Music News

Twilight Falls Around Great Northern

Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte were driving to Mendocino, California, about three hours north of San Francisco, when they came up with the name for Great Northern's debut. The pair had just gotten off the highway and were heading down a narrow road lined by redwood trees when inspiration struck.

"It's like a fantasy," Stolte says, describing the terrain where the redwoods meet the ocean. "It's crazy. It's doesn't even seem real because it's so beautiful. And there are deer everywhere, and white owls flying over your car. So we were driving, and it was twilight, and we were going on and on about how it's the best time of the day. And we were like, 'What if we could trade twilight for daylight?' And then we were like, 'That sounds like a really good record title.'"

Turns out, Trading Twilight for Daylight is also an ideal summation of the act's sound, which comprises both darkness and light. "There are sad moments without hope," notes Stolte, "and then orchestrated strings will come in and be the light at the end of the tunnel. And it's kind of like in life, how light and dark can't exist without the other; you have to have both. And twilight's kind of like this perfect balance of them both."

"I love twilight," she adds. "I wish it lasted longer, but then I guess it wouldn't be as special if it did. It's like anything in life that you can't get enough of: If you do have too much of it, then it's not that great anymore. But it's the best time of day. Everything seems like it's going to be okay for that short ten minutes. It seems like everybody can feel it. It's like there's this shift that happens."

Fittingly, listening to Twilight has the same effect on the ears that watching the sun go down — just after everything's turned pink, and darkness is starting to swallow what's left of daylight — has on the eyes. Many of the tunes began as ideas on Bixler's four-track recorder, which he brought along with him on tour with Jared Leto's band, 30 Seconds to Mars.

Although Bixler has known Stolte for seven years, the two didn't start collaborating until a few years ago, when the singer-guitarist brought her a few of his four-track sketches. She added some keyboard parts and vocals on her four-track, and then they swapped tapes. This went on for about six months, with neither of them actually working in the same room until they met in the studio to record Twilight last year, with bassist Ashley Dzerigian and former Stanford Prison Experiment drummer Davey Latter.

Great Northern, which has officially been in existence for about a year now, has plenty of new material, but will hold off recording until early next year, when the band completes its current tour. The plan, says Stolte, is to simplify things from Twilight's multiple layers in an effort to capture the energy of the band's live show.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon