By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Novaak have only been around for about a year at this point, but things are already picking up pretty quickly.
Initially conceived at South by Southwest in 2010, the idea of Novaak was one that envisioned guitarist Blake Panter and singer Jessi James as an electronic music duo. Beyond that, though, there wasn't much else in the way of concrete planning.
"I didn't really care at first," Panter says. "It was the first time I'd ever done a record from scratch—all the instruments. I'd never even written a full song before."
Beginning as a quasi-experimental avenue to make music that drew from a set of influences that were exclusively James', the band quickly turned into a passion for both members.
"I started by trying to cop her influences, but not being into it enough, it became a mixture," Panter says.
In May, when the two began to formally refer to themselves as a band, they had no material, little experience in electronic music and a very weak grasp on the Logic Pro recording software they were using. By August, though, the band had already released three songs and started work on completing an entire album.
"I like the dreaminess of electronic music," James says. "I like evoking strong emotions. I'm not a dancey kind of techno personality, and I don't think we come off that way on stage."
They don't: Rather than go the synth-heavy dance route band that so many others travel, Novaak creates soundscapes and synth textures that could be used in, say, a commercial. And that's not a coincidence.
"Licensing is a big thing for us," Panter says.
"We want to make music that works for that market," James adds.
That makes sense: Panter graduated from business school, and James describes herself as a "type-A personality." Combined, they hope to tackle their band as something of a business. And already, that approach is paying off. After releasing their album and performing at both South by Southwest and the 35 Conferette, as well as a spate of other live performances, the band is moving forward with a series of booking and marketing connections that could see them have more success than your average synth band.
This week, with a performance Saturday night at La Grange in Dallas, they'll try to further prove themselves capable of as much.