free [laughs]. And I think eventually the performance comes from the song. If you’re in a good spot when you’re playing or singing that song, it’s going to translate and grab people.
NS: It seems like the music, as well as the cross-genre personas, of Leon Russell and Johnny Cash were huge influences for you two.
BP: Those are two big ones. There’s a lot more. A laundry list.
NS: What I’m trying to get at, I suppose, is how those two reached across and contributed to and absorbed from so such a variety of artists.
BP: Yeah. With us it’s never just southern, or gospel, or country. There’s some heavy elements to the album, you know. Sabbath was a big influence.
NS: Has there been any music released in the past year or two in any genre that you have been inspired by or maybe are just really into?
JC: Definitely, man. I’ve been listening to the new Spiritualized album a lot. That’s probably one of my favorites over the last year.
BP: As far as this project, I wouldn’t say there’s anything recently that we were going to try and sound like. It happened organically to where we had a group of about 15 or 16 songs that came from a sound that really made itself. It’s a cool feeling, and I think when the album comes out it’ll be a great time capsule of what we were.