Editor’s note: This article comes from Nick McCabe of Front Row Photo.
The first time I remember hearing of the Novelists was June 2014 when I was covering a show in Carson City by The Floyd, a local Pink Floyd tribute band (a knock out band, I might add). Eric Anderson was a guest vocalist in that show. When I asked who the singer was and was told Eric Anderson of The Novelists, it rang a bell, so I’m sure they were in my subconscious already. In November of the same year, after repeatedly hearing their name bantered about as quality musicians I saw that they were on the roster at a charity show I was covering at John Asquaga Nugget, Springsteen For Green. Finally I was going to hear these guys.
About two-thirds of the way through the show the Novelists took the stage. The most beautiful harmonies I’ve heard in a long time broke the silence as they started their original song “Above The Hiding.” It begins with an a cappella four-part harmony introduction that made my jaw drop. Their voices melted together perfectly, like ingredients of a fine, rich sauce, each complimenting the other. It was at that moment that I knew they had something special. I was hooked. Since then I’ve caught their shows on several stages. From a lounge stage in a casino to a huge stage at a high dollar gala event at the Grand Sierra Resort. I truly believe it’s only time before the rest of the country discovers the Novelists. Like Liverpool claims The Beatles as its own – Reno will claim the Novelists.
The Novelists consists of four gifted players: Joel Ackerson, electric and acoustic guitars, and lead vocals; Eric Anderson, keyboards and lead vocals; Zachery Teran, electric and upright bass, and vocals; and Justin Kruger, drums and vocals. They are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to record and produce a new double album. You can support their campaign by going to kickstarter.com and searching “The Novelists.”
As the title of this article indicates, I wanted to know more about these guys. Who are they? What drives them? What are their goals? How did they get where they are, and where do they want to go? So, I asked. Here is what I discovered.
NM: How did the Novelists come to be, and how did you come up with such a great name for the band?
Eric: Joel had the concept for the Novelists around 2005, and performed live under that name with several previous lineups. The current version of the Novelists is only just over a year old. Each of us grew up listening to music and playing different instruments. Once we all found ourselves in Reno, we got to know each other personally and musically through various groups and mutual friends. Our first few tours and creative projects were more individually based, but with help from each other. Over the years we’ve realized benefits from combining our efforts as a group. The synergy is really powerful. We love to perform, create and recreate with each other.
The idea behind the Novelists name came from the stories behind many of our compositions. Our music is the soundtrack to many types of scenes, whether autobiographical or from observations. The fully realized version of the Novelists includes a stage show, plus other multimedia elements. We’ve explored some of these concepts on a small scale during past shows. As we have increasing access to resources, we plan to make these multimedia shows a normal part of the Novelists live experience.
NM: What or who was your earliest influence in wanting to be a musician?
Eric: My earliest musical influence I can remember was an artist named Kostia. He’s an amazing pianist/keyboardist that my parents new and listened to extensively growing up. His melodies are rich and fluid and have influenced my writing tremendously. My first pop/rock concert was probably Ben Folds, although there were a couple during my early teens and I’m not sure which was technically the first. It’s no surprise that the piano has become my primary instrument.
Joel: The first concert I remember was the Beach Boys at the Washington Monument in DC. I’m guessing there were hundreds of thousands of people there, and I watched from atop my father’s shoulders. Metaphorically, I stayed on those shoulders for the next decade and a half, obsessing over Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, the Police, and dozens of my favorite Motown artists. Bruce was my first musical hero, albeit an obvious choice in our household. Once I began choosing my own heroes, they were Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), Eddie Vedder, Martin Sexton, Ani DiFranco, Jeff Buckley, Björk and Edward Kowalczyk (Live). I’ve never stopped loving Bruce, though.
Zack: One of my biggest and earliest influences is a bass player named Jaco Pastorius. My first bass teacher, Louie Bertino, turned me on to him and I’ve been obsessed with the instrument ever since. The way Jaco approached the instrument was very melodic and virtuosic, which is very attractive to me. My first concert was Carlos Santana. He was performing at a jazz festival in Mexico and I have a foggy memory of sitting on my dad’s shoulders watching an ocean of people rocking out to the music. Santana, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and lots of other artists were constantly playing in the background of my childhood homes. I’m certain that these memories led to my love of music.
NM: Musically speaking do you have any especially memorable moments that stand out in your past?
Eric: Seeing Ben Folds perform solo at Summerfest in 2003, his command of the audience and confidence on stage had a profound impact on me. As a performer there have been several highlights; performing live with Daryl Stuermer (Genesis/Phil Collins – guitar/bass), performing on the 50 yard line at Cowboy stadium and playing the opening slot at Strawberry music festival would be a few of the most memorable.
Joel: Eric’s last two also stand out for me. Most of my other favorites have been in very intimate settings like house concerts or hostels, where the story of a brand new song can be held by a whole room simultaneously. I find it easier to stay intentional with a smaller group of people.
Zack: I’ve been incredibly lucky and have had the opportunity to play and study with some of my musical heroes: Art Lande, Peter Epstein, David Ake, Hans Halt, Esperanza Spalding, Avishai Cohen, Brad Goode, Drew Gress, Ben Street, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Alessi, Nancy King, and many others. I have also been able to travel the country playing music and have even made it to a few countries in Europe. The majority of my travels have been with The Novelists, which is exceptionally lucky since I love the music and consider the members to be some of my best friends.
NM: What are the most difficult things about what you do?
Novelists: An independent band faces a lot of challenges. We often struggle with how to prioritize our shows since the ones that are the most creatively fulfilling are usually not the ones that get the bills paid. Our desire to continue and to be full-time musicians forces us to make smart business decisions, and to work as hard as we can. Sometimes we have to take gigs we don’t prefer. We also don’t want to become a full-time lounge act. Our loyal fan base has been invaluable in continuing to support us by coming to live shows and purchasing our music and merchandise.
Justin: I live in Baltimore , Maryland. It actually doesn’t work out (easily). I make it work out ! Planes are magical, and people seem to take that for granted ! Ha ! We (the Novelists) have to be extremely in communication and organized before anything works out. I’ve not been in one other band that has been as organized as this one. That is why I joined the Novelists only months after moving to Maryland to support my wife as she obtains a doctrine degree in pharmacology.
NM: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
Novelists: Having the opportunity to express ourselves through performance and recorded music is an honor and a privilege. Whenever we are dealing with the hard parts of the industry we all try to remind ourselves how fortunate we are. As musicians we get to interact with each other and our fans on a regular basis. When everything works together in harmony, the feeling is overwhelming and keeps us wanting more.
NM: What other projects are you each involved in?
Novelists: As hard as we work as members of the Novelists, there isn’t a whole lot of extra time for other projects. That said, we do find it necessary and healthy to maintain some diversity. Joel and Eric perform solo and with other musicians from time to time. Joel continues to produce other artists; most recently, an EP for an amazing singer out of Baltimore, named Heather Aubrey Lloyd. Eric just cut a vocal track for a song to be released on Daryl Stuermer’s upcoming album. All of us also work, collaborate and perform periodically with our favorite local musicians and friends. Zack and Justin perform in a wide range of other groups ranging from jazz, to funk, to classical, to free improvised music. Even with our commitments to the Novelists, we wouldn’t have anything to bring to the table creatively or personally if it took up all of our time.
Zack: Since I play music to make all of my income I work with a lot of different musicians, many of whom I have gotten to know through the jazz community in Reno. The Novelists take up most of my time and energy, but I do get to play in a couple of other projects. One local band is called Nico’s Mystery. We are a relatively new group and we could be categorized as euro/dance/pop. I’m also in a couple of jazz projects that include the Chris Clark Quintet and AZTeC. The members of both bands are scattered all over the world, so we play when we can.
Justin: I certainly am working constantly, I have to be in touch with three or four different singers and or bands out here (Baltimore) just to say, “Hey! I’m still around and love working for you!” I have, after 8-plus years of touring and playing professionally gone back to working part time and hustling the music game harder than ever. Taking the harder working, not so glamorous gigs to pay the plane flights and scheduling blocks (of time) to make the most of me being out west (is essential). I’m exhausted and exhilarated each time I go back and forth from one world to the other. Believe me, east and west are very different worlds. I’m just lucky I have an endless amount of support from my wife, family, friends and band to keep me going every month.
NM: What is your songwriting process like?
Novelists: Our songwriting process is varied. A lot of our songs are fully written by one member and then brought to the band. Sometimes the individual parts are collaboratively written, and sometimes they’re learned from previous recordings. We have been striving to write together more though, since some of our best songs from the past two years have been the result of collaborations. Usually the songs that sound the most “Novelist” are collaborations, because we each have our own creative stamp on them. Sometimes one of us will have a short melodic idea but be at a loss for how to develop it and will hand it over to another member. Sometimes the process can be more directly collaborative as well. Collaboration can happen in many different ways, and we try to explore as many of them as possible.
NM: What’s next for The Novelists?
We just launched our first crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter. We weren’t quick to choose crowd funding as a solution to the extensive costs involved in producing and marketing our art as an independent band. That said, our new goals are much larger in scope and seem to warrant an equally large and interactive effort. We are planning to record the first of a series of music videos, release our new material as a double album and hire a professional music publicist to tell the world about the Novelists. We wanted to offer a wide range of sponsorship levels and prizes for fans who contribute to the Kickstarter so as many people as possible could get involved. Prizes range from signed CDs and merchandise, to private house concerts, songs written and recorded for a donor or executive producer credit on one of our projects. If the campaign is successful, it will be invaluable in helping us realize our goals and getting to the next level.
You can support their campaign by going to Kickstarter.com and searching “The Novelists.”
We are all the sum total of our individual experiences. Everything in our lives makes up the building blocks of who we become both as members of our community and in some cases, as artists. I can clearly see the influences that Eric, Joel, Justin and Zach shared in their performances and compositions. Their mutual admiration of The Beatles is apparent in their writing and their beautiful and well-crafted harmonies. I see a Springsteen passion in Joel when he’s at the microphone pouring his soul out. The fact that these four interconnected and talented individuals found each other is a blessing for their fans. We, as their audience need to show our support and help keep the music flowing, and keep their dream alive in whatever way we each can.
We listen to music all the time for free, but it doesn’t occur for free. Make your own coffee and buy a CD or a download. It will last a lot longer and bring you more joy. Go out and listen to some live music. It will nurture your soul. Bring some home with you and let the nurturing continue, and support the arts at the same time.