Jonathan Byerley
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Jonathan Byerley

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The best kept secret in music


"Nightmare Fighters leader gets introspective"

By Greg Glasgow, Camera Music Writer
April 7, 2006

For the past few years, University of Colorado philosophy student Jonathan Byerley has been the lead singer of Boulder-based indie rock band the Nightmare Fighters, which has shared stages with DeVotchKa and the Hot IQs.
But with his new solo album, Hymns and Fragments, Byerley indulges his softer side. The mostly acoustic album has a decidedly retro vibe, recalling '60s and '70s singer-songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and pre-cheesy Neil Diamond.

The sound is great, emphasizing melodies and Byerley's poetic, confessional lyrics, such as these lines from one the album's best songs, "I Got Over Kerouac": "I got over Kerouac/Why do you always have to bring him back to our bed/The books you always read/And I got over burning sage/And the hot bop records you would always play all day/Your affected taste."

The Camera recently caught up with Byerley, who celebrates the release of the album with a concert tonight at Trilogy Wine Bar & Lounge.

Q: Your new solo CD has a very retro pop vibe. What were you thinking about or listening to when you made it?

A: Well, I was probably listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen, in fact I know I was, when I made it, and that's certainly apparent on the album, I think. I love Leonard Cohen and I love all the late-'60s/early-'70s British folk stuff, like Joe Boyd, the stuff he produced, Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan.

I recorded it at the Rock Box, which is a studio in north Boulder that's totally got the '60s vibe pretty much down. They love to record on tape, and they use old analog reverbs and things like that. Bill Yale and Jason McDaniel produced the record, and Bill's like this encyclopedia of '60s music, and we'd talk a lot about music and stuff like that.

WHAT Jonathan Byerly, with Slow Rosa
WHEN 9 tonight
WHERE Trilogy Wine Bar & Lounge, 2017 13th St., Boulder
INFO (303) 473-9463 or

Q: As far as writing and arranging the songs, did you deliberately go for that kind of sound or did it happen after the fact?
A: For me, it seemed kind of spontaneous. How it happened, it was last July or August and I just started writing and recording songs in my kitchen, on an acoustic guitar, and doing a little bit of overdubs, like backup vocals, but not much.

I eventually just gave those tracks to Jason and Bill, and they listened to them and we talked about them, and eventually we sent those tracks to tape, and in the studio fleshed them out with organs and horns and drums. All these musicians live in one house, and it was just kind of like who was on the couch in the other room at the time. It'd be like, 'Let's do some horns,' and John (Grey) was in the other room watching TV or something, and he'd come in and lay down horn parts."

Q: Were all the songs written specifically for the album, then, or do some date back further?

A: I wrote a good handful last summer or last fall, but a couple of them were maybe a year old. I had all these songs building up because Nightmare Fighters was really focused on being a harder, heavier band we had a very singular vision of what our sound was. So I would write all these other songs that weren't really appropriate material for Nightmare Fighters, so this was originally a chance to write songs just however I wanted to write them, and now it looks like it's going to be my primary project.

Q: So what's the future of the Nightmare Fighters?

A: I think we're wrapping things up and going our separate ways this May. I put a band together a few months ago and that's going to pick up where my old band left off. It's a new musical direction, but that band's almost done and now I've got this new band to keep on going.

Q: Do you have anything special planned for the CD-release show beyond just running through the album?

A: The set is going to be most of the album, but I've got a few more originals and I think we might actually play a few songs from The Basement Tapes, the Dylan-Band collaboration. I'm going to play a Leonard Cohen song, but it'll be 10 originals and three covers. It should be fun." - The Daily Camera

"Best local albums"

Best local albums
By Greg Glasgow
Friday, December 29, 2006

The Grammy-nominated Fray was the Denver area's big success story this year, but hundreds of equally talented local bands dragged their own equipment into tiny Denver clubs to play their hearts and souls out.
As usual, a number of local releases were much better than the stuff that made the Billboard charts — here are five that really stood out.
— Greg Glasgow

1.) John Common, Good To Be Born — Formerly the leader of Denver alt-country band Rainville, singer-songwriter Common goes experimental on his solo debut, mixing Radiohead-inspired electronics and retro instruments into his rootsy pop-rock. Most fascinating are his found audio samples from thrift-store cassette tapes and old motivational and educational records, which add unexpected dimensions to tracks like "Anyway" and "Coming In For A Landing." An extraordinarily confident and forward-looking release from a local act, Good To Be Born should launch Common into the big time.
2.) Hot IQs, Dangling Modifier — Two years after the release of their debut full-length, we were hoping for more than an EP from the smarty-pants Denver indie-pop band, but we'll take what we can get. The trio certainly has honed its songwriting skills since then, which is both a good thing and a bad thing: There's nothing here as instantly catchy as "Firecracker" or "The New One" (both from the first album), but more sophisticated tunes like "Elephant in White" will stick in your head just as tightly after a few listens. A cover of Archers of Loaf's "Web In Front" reportedly has drawn positive response from former Archers frontman Eric Bachmann, now a Denver resident himself.

3.) Jonathan Byerley, Hymns and Fragments — Working with the vintage gearheads at Boulder's Rokbox recording studio, the former Nightmare Fighters singer crafted a gentle, retro record reminiscent of sad-eyed '70s folkies such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. Slide guitar, mandolin, organ and horns help flesh out Byerley's contemplative, less-is-more tunes and understated melodies.

4.) DeVotchKa, Curse Your Little Heart — It was a big year for Denver's favorite Eastern European-inspired mariachi rock band. In addition to composing and performing much of the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to hit indie film "Little Miss Sunshine," the band released this six-song EP featuring one original tune (the title track) plus covers of songs by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Velvet Underground. Lush, romantic and a little bit dangerous, it's cinematic mood music for globe-trotting hipsters.

5.) The Motet, Instrumental Dissent — Drummer Dave Watts' instrumental jazz-funk band mixes old-school jams with club-style technology on its 2006 disc. Watts assembled or rearranged many of the songs in post-production, morphing tunes like album opener "Afro Disco Beat" from a Fela Kuti groove to a bass-thumping rave track. Elsewhere, saxes and synths share space with spoken-word samples and exotic percussion. The driving, ever-changing sound will get your mind — as well as your body — in motion.

Honorable mentions:
Everything Absent or Distorted (A Love Story), The Soft Civil War
Liza, Bird On A Wing
Ron Miles, Stone/Blossom
Rose Hill Drive, Rose Hill Drive

- The Boulder Daily Camera

"Best Singer/Songwriter - Front Row Center Awards"

Best Singer/Songwriter

Jonathan Byerley

Jonathan Byerley started recording his debut album in his kitchen on an acoustic guitar. Eventually, he filled it out with horns, drums and organs, and released Hymns and Fragments last April. Byerley’s bearded baby face somehow fits his surprisingly deep voice as it sinks into his folky acoustics. Perhaps his most unique song is “Failed Season,” which somehow combines quiet cowboy horns with bouts of Beatles-esque energy. In fact, had Garden State been released a few years later, this song could have easily fit onto the soundtrack. While Byerley’s last project, Nightmare Fighters, focused primarily on heavier music, it came to an end as Byerley found his footing as a songwriter. “I just wasn’t a rock band kind of guy,” Byerley told The Marquee, “I’m just a singer/songwriter.” - Marquee Magazine


Debut album: "Hymns and Fragments"


Feeling a bit camera shy


Wise beyond years, a sound ageless but timeless, young Jonathan Byerley explores the divide between the blessed and the cursed, the flesh and the spirit. Raw and stripped down, his debut album, "Hymns and Fragments", recalls the British folk of Nick Drake and John Martyn as well as the early LA country rock of Gene Clark. Byerley's voice, a weathered invitation, his words a subtle meditation, possess the lyrical intuition of a youthful Leonard Cohen.

Marquee Magazine recently granted Byerley with the Front Row Center Award for Best Singer/Songwriter 2006, and his unique live show confirms this. Jon Gray’s harmonies and virtuous trumpet playing beautifully compliment Byerley’s gentle, deep voice and brilliant guitar playing. Steadily gaining a Denver/Boulder following, he has shared the stage with Devotchka, Hot Iqs, Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers), Richard Buckner, Nick Urata (Devotchka), Maritime, The Bound Stems, and Gus Black. Last September he performed at the South Park Music Festival and in October he toured the midwest. In past bands, he’s opened for Bright Channel, The Omens, The Planet The, and The Fall.
- Brittany Horvat

Byerley performs solo, as a duo with a trumpet player, and with a full band.
Jonathan Byerley (vocals, guitar), Jon Gray (trumpet), Jason McDaniel (bass), Zack Littlefield (drums)
Grew up in Macon, Georgia and Oxford, England, as well as Colorado Springs, CO
Influences: Alexander “Skip” Spence, Kevin Ayers, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen
Robert Thomas Brian Schwartz Bleemusic, Inc
720-220-9296 303-998-0001