Into the night
Mad Nomad celebrates Black Out release.
Mad Nomad holds their CD release party for their self-released debut record, Black Out, this Friday night at White Water Tavern, the Friday night of Riverfest. Competing against the opening night of the Memorial Day music and arts festival had the band a little apprehensive last week. Gathered at their Bryant rehearsal space (each of the band’s five members is a Bryant High School grad), lead singer and rhythm guitarist Joe Holland shook his head and spoke for the band when he wondered aloud if the Friday-night date was the best decision for the band.
But listen. Is the White Water crowd really the crowd that’s into Friday-night Riverfest headliners Daughtry and Darius Rucker? And by the time Mad Nomad takes the stage Friday night, Riverfest will be winding down, and White Water will be getting busy. Thinking about it further, a Friday night CD release party at White Water opposite Riverfest sounds like the perfect night for Mad Nomad. Who doesn’t want a little furious rock ’n’ roll with a punkish gallop as their weekend starter?
Rock ’n’ roll with a lot of punk passion — that’s the Mad Nomad sound, a band created from elements of An Orangutan, a broken-up Bryant group known for dark, dance-y progressive rock. Mad Nomad isn’t dark. Not progressive. Think Two Cow Garage. The louder, ballsier tunes of Glossary and Lucero. Maybe The Gaslight Anthem. Hard-charging anthems constructed with down-stroking guitar riffs and the kind of drumming that punishes the snare and the high-hat. Music in your face, punishing even, but still melodic. Verses that punch and choruses that ring out. Or, as Holland, the band’s chief songwriter on Black Out, says, “Seattle of the South without all the suicide.”
“Before, we were real concerned with being musically experimental,” Holland says of An Orangutan. “It was cool music, but it was kind of weird a lot of times. Kind of like, ‘Oh, we’re musicians; we’re going to play in 5/4 [time].’ Now it’s a lot more of a simple approach. Once you get to a certain point, you want to get back to that simplicity, and you realize there’s a reason why people write verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. To think you are going to do something new that 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll hasn’t done?”
Joining Holland is Jesse Bell on guitar, Adam Hogg on keyboards and vocals, Chris Honea on bass and Jacob Mahan on drums. Holland, Honea and Mahan all were part of An Orangutan, a band that fell apart about 2009 with Holland taking off to the Los Angeles area the next year.
“It was pretty awesome for a while, but I got where I could not stand the people out there,” he says. “I came home just to visit home and see my friends. I was at a show at White Water seeing Glossary, and Todd Beene [pedal steel guitarist in Glossary and Lucero] looked at me and asked, ‘They don’t have a White Water in L.A., do they, Joe?’ I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m moving home.’”
Roughly three months later, Holland returned to central Arkansas in the middle of 2012, with some singer/songwriter-type tunes he’d written in California. Soon he was playing music again with Honea and Mahan. Holland’s tunes transformed from singer/songwriter to rock once Honea and Mahan started working on the songs, and new, louder and faster tracks replaced those original tunes.
By August, the trio had added Hogg, who plays keyboards and sings in Little Rock band Collin Vs. Adam. The new band played a few shows as a quarter but Holland notes, “I’m a drummer, so we needed somebody who could actually play guitar. Every drummer secretly wants to be a frontman.” Enter Bell, a member of defunct post-rock outfit Inner City Lights.
“I didn’t know if Jesse would be into music as poppy as this,” Holland says, “but he really came in and took all the songs and melodies where I wanted them to go and really filled a lot of gaps.”
The nine tracks of Black Out were recorded by the band at the rehearsal space/studio on Woody Drive in Bryant that they share with hip-hop meets indie rock group Flint Eastwood. Black Out is only 33 minutes long, but the record gets the point of the band across, which is, mainly, to create songs that hit hard and fast, but are still tuneful.
“We did it so quick, and it came together so naturally,” Honea says of Black Out.
The album sounds like it was recorded live, but that’s only by design. The songs were tracked with the band using their collective recording expertise. “We wanted it to sound as if it was live,” Bell says. “There are things that we do when we play live that we wanted to be in there.”
Hogg’s keyboards jab in and out of the tunes, and as he says, “I always thought less is more, and the keyboard guy is sort of the accessory guy. I can play piano, and I don’t worry about whether people know I can or not. Most of the time I play with my left hand anyway when I’m playing on stage. Just minimal stuff. I like it.”
Black Out is the sound of Mad Nomad. Full-tilt rock ’n’ roll. The sound that will welcome people to White Water Tavern on Friday.
SEE THE SHOW
Mad Nomad holds a CD release party for their Black Out album this Friday at White Water Tavern. Expect the music around 9:30 p.m. Joining Mad Nomad is the dance-y punk rock of Little Rock’s Booyah! Dad and Springfield, Mo.’s, The Bootheel with their Midwestern-branded rock ’n’ roll.