As far as album-release parties go, Goodnight Ned are about to put themselves in a class of their own. The Dallas band isn't pulling out any stops, with plans to have clowns, fortune tellers, stilt walkers, jugglers and even juggling stilt-walkers. There will be food trucks, a photo wagon, carnie games, prizes and temporary tattoos. They've even given the whole to-do its own special billing as the Unsound Circus. On this laundry list of activities, one stands out in particular: the dunk tank.
The members of this rootsy five-piece rock band have kindly extended a special invite to local music critics to offer their services to sit in the tank -- an invite that may or may not be calculated to get on the good side of those dastardly local gatekeepers. Naturally, it doesn't take long for me to see the appeal of coaxing certain music editors to sit in as alternates to writers like myself.
Daydreams aside, though, the Unsound Circus promises to be a release party unlike any other. And that's exactly what the guys in Goodnight Ned are aiming for.
"The worst part about a show is sitting around, waiting," chuckles keyboardist Jonas Martin. "But now we just gave ourselves a whole bunch of stuff to do."
"What have we not seen at a release show?" guitarist Chase McMillan asks rhetorically, getting more specifically to the point. "That's kind of loosely what we were going for."
The show will also boast an exceptional, and exceptionally diverse, blending of opening bands on the bill, including local hip-hop favorite Sam Lao and the uproarious Hall and Oates tribute band Rich Girls, who will close out the night's festivities. Nestled somewhere at the epicenter of all this merriment and general sensory overload sit the ringleaders, Goodnight Ned.
Their sophomore eponymous release, which will see its official release Tuesday, channels a slew of classic rock influences and bristles with the energy of a live show that has become their calling card. As a band, they have gathered their various music backgrounds and funneled them into a collective sound reflective of each member's own individual input.
Just don't ask Martin to describe the sound of their latest release.
"Ugh, I hate describing our sound," Martin says. "We've heard at some points it sounds like the Eagles. At some points it sounds like the Rolling Stones."
"Don't put down the Eagles," McMillan chimes in.
"OK, don't put down the Eagles. Never mind," Martin says. Then, reconsidering, he says simply, "It's rock 'n' roll."
Listening to Goodnight Ned, it's not hard to hear the influence of bands like the Rolling Stones or Dr. Dog throughout their songs -- a testimony to how well they've mined the sources of their inspirations. But such simple descriptions don't linger long, as their material retains its freshness with each track.
Goodnight Ned have never locked themselves into a singular definitive genre. When McMillan and guitarist Conner Farrall started the band as a two-piece, they played acoustic Americana. As the other pieces were added, the template quickly expanded. Or as McMillan puts it, when it comes to adhering to any set of rules, "There is no box."
"I think it was Americana at first because that was the resources that we had," McMillan explains. "We were kind of limited to that because there were only two of us, and we had a violin and so it was like, 'Well, that makes sense to play country.' But it's always been free to kind of adapt to go whatever direction it goes. That's what kind of makes it fun."
The recording process itself for Goodnight Ned offered the band another sort of evolution, as they chose to forego the luxuries of Pro Tools editing and overdubbing in favor of good-old-fashioned analog recording.
"It was a challenge to keep up the momentum and the freshness," remarks Farrall. "Because of the simplicity of the process, we wanted it to be just us, not a thousand overdubs." Goodnight Ned thrive in their natural setting, onstage. This energy is not always easily translatable to a recording, but it was in the back of their minds during their sessions. "Some bands are faced with trying to re-create what they did in the studio live whereas we're the opposite," Farrall continues. "We're trying to do what we do live in the studio, so I think it is easier for us."
The band had some help along the way as well, as David Ponder, guitarist from Somebody's Darling, sat in with the band during some of the recording. Nathan Adamson, who produced the record, took a very technical approach in guiding the band's process, whereas Ponder, like something of a zealous Hollywood director, played Adamson's foil in trying to evoke more emotion.
"Nathan is like, 'Back away from the mic,'" McMillan says, comparing the two mindsets. "Ponder is like, 'Pretend like the mic is a snake trying to bite you!'" The band erupts in hysterical laughter at the description of their two collaborators, confirming this assessment. Getting more serious, however, McMillan adds, "Whenever we were kind of getting ahead of ourselves and kind of going through the motions as far as playing the song, [Ponder] would come in there and be like, 'All right, stop, you guys. What is this song about?'"
And yet many of the same truths about contrasting perspectives and approaches to the creative process hold true with the band members themselves. "I like the way you put it the other day," Martin remarks to Farrall. "It's like one of us might write a song, but in the end the Goodnight Ned Instagram filter is on it."
"Yeah, it goes through the Goodnight Ned filter," Farrall says.
"And it comes out a Goodnight Ned song," Martin replies.
Perhaps that variety also helps explain why the band would choose to undertake such an elaborate and outwardly off-the-wall concept as the Unsound Circus extravaganza. After all, one of Goodnight Ned's longer-term goals is to find their way into the festival music circuit.
"The thought of being able to watch all of your favorite bands, and at some point be able to play a set onstage, and get to watch more of your favorite bands? Like that to me, that's the dream," McMillan says.
Farrall, comfortably sitting sandwiched between his bandmates, agrees. "It's like we're having our own little festival."
GOODNIGHT NED perform with Rich Girls and Sam Lao, 7 p.m., Thursday, July 24, at Trees, 2709 Elm St., treesdallas.com.
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