Interview with The Novatones


Charleston, SC has some fantastic local bands, and we at Independent Music Guide have been impressed with one particular cover band, The Novatones. While we don't usually write about cover bands, this one is filled with exceptional talent. A classically trained vocalist (Anna) is surrounded by equally talented guitar players (Scott and Dan), a phenomenal bassist (JB) and rounded off with a kick-ass drummer (Josh). We wanted to reach out and find out more about how this band got together, where they are headed, and how you can find them on the road as they go out on tour.

IMG: Can you tell us how the band got together?

Anna (Vocalist): We met each other while filling in on some level for another band. Entry into the mix as fill musicians was staggered among us as far as a timetable goes, and I was the last to join up for fill in vocals. We meshed so well after playing many times that we decided to stay together once the other band went in a different direction. JB, our bass player, joined up shortly after that, and the vibe he brought made it feel like he’s been there from the beginning.

Josh (Drums): It started as one project that morphed into something bigger. It really is a sum of all parts coming together by happen stance to create a better version of anything that came before it. 

Dan (Guitar): We kind of, through one way or another, found a facebook ad of friends looking for musicians for fill in spots for shows. We functioned that way basically as a full fill-in band for a bit under a different name (then began our own band).

So, basically we had been working together and all of us have been around music for years, and you know when you things are working and when they are not. This particular line up we currently have worked well together, despite differences in musical taste. I think primarily because strength of musicianship and goals that are congruent. 

Scott (Guitar): Yeah, we started as fill-ins, hired guns for an existing band. Anna was a fill-in (while the original lead singer was on hiatus for about a year). We were managing ourselves and booking ourselves into bigger venues. We really started to achieve some success.  (After some time, the lead singer came back and there were creative differences that led us to create) The Novatones.

IMG: Where did the name “The Novatones” come from?

Scott: Good question. I don’t remember who thought it up, it wasn’t me. I came up with a logo, Josh added the hawk to it. Love it. For me it’s like it means “new tones”. Like we take a song and add new sonically to it. The hawk is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. I think it’s pretty unique. We we were even able to get the domain

IMG: What is the inspiration behind the music you play? 

Dan: First we are currently a cover band, so when talking about inspiration it’s about the song selections and vibe we bring to the table. It's a bit hard to describe, we bring a lot of energy to performances like party band, but we aren't pop dance band per se, no choreographed stage show. We do occasionally do heavier song although we aren't a heavy band by any stretch. I say we are "party rock" band. We create the an atmosphere and offer the audience to come in with us and enjoy a few hours and forget their world and its troubles, if just for while. 

Anna: It’s really fun as a cover band to choose songs that we can get creative with. We enjoy the challenge of bringing our own musicality to songs that have been heard so many times by so many people. Covering songs and making them sound great and sound fresh, while also happily familiar to an audience, is really satisfying. We’re not trying to do impressions — we want to bring the music people know and love and present it with the best musicality we can offer. 

Scott: Personally, I find inspiration in where I think I can take a song. I’ve always felt that a song is a living breathing thing, it can be interpreted, changed, reimagined. I feel we go beyond being a jukebox and add our own spin on things. That’s where we shine. 

IMG: You’re well known to have a tight bond between each of the musicians in the band. How does that affect you onstage?

Scott: For me, I’m always listening to what everyone else is playing and looking for ways to compliment what they do. I hear Josh, our drummer, doing that a lot too. Sometimes I’ll hear a beat accented and pick up on it and play along with it. I’ve seen him do that to with other members. Anna is great to listen to and play behind. If you’ve seen us you’ll know her talent enables her take some liberties with songs, vocal melodies, and solos. A lot of times she’ll be riffing a vocal line and I’ll come in melodically with her and repeat the line she songs. It’s a lot of fun. Dan is great to work with too because he and I sometimes have different perspectives on things and it throws me a fun curveball. I really respect how Dan, who’s a pretty heavy player, can turned around and play clean Jazz like in our version of Valerie or some country licks. We also do some co-lead playing, like Skynyrd did. It’s all improvised and it really works well. JB’s the newest guy in the band. It’s great to see him starting to stretch out a little and get some limelight. 

Dan: To me dynamics between team members is critical to a great show. You can play to "script" or you can play off each other as musicians. If you know the other musicians, you know what their tendencies are, what musically they are thinking. You also know likely how they feel on a given day. You simply cannot fake that and the audience can usually pick up on that. Plus for me that, what is more important? Playing a show that is done and just a memory, or getting to know people. I'm still friends with many I've played with in the past, and those friendships are way more valuable to me than any show I played with them.  

Anna: Oh I think it makes all the difference! I feel so supported by these guys, both on and off the stage. We are friends as well as bandmates, so that means our strong relationships and care for one another show up when we perform. There’s a palpable joyfulness when we make music together — I think that gives our onstage presence something people want to be a part of.

IMG: How do you see yourselves growing together as a band? 

Anna: Though we bring our own musical tastes and experiences to the band, we’ve found a lot of common ground as we’ve played and explored our sound, and, most valuably, we’ve learned to listen well to each other. A major strength of the band is that we share leadership - noone is vying for spotlight, and I think that will continue to lead to healthy growth. It also frees us up to fully explore the music without distraction. 

Dan: Moving towards a more congruent sound a vibe. Developing a signature. 

Josh: I'd like to see us move into new venues, recording original music and growing our audience. 

Scott: I can see us branching out into new venues, writing, recording. It’d be nice to venture into the original music arena. 

IMG: You have said that you don’t use any backing tracks onstage. Want to go into more detail?

Scott: That’s easy. What you hear from the stage is played live on an instrument or sung live vocally. We don’t use recorded backing tracks. We believe that live music should be live. 

Dan: Did you ever watch say an old show like "The Andy Griffith show" and all of sudden when he would sing and play guitar, his voice changed and didn't sound like it was even in the same room anymore. And sometimes sound like whole chorus of people or instruments. Yet it was just him on his porch. Of course that was "Hollywood" production, e.g. backing tracks. Basically it's playing along to a radio or just acting like you are playing it all. In the past this wasn't possible for smaller acts to pull off. However; with today's technology it's possible for anyone and some have went down that road to varying degrees. And I say it's being fake to varying degrees as well. If the "backing track" a.k.a. pre-record a.k.a. radio, performance it's not the musicians in the band, then you are adding performance by performers you don't have. If it's a pre-recording of yourself, then the band could not possibly exist in a reality at a given point in time, unless you clone yourself that is. If you performing with tracks you aren't performing "live". You have to stick the "script".  

It's also a lot easier to perfect a performance on recording than it is to do that live. For example, when I play guitar behind my head or with my teeth, I'm really doing it. You can hear when I mess up, get out of time etc... It's no pre-recorded piece I'm acting to, it's no pre-record "script" the entire band is acting to. It's the real us, real humans, expressing what we feel at a given moment in time. 

It's all about being real, for example sometimes you hear people talk about bands that use "Backing Tracks" and "IEM". "IEM" stand for In Ear Monitors, basically high quality headphones. When people talk about IEM they are often referring to things in those IEM that general audience can't hear. Usually a "click" track and "cues" to what parts of the song is coming up. We do have in ear monitors but we have NO CLICK track and NO CUE in our monitors. Why not use these as aids? Because they take away from the music. The is something human and real about music that isn't quite perfect. A machine in factory can make something say a table nearly perfect, every single aspect of it. A very skilled wood-worker can build a table by hand and will NEVER be as accurate or perfect as the machine. Yet, cost aside, almost every single person when given the choice will take the table made by hand by the wood-worker over the machine. It's the slight imperfections that make it better. 

IMG: Tell us more about the training you’ve all had. Can you tell me more about that?

Dan: Life is a continual journey of learning. I've never and will never quit trying to learn. I started my music journey on trumpet in middle school way back. Quickly moved to guitar and bass guitar within a year of starting. From high school on have played in various cover and original bands and styles over the years. I've learned sound re-enforcement (a.k.a. sound engineer) as a desire to sound better myself and learning how to mix and master so I can record more without the cost or limitations of relying on someone else. Where did I learn it all? Everywhere. I've took lessons from others. I've did online lessons. I've read every book I could find on given subjects. I constantly consume any material on various subjects I can find. Todays online world with YouTube, TrueFire, UltimateGuitar, etc...there is so much there is little excuse for not learning anything you desire to learn. 

However; the 2 biggest training I've received. Listening! Just listen to the music you want to produce! Actively listen and absorb it. Second is DO IT. Get out and perform! You learn more by doing. Go to open mics, forget thinking you might look/sound bad. Who cares. Start/join a band. Record at home! Whatever just do it!

Josh: Probably no surprise but I have had zero training,  I'll occasionally watch instruction videos on YouTube but other than that I play what I hear and try to adjust where needed. From using butter knives on a couch while watching old videos on MTV and drumming along to just jamming with friend I tend to follow where the music takes me. 

Scott: I’m a graduate of the Musician’s Institute. That taught me a lot about theory and how music is put together. But no matter how much training you have it can’t beat playing live on stage with a group of people to challenge you and push you to your limits. They had a saying at MI, “Learn everything you can, then forget it and play”. 

IMG: When you think about this version of your band, how does it differ from other bands you’ve been in? 

Josh: This version of the band is the tightest most talented version of what it once was. And in comparison to other bands, the creativity is top notch. We can improv on any song and it just works.  

Dan: Congruency of goals. While this version we have differing musical taste we have common goal, not a singular person's vision but a group vision. 

Scott: This is the best group of musicians I’ve ever played with. I don’t just mean that we’re tight and proficient on our instruments, we are. And there are a lot of good, tight bands out there. I think what sets us apart from others is how we creatively approach songs. We look for ways to add ourselves to it. And it’s not like one person is coming up with all the ideas and dictating to us. We all have suggestions whether it’s arrangements, set lists, song ideas, bookings. We all contribute. I think that’s what makes us good. Plus this group is stable. We are the only musicians you’ll see on stage when “The Novatones” is on the marquee. Anna, Dan, Josh, JB, Scott. That’s the secret sauce.  We had a rotating bass spot till, thank God, we got JB (as our permanent bassist).

IMG: Do you see any collaborations with other artists, studios or venues coming up? 

Josh: I would live to collaborate with other bands at venues, a double bill would be fun to me. This isn't a competition,  the music community to me is community we should celebrate,  support and play shows together. It's honestly my favorite thing when fellow local musicians join each other on stage. 

Dan: Perhaps, we are constantly working with our venues. If the local music venues are not successful there will be no where for us to play and go ourselves as fans to hear live music. In our realm of cover bands, collaborations shows are not really the norm but I wouldn't rule one out should the conditions work out.

Scott: As a cover band there isn’t a lot of opportunity for that. But when we explore original music I can see that happening. Original music a different animal, shows are set up for three or more acts. 

IMG: I know you recently played the Windjammer. How’d that go? (They have played again since this interview and intend to play again! BOLO for more info and don't miss one of their highly engaging shows)

Dan: Great show, great venue. I was a honor to play that legendary stage! The entire staff of the Windjammer is great group, very friendly easy to work with. Nothing but good things to say about the entire operation!

Josh: It was a pretty incredible night, we had an awesome turn out for what was a dreary rainy Thursday.  I really look forward to returning during summer season and spreading the love or rock n roll to more people! 

Anna: Playing The Windjammer was surreal! It was a very proud moment, for sure! The place has been around for so long—my mama has memories of seeing concerts there in the '70s when it was known as the Sea Side. I have a memory or two of hearing Hootie play when I was in high school during the days when beach volleyball court at The Windjammer was where you could find all the cool kids (I wasn’t one of them - dabbled in gymnastics and track but was always happiest on stage). All of the staff were so great to work with, the energy of the show was so full — really loved every moment. 

Scott: It was amazing. It was the culmination of over a year of hard work, promoting ourselves, and trying to stay on target with out goals. What’s really amazing to me is that it only took three month from our (new collaboration) to get that call from The Windjammer. The night itself was a lot of fun and we really appreciate everyone who came out. It was the night we had all the tornado warnings! We easily could have ended up in Oz! Seriously though, great sound, stage, lights, staff, cheeseburgers. The Windjammer is fantastic to work with, total pros! 

Thanks to The Novatones for their time and great information. We are excited to see where they go, and especially interested in hearing new music coming from these accomplished artists.
Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith - Founder and Editor
Stephanie has been involved in the music scene for over 10 years as a photographer and writer. She has written for websites such as Bandzoogle, BandMix, as is the current Director for South Carolina Music Guide. You can usually find her at local hot spots in Charleston. However, she likes to explore and has found a favorite second home in Costa Rica.


© Copyright 2024. Independent Music Guide | All Rights Reserved | Independent Music Guide
Web Design & Hosting by BlueTone Media