On a recent, overcast Sunday afternoon, music producer Eric Valentine is sitting inside a dimly lit recording room at Charlotte's CHP Studios. He's tapping his foot, bobbing his head and the music's cranked up loud. Behind sliding glass doors to his left, a band's doing their best to incorporate some suggested changes to one of their songs. When the final note rings out, the quartet walks into the studio and there's a quick briefing on what was good or what could change – taking out a bass note or two here, adding a cymbal crash there.
This band isn't one of the bigger acts Valentine has worked with -- such as Queens of the Stone Age, Nickel Creek or Maroon 5 -- yet, it's a group that blew Valentine away at first listen. It's a band on the verge of a record deal. Four Charlotte guys in their 20s who would love to play music for a living. Singer/guitarist Jason Scavone, drummer Jonathan Erickson, bassist John Licare and guitarist Patrick Boyd -- They're called The Noises 10.
Their music isn't your typical indie rock, with solid songwriting and splashes of piano that help distinguish the band in a sea of musical hopefuls. They've toured up and down the East coast and pack clubs when they play their hometown.
"I heard a song of theirs on a compilation CD called Future Sounds -- their song 'Distance' was on there and it just immediately jumped out," Valentine, a producer since the early '90s, says. "I couldn't believe that the band wasn't already signed or have lots of stuff going on already. 'Distance' just sounded like a classic, hit song to me. I just started calling and tracked them down." He and the band decided to work together earlier this year -- they've since split time between a studio in Charlotte and Valentine's home base of California.
Over the last six months, they've also exchanged numerous phone calls and e-mails. On this weekend, they're trying to iron out four songs that they'll record when they go to California this month.
One week after the Charlotte sessions, the band gathers in a Plaza-Midwood restaurant for their first lengthy interview. They're ready to share big news. "We just got clearance to talk about it -- it's hard to go into details -- but we're working with Jive Records," Scavone says. "We know we're going to record -- we got our signing papers back from them today." While the details are still being worked out, you can already tell it's a weight off of their collective shoulders. It's the first step in the next part of their careers as musicians. They'll start by recording four songs this month and "go from there" in the new year.
They've had showcases for "just about every label there is" while trying to avoid frustration and focusing on the business side of the band -- as opposed to just playing gigs -- during the course of 2007. They all agree Jive felt right from the beginning.
Erickson points out they were the only label to call and wish them luck during other label showcases, and the only label to travel to Charlotte to see them. A lot of labels they spoke with were more focused on image instead of their music. "Some of the feedback we'd get is, 'You guys don't look like My Chemical Romance,' but we don't fuckin' sound like 'em either!" Boyd explains emphatically.
The band -- in its current format -- has been together for about two years, but Scavone and Erickson have been playing music together since they were 12 years old. Licare joined while the three were in high school, and Boyd was added later. The band's name comes from a Buddhist text that Scavone came across years ago. Over the years, the band has recorded an unreleased demo, released a 9-song CD as Jason Scavone and the Noises 10, a demo titled There's an Elephant in the Room and another EP called Sea Level. They're hoping an album through Jive will be released next year -- with new and reworked old songs.
"There are two things that really stand out with this band," Valentine says. "The first thing, that catches you immediately, is Jason's voice. Then the songwriting was just a lot further along than what you'd normally find in a band that's just starting to get it going." Valentine says his focus has been on arranging the music so all of the best parts of the songs are featured in a seamless manner.
While this has all been going on, the band members have worked odd jobs where they can pick and choose hours, but make some money around gigs. They all hope those jobs -- Scavone delivers linens, Erickson "pours coffee," Licare works at a deli, Boyd at a recording studio -- won't have to go on for too much longer. They think some of it has just been the endurance to go through it and pay their dues until reaching the next level.
Back in the studio, Valentine clicks away on arrangements, moving sections around with the precision and fury of an orchestra conductor. Boyd sits on the couch with his laptop. Erickson listens to the changes being made while twirling drumsticks. Licare eyes his bass, making small tuning adjustments. Scavone paces the room while drinking tea, trying to ease his sore vocal chords. Not much is said as Valentine works his Pro Tools magic. They're all small changes for a band that appears to be on the verge of something big.
The Noises 10 will play the Visulite Theatre on December 29 with The Old Ceremony and Chandler Martin. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 on the day of the show. Doors open at 9 p.m.