Northern Spy
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Northern Spy


Band Rock Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Fairfield Weekly"

Northern Spy's guitarist Steve McPherson could write the bible on indie rock. It doesn't hurt that he currently works in the music section of Borders and once worked in an indie record store in Minneapolis where he says the explosion of the Seattle scene really stuck with him.

"I'm interested in cooperation with other bands," he says over a hefty spinach salad at Norwalk's Post Road Diner, the band's second home. "I'd really like a musical community."

McPherson is comfortable talking about music, and rattles off names from The Flywheel to Spoon (whose T-shirt he's sporting) to Big Star, Love-Cars, Sunny Day Real Estate and The Replacements. He and band members Todd Stentiford on guitar and vocals and Conor Meehan on drums were last seen under the incarnation Catfish Blue moonlighting between Ground Zero in SoNo (now closed, and apparently on its way to becoming a lunch/dinner joint) and the group's Lanesborough, Mass., home base.

As could be expected from a group that's gone from fairly straight-forward blues to a pop-rock grunge-rock amalgam, Northern Spy has a bit of an identity crisis, sound-wise. Singer Stentiford has the tortured gruff vocalizing of Chris Cornell, while the band, using rotating bassists, veers between repetitive chord-banging rock and almost sentimental acoustic numbers. Crowds aren't so sure how to ride that kind of musical roller-coaster.

"A lot of the originals around here are jambands," says McPherson. "I'm out of that extended soloing. We played at the RiverCat [in Rowayton] twice, and the second time, after the first hour everyone left. They wanted to hear dance stuff."

He says the group will sometimes fall back on their stash of blues covers, but hates to set up false expectations. It's tricky. Fortunately the soulful, unexpectedly strong vocals hold the pieces in place and, in the simpler acoustic arrangements especially, Northern Spy really shines.
- Brita Brundage


as catfish blue:
catfish blue - EP - 1996
stella - LP - 1997
carrera targa - EP - 2001

as northern spy
one two fireball - live EP - 2002


Feeling a bit camera shy


the first thing that hits you is the voice: a growling baritone pulled from an unlikely body, calling forth the ghosts of howling wolf and robert johnson, climbing to a falsetto that conjures traffic-era steve winwood. then it’s the music: guitars veering from the crunch of hendrix or zeppelin to the skeletal lines of television and points in between. rhythms spring from the bastard child of stewart copeland and mitch mitchell. the heart of the sound is rooted in the sixties or further back, the body somewhere in the near future, the nerves humming along on bittersweet melodies pegged along the diagonal running between longing and abandon, heartache and heartbreak. altogether it’s that hi-fi lonesome sound: honest, compelling, uncertain.

in the fine tradition of sixties bands and artists like the who, the yardbirds, van morrison and jimi hendrix, the core of northern spy cut their teeth first in a blues band, catfish blue. drawing on that experience, the members of northern spy are creating a sound with cross-generational appeal. they know their history and aren’t ashamed of it, but they’re not mired in the past. years of musical study mean they know how to play with taste and skill, and a refusal to accept stylistic limitations means they cover an awful lot of eclectic territory. uptempo new wave follows country blues and somehow it works. in a music industry consumed by image and the next big thing, northern spy is just here for the music.

let’s face it: there’s a whole lot of crap out there right now. lots. and one day soon, everyone’s going to figure it out and stop buying music made from cookie cutters. we’d like to think it’s because quality trumps flash, but that’s not the case; it’s a cycle, and the garbage out there now killed grunge like grunge killed hair metal. all i’m saying is northern spy’s got next.