NORTHPILOT
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NORTHPILOT

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Pop

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"Lost In Concert"

You know that fantastic “indie” band your ironically mustachioed friend that always seems to be clad in plaid keeps telling you to listen to? Northpilot could have very well been one of those musical recommendations that you ignored. Most of the time that’s not a mistake because the bands regularly sound the same and get classified as indie for the sake of being indie. In the case of Northpilot though, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Northpilot isn’t indie for the sake of being indie. They’re indie because the eclectic blend of percussive noise layered with ambient and explosive strings and topped with emotive and soothing vocals just doesn’t appropriately occupy any other area in the musical landscape. Equal parts polished rock outfit and gritty emotional melody, Northpilot is a musical love letter penned with guitars and personal experiences. An intricately layered sonic equation that doesn’t require a degree in advanced calculus to decode. In other words, it’s complex without being confusing.

Most importantly though, Northpilot is poignant while still being fun. You can just as easily get lost in the grandiose drums as you can hanging on every lyric that falls out of Travis Shaver’s mouth (trust me, you will dwell on them). What we’re left with is a sound that’s just as good with bombastic percussion and horns as it is with a more stripped down acoustic presentation. It’s musical Choose Your Own Adventure with Northpilot providing some assistance in the imagination department. - Lost In Concert


"Lost In Concert"

You know that fantastic “indie” band your ironically mustachioed friend that always seems to be clad in plaid keeps telling you to listen to? Northpilot could have very well been one of those musical recommendations that you ignored. Most of the time that’s not a mistake because the bands regularly sound the same and get classified as indie for the sake of being indie. In the case of Northpilot though, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

Northpilot isn’t indie for the sake of being indie. They’re indie because the eclectic blend of percussive noise layered with ambient and explosive strings and topped with emotive and soothing vocals just doesn’t appropriately occupy any other area in the musical landscape. Equal parts polished rock outfit and gritty emotional melody, Northpilot is a musical love letter penned with guitars and personal experiences. An intricately layered sonic equation that doesn’t require a degree in advanced calculus to decode. In other words, it’s complex without being confusing.

Most importantly though, Northpilot is poignant while still being fun. You can just as easily get lost in the grandiose drums as you can hanging on every lyric that falls out of Travis Shaver’s mouth (trust me, you will dwell on them). What we’re left with is a sound that’s just as good with bombastic percussion and horns as it is with a more stripped down acoustic presentation. It’s musical Choose Your Own Adventure with Northpilot providing some assistance in the imagination department. - Lost In Concert


"Illinois Entertainer"

"...Northpilot's does what any great EP should do - leave us anxiously awaiting the LP." - Carter Moss, Illinois Entertainer

"Top staff picks for local bands 2011" - Illinois Entertainer


"The Chicago Red-Eye"

"Rising locals worth knowing" - The Chicago Red-Eye


"Pop 'Stache"

"There is a deep and intricate layering of sound, bursting with all kinds of emotion." - Pop 'Stache


"Hot Hot Music"

Chicago has always been a hotbed for musical talent. For several generations, bands such as Chicago, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins and Wilco have represented the Windy City’s musical reverence with a dignity only found in music that accomplish the ever-pressing task of balancing popular sound and individual stylistics.

Now, with the exit of the first decade of our latest century, Chicago’s champion of sound is somewhat lost. While Fall Out Boy had a good run into the latter end of the decade, the power-pop-punk phase has been diluted by a new generation of electronic infused revolutionaries, enthralling crowds with oscillating basses and flashy lights, while the classic vibrations of rock music hide in the wings.

Now comes Northpilot.


Northpilot is not satisfied with simplicity, but rather an almost scientific approach to layering music that is not only beautiful, but deep.

Devout followers of the Windy City rock scheme, this band has been chiseling its sound since 2006, growing from four members, to a powerful sextet in recent years. Earning a spot in the Top 8 of Lollapalooza’s 2007 “Last Band Standing” competition, the group is building an impressive resume in a town where talent is stacked as high as its residential towers.

Members Travis Shaver (vocals, guitar), Mark Colwell (vocals, guitar, horns, keys) Dan Julian (percussion), Matt Cragnolin (vocals, bass guitar), Justin Vittori (guitar) and Danielle Schnurer (vocals, keys) offer a deep assemblage of instruments that is both powerful and dangerous. It’s the type of armament that, if not unified artfully, can be disastrous.

Last October found the release of The Bright Brigade EP, the band’s premier release; a five-song journey through the many coats of this band. This music isn’t simple and it isn’t straightforward. Like a birthday cake, there’s just too many layers to dissect in one bite.

Right off the bat, the pounding, reverberating guitars of “Radio Lawyers” invites you to the madness. Another regular alternative-rock outfit ready to be filed away with the rest…but wait. The settling drums only offer a precursor to Shaver’s, dare I say, ‘Bono-like’ vocals, which deliver a more gallant vibe than you first anticipated. You’ll find yourself hanging on the lyrics, as the guitars surprisingly crash you back into a wall of sound, at just a level you can withstand.


The cover to the Bright Brigade EP, released in October of 2010.

“Naked Before My Captors” stumbles into an uplifting climax in which Shaver’s accompanying vocals straddle the sounds of classic Muse, with relentless guitar strumming, all to an immaculate, powerful backing piano. The moaning echo of Shaver’s voice at times leaves you lost in a void of noise, where there is no up, nor down; no right, nor wrong. Yet its these moments, when you search all these layers of recording, that you appreciate the smallest roots of the song; notably, the ambient background vocals that echo the composition like a phantom.

The band takes an unplugged approach to the opening of “Beautiful Raincoat.” The electric guitar quickly returns, but with a more supportive, surf lead. Once Colwell’s piano butts in, you’re reminded that the sound of this group is too mature to be a surf anthem, but also too talented for a lower-class sendoff. Some of Shaver’s lyrics shine through best on this anthem…We treat our friends like baseball cards/we hold on to the ones that will bank in the end. The playful support of the drums, guitars and piano offer what is ultimately, a chill indie B-side that, if you’re smart, will find its special unsuspecting place in one of your playlists soon.

“The Conductors Jaw (Eagle Bop)” returns the flow to the more complex, fuzzy arrangement of guitar riffs, all beautifully wrapped with a lean, lead guitar that resounds a Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth. (Think “The Sprawl”) Yet this animal is much more accessible than SY; although perhaps more fragile? The bridge is infectious, with impressive lead guitars traveling up and down your sound spectrum, owning your attention. Shaver’s vocal delivery now has me convinced that he is a second coming of Bono. Don’t worry; I’m talking about the Joshua Tree-era Bono.

The piano returns to the forefront for “Ochre Written Flint,” the EP’s closing number. Schnurer lends her lone female vocals to accompany Shaver’s in what starts as a sweet duet. Colwell even adds an echoing trumpet in the background, while the clicking drum beats sound like a lost Radiohead project. This is the darkest tune in the collection, with ambient, wooing vocals eliminating your lyrical dissections.

The Windy City is awaiting its next great wave to blow through, clearing the air of the clutter and leaving an honest sound that is reflective of our impulsive emotions these days. Northpilot offers more than your average rock band, which is imperative in an age where our well of music runs deeper than ever.

This is a sound worth dissecting, whether you find pleasure through the music, or pleasure through the journey. Eventually you’ll remember…it’s all the same in the end.
- Hot Hot Music


"Gapers Block"

Listening to Northpilot's song "Naked Before My Captors," you can feel the onset of another Chicago winter. Snowflakes practically swirl from the track's twinkling pianos as lead singer Travis Shaver metaphorically exposes parts of himself to the listener. Perhaps it's Michigan's brutal winters or Detroit's economic woes that echo through the urban angst of Northpilot's work. It's the sort of decay and dystopia that underlies the movie 8 Mile and BBC's 2009 documentary about the city. Originally from Michigan, friends Shaver and Mark Colwell discussed the band's history and Chicago's scene over hot tea at Lakeview's LooseLeaf Lounge Wednesday night.

As the founding members of Northpilot, Shaver and Colwell migrated to Chicago in early 2003 after college. Since then, they quickly added others to their collective. The band is now comprised of other fellow Michigan transplants, including Matthew Cragnolin on bass, Dan Julian on drums, Danielle Schnurer on keyboards and Justin Vittori on guitars and whistling. Just as they added members to the band, Northpilot has also been adding fans.

No strangers to getting the word out, Colwell and Shaver stumbled upon the chance to get a music video sponsored by 7-11 through a contest after Googling "battle of the bands." In the end, the band made a valiant effort, but ultimately did not win the contest. However, they did gain more friends. As musicians in the age of social media, they saw their Facebook fans swell from 400 to 1,200. Colwell, who studied advertising in college, works as an online marketer and researcher in River North. He handles much of the band's promotions, but it's still largely a team effort. "It's nice to offer fans a little more...we want to eventually build an internal community and focus our message to our fans," Shaver said, between sips of chamomile tea. Fans are important to the band, and the band is hyper-aware of what it might take to get to the next level — getting signed.

"I feel scattered," Shaver said. He expressed discontent about the fact that Chicago really hasn't been identified or found out to be the newest music scene for the malleable indie-pop genre.

"I think that there are a lot of good local bands in Chicago, and that there are particular scenes that are getting by and are getting a following. But, there's still very little industry interest. All the labels are looking at New York, and so the question becomes, can we get them to look here, or do we go to them," Colwell added.

Northpilot does its part for Chicago by touring the midwest in hopes of gaining this attention. If they can't find the scene, they just might make it themselves — or at least help. Shaver continued to share his concerns, "are people not looking at us, or are we not trying hard enough as a band?"

Northpilot is one of many Chicago bands trying to make our great city thrive as a music scene. You can see them live at the Cubby Bear in Wrigleyville at 9p.m. this Saturday night, December 4th. When asked why you should come out to see them play, Shave offered, "I'm pretty sure we plan not to wear pants this time...I think that's still the plan...and it's great music." - Gapers Block


"Real Detroit Weekly"

"...every now and then, a band walks through the door that makes the jukebox come to a halt, forcing everyone in the room to stop and take a look. For Real Detroit Weekly, that certain special someone is Chicago’s own (but Michigan inspired) Northpilot." - Ryan Hooper - Real Detroit Weekly


"Windy City Rock"

"Northpilot recognize the tests of life, existential, artistic and all in-between. It is obvious in their debut effort how large of a scope they look at life through; as the band continue to grow, the questions will no doubt become even more poignant." - Andrew Hertzberg, Windy City Rock - Windy City Rock


"Loud Loop Press"

"With The Bright Brigade, the band has sewn together a brilliant patchwork of rock, beautiful
melodies and experimentation." - Jason Shough, Loud Loop Press - Loud Loop Press


"Discmakers"

Discmaker’s 2003 Independent Music World Series Top 15 Midwest bands”
- Discmakers

- Discmakers


Discography

1000 Lives/Maps and Dragons Single - 2011
The Bright Brigade EP - 2010

Photos

Bio

More often than not, a band's sound is directly influenced by its surroundings. Be it the dark and ominous winter or the bright and enthusiastic summer, Northpilot's music pays homage to its Midwestern stomping grounds, incorporating its dynamic sound into a live performance which one reviewer hails as “…being shot through a cannon into a brick wall of sound.“ (Real Detroit Weekly)

The Michigan transplants pooled their talents in 2006, cutting its teeth as a four piece and creating its vision in a second story walk-up in the Wicker Park neighborhood of
Chicago.

Having recently upgraded to a 5 piece, the band spent the past 4 years building a solid resume, gracing notable windy city and Midwest mainstays including The Chicago House of Blues, Double Door, Schuba's, Subterranean, Martyr’s, Reggie’s Rock Club, Lager House (Detroit) and The Crofoot (Detroit), sharing the stage with hipster heavyweights Josiah Wolf, The Silent Years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Reptar and pop punk band All Time Low (7-11 Battle of the Bands Competition, July 2010).

In 2007, the band landed a spot in the top 8 of the Lollapalooza Last Band Standing Competition, and was a finalist in the 2010 Slurpee Battle of the Bands National Competition, where its final four status earned it a trip to Dallas to shoot a music video.

In addition to landing weekend headlining shows at many Chicago venues, 2010 saw the band release its debut EP, The Bright Brigade, which continues to generate buzz by entertainment rags and blogs.

During the fall of 2010, nationwide Internet radio outlet Grooveshark reported over 16,000 plays from its debut effort.

It is with this cut-throat determination the band is setting itself up for an exciting 2011 and beyond. It plans to ride its momentum to the next level and cordially invites you to join its Bright Brigade.