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Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights reignite a classic sound



These days, so much music being made falls into a pop category where it may be "hip" today, but in a few years — or even months — it's going to sound horribly dated, cliché and downright awful.

However, Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights are trying to revitalize the musical landscape, bringing forth a classic-rock-charged, guitar-fueled brand that evokes the spirit of The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry and fuses it with a hint of blues, a bit of Lenny Kravitz-like soul and a splash of Black Crowes-like Southern rock.

"We definitely come from a soul-gospel music background in the band," Tyler says by phone from a tour stop in Mobile, Ala. "All of us are naturally going to play music that's influenced by soul and blues and even country. They all kind of come from the same place. I don't think we set out to be like anybody or mimic anybody. I think we just fall into that classic sound of blues and rock being put together."

The Dallas-based artist aims to bring a Texas-sized rock attitude with him — one that's at the front of his songwriting. The opening/title track of the band's major-label debut, Pardon Me, includes the lyrics, "Maybe it's been too long since rock 'n' roll turned you on."

"That's a really simple, swagger — first album, first song cocky way to go about it," Tyler says. "I think we come out strong like that because it's the way that we are. We're the kind of guys that take risks and stand up for things that we believe in. We're just trying to go as big as we can. I also think the place we are in music — rock 'n' roll is a dead genre these days. We're trying to kick it back into gear."

Though they recently released an album via Atlantic Records, the band isn't a new one. They've been performing more than 200 shows per year for the last few years and released an album independently. A bigger label just means there's a bit more promotion and professionalism, Tyler says.

He feels the band is trying to give rock music and the genre as a whole a much-needed shot in the arm. That's not to say the entire album is guitar-driven and upbeat. The band finds plenty of moments to slow things down — leaning more toward the blues side ("Young Love") or even hinting, just hinting, toward a ballad ("Paint Me a Picture").

"I feel like we haven't made our best recorded work yet, but I feel that it's the best to date," Tyler says. "We play so many live shows — 200 or so a year — that's where we're comfortable. It's in the moment and it is what it is. I'm getting better and we'll have some better albums ... you try something, but it doesn't always end up the way you want it to be. The next time around, you'll have a better idea of how to get the sound you're looking for and continue growing."

The diversity in the band's sound is what helps it to tour with a variety of groups, exposing as many people as they can to the music. Most of the shows are offered as live downloads through the band's website. Tyler knows there's a need for music like his; it's just a matter of getting it out to the masses.

"I see that there's a need for rowdy, raucous rock 'n' roll, man," he says. "I love music, so I'm always digesting everything that's happening, but I feel like there's a void for good, rowdy music. There are indie bands that have an entire niche market — Village Voice or Pitchfork gets behind it and it blows up. A lot of genres have that built-in marketing. For bands like us, there's not a scene for us yet. We have to chameleon and play with a lot of different people to build a group of fans who like what we do. If you want to go to a show, have a couple drinks and have a good time ... that's the kind of show we want to offer up."

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