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Four years after the release of their debut album, Albany, NY-based band Northern Faces believe they have finally found their sound. Vocalist/guitarist Bryan Shortell notes that “Messin’ with Me,” the first single off their forthcoming sophomore album, provides a “great snapshot” of this upcoming project. Born out of a moment of panic and confusion, “Messin’ with Me” really accomplishes the band’s goal of making their listener feel something. The urgency and passion with which the members of Northern Faces are pursuing their dreams radiates from this song. After a single listen, fans will find themselves with a rekindled sense of ambition, whatever their own personal goals may be.
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the faux video for Northern Faces’ lead single “Messin with Me.” With its extremely catchy hook and driving acoustic guitar, “Messin’ With Me” is an instant summer hit. The bright colors and shapes in the faux-video, made by Ruff Mercy (who has worked with Disclosure, Young Thug, Tom Misch, and Loyle Carner), pushes the summer vibe to another level. The sound of this song feels much more polished than the band’s previous efforts and points toward an exciting accompanying album. With their newfound drive, Northern Faces is ready to take on the daunting and sometimes frustrating music industry and “Messin’ With Me” is the perfect place to start.
Atwood Magazine caught up with Bryan Shortell of Northern Faces to talk their new video for “Messin’ with Me” and the way in which it represents the band’s message and new sound. Check out our conversation below!
Watch: “Messin with Me” – Northern Faces
Meet Northern Faces
Atwood Magazine: Why release “Messin’ with Me” as the lead single off your new project?
Northern Faces: We pretty much knew that “Messin'” was going to be the single as soon as we had finished up tracking it. We pushed ourselves in a bit of a different direction on this album sonically and lyrically, and it really helps to set up the rest of the album for the listener. We also love the hook on the track. Definitely one of my favorites on the album – it just made sense that it should be the first track people hear.
How does this song signal Northern Faces’ artistic development? Does this accurately capture your ‘sound’?
Northern Faces: In a lot of ways this album is the most cohesive record we’ve made. This track has a few elements we haven’t really incorporated in Northern Faces tracks before, one of the most obvious being an acoustic rhythm guitar throughout the whole track. This is a theme throughout the album, along with some of the other elements scattered throughout the track, so I think “Messin'” is a great snapshot of the album as a whole. I think this album is the closest we’ve come yet to finding our “sound.”
“Messin with Me” has this defiant attitude about it, as though you need to assert yourselves more than ever before. Can you speak a bit more to the exchange that inspired this feeling?
Northern Faces: We were working on writing the album, and we were probably about 20 demos deep. We were definitely all excited about the direction, and we had some album-worthy tracks, but it still felt unfinished. We got a call from a producer we work with who was on the road with a couple bands who we’ve looked up to for years. He told us a couple of the guys wanted to help out and give us some feedback on the tracks, and to send over 2 or 3 demos. We were pumped obviously, and shot them over right away. Late that night we got a video message from one of the guys after one of their shows. It was obvious they were on the tour bus partying and hanging out. The message was pretty rough. They pretty much said that the demos were shit, and that we were wasting everyone’s time. It fucking stung. We went through a short period for a day or two of feeling bad for ourselves, and then Marco showed me the rough outline of what would become “Messin’ With Me.” Within a week, we had 3 or 4 more tracks that were in the same vain lyrically and sonically, and we knew we’d finally hit our stride. Every song that was written during that short period ended up making the record, and helped to create a theme ended up shaping everything about the record, including the title and album artwork.
It turns out that they hadn’t even listened to the songs, and that it was all just a big joke. We didn’t find that out until after we had already written the tracks, and everyone felt so shitty that we took it the way we did, but it turned out to be one of the most important pieces of inspiration we may have ever had, so thank god it all played out the way it did.
Ruff Mercy’s faux-video for “Messin' with Me” sees fingers crossed turning into a peace sign, and then back again. Why employ this visual motif?
Northern Faces: We mostly just wanted an animation of the fingers crossing and uncrossing, and the peace sign was just a happy accident. The “fingers crossed” visual sums up this entire record, and in a lot of ways sums up the times we live in. For us personally, the fingers crossed is us growing older, and watching the people around us settle down and have a more traditional life, while we are still working our ass off trying to make music and make a living doing it. We kept finding ourselves talking about the album and our future and over and over we’d find ourselves saying “fingers crossed.” With the current political climate, and with all of the crazy shit going on around us with climate change, and this insane news cycle we live in, I think a lot of people can relate to the feeling of just hoping everything works out.
Where would you say Northern Faces are in your career? Is this current project the “coming-of-age” moment?
Northern Faces: I think we are just hitting our stride. This record is easily our best yet in my opinion. I think we may have finally tracked down our “sound.” It’s taken us awhile as musicians and people, but I think this album is the one we’ve been trying to make for the last 10 years that we’ve played together, even before Northern Faces.
In the spirit of perseverance, what can you say to fellow artists who receive negative critique or criticism?
Northern Faces: Turn it into inspiration. There will always be people who are looking to tear you down, no matter what level you’re at as an artist. You can easily let it crush you, and kill your motivation. Or you can take hold of it, try to take any truth in their criticism to heart, and learn from it. Then toss the rest of that shit out. Turn it into something positive, and use it as a fuel for your creativity. I know for a fact that this would be a very different album if we hadn’t gotten that message. It was the best thing that could have happened to us.
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cover © Shervin Lainez