This is the first installment of WKNC’s features on all the bands included in this years Double Barrel Benefit. Be on the lookout for more blogs, interviews, and other cool information in the coming weeks!
For those of you who know me well, you’re aware of how prone I am to wax poetic about the superlative elements of our local music scene. Local music is one of those topics that I’m wont to speak at length about given any tangential opportunity, so when I was asked to write a blog post about Schooner, I had to compile my thoughts for a while. What was I going to write that hadn’t already been said?
I don’t think that it’s a secret to anyone that Schooner is one of my favorite bands from North Carolina. I know what you’re saying… I’ve got a lot of favorite bands from North Carolina, right? Well, OK, yes… but for those of you who doubt my veracity, I’ve got proof: their bumper sticker is currently one of two adorning the rear of my trusty 1998 Geo Prizm (though, admittedly, it sort of matches the color scheme).
Schooner sound a bit like Stephin Merritt if you replaced his early synthesizer fixation with an equivalent fixation on Buddy Holly and the hazey sounds of shoegaze. Like Merritt, Schooner’s songs are rooted in solid pop melodies and hooks, but you’ll often find them drenched in more reverb and paired to dreamy choruses. Amidst the atmosphere, Reid Johnson sings with a Merritt-like baritone croon straight out of the 50’s, and adding to that general 50’s vibe are slide guitars, mandolins, and those characteristic palm-muted slow dance rock chords.
Lyrically, Schooner’s songs can seem like character studies from a Faulkner novel; they’re often told in the past tense and are filled with bruised, distinctively Southern tales of lost love, missed opportunities, and regret. It can be heavy stuff, surely, but with the sweet pop melodies that Schooner brings to the table, you could make even the saddest tale feel like a catchy, danceable rocker.
So why do I consider them to be one of my favorite local bands? To answer that, let’s listen to one of their songs, “Married,” from their 2007 release, Hold On Too Tight.
Listen carefully and you’ll realize that in three short minutes, through oblique phrases and echoing slide guitar runs, we get a glimpse into a lifetime’s worth of memories and regret. Whatever your interpretation of lines like “constellations were laid upon,” you know several things for certain by its conclusion: she was the one, he’s probably been in love with her for far too long, and her marriage symbolizes the end of hope that she’ll come back.
The ability to fit all of that complex sentiment within the trappings of a deceptively simple verse-chorus pop song is a gift that few songwriters possess, and the fact that Schooner is able to do it so effortlessly with just about every song they write earns them a spot in the highest echelons of my music collection.
The best part? They’re awesome live, and you can see them at this year’s Double Barrel Benefit.
Whatever your tastes are, there’s a vast bounty of world-class music to be had here in the Triangle, and it’s due to this great variety that we’ve held the Double Barrel for the past six years. This year’s edition promises to continue what has become one of the best damned Raleigh traditions around, and we’ll be writing features for each artist playing.
Schooner plays third on Friday, February 6th, and tickets are available from the Pour House website.