Last year saw the release of Northbound’s second album, Death of a Slug, offering some of the best and most original hardcore music this side of the country. Regionally more established among Florida venues and grown to have quite a following around campus, Northbound is slowly becoming more established. Jonathan Fraser, the band’s creator, sat down to discuss over a few emails the history of his music.
Your most recent release, the Trigger Relief EP, was recorded in Ohio. What did recording there offer you (i.e., better staff, equipment, etc.)?
I was in Michigan staying with my friend Cody who plays bass in the full band Northbound, and I had some songs I wanted to lay out for an acoustic EP. My friend Mat lives right by the border of Michigan and Ohio, and I thought it would be really cool to track with him and have him feature on the songs. Mat sings in a band called Citizen. They’re sick.
What were the sessions like for Death of a Slug? Did recording and releasing this album offer more exposure than your debut?
They were mostly stressful. I don’t ever really have a good time when I’m recording. I’m very hard on myself so it’s nearly impossible to feel satisfied on takes. This record definitely received more exposure and I think that’s because my fan base has expanded much more since my debut, and I’ve also become acquainted with many more people around the country so I just had a broader audience and support group.
How did the name Northbound come about? Is it a name for you to go under? Do you generally have the same members help you out?
I came up with the name Northbound because whenever I’d tour in other projects, the first thing I’d do is get on the highway heading north. I figured I’d like to tour a lot with Northbound and the name just made sense. I didn’t want the project to just be titled with my name, and I saw it evolving into something bigger. When I do full band tours I always have the same members with me and the project is marketed as Northbound whether I’m playing by myself or with a full band.
How long have you been recording? What got you into making music?
I started attempting to write and record my own music at a very young age. As I grew up a little, I felt too shy to record somewhere professionally, so I would set up makeshift studios in my room with really bad gear, but it got the job done haha. Since childhood I’ve loved music but bands like Blink 182 and Green Day made me want to actually make my own. My parents bought me my first electric guitar around the age of 12 and shortly after that I was writing songs.
When creating music, do lyrics or sounds come first? How do you go through the creative process; is there a routine or any sort of little things you follow for yourself?
For me it really depends on the song. I don’t have a set routine for writing music. Sometimes I have lyrics first, and sometimes I have music first. Sometimes it just starts with a melody in my head. The only thing common factor between every song is that they all start with a knot in my stomach. I can’t write music when I’m happy, haha.
Many of your songs draw me and fans I know because of the damage to them, to a certain amount of sadness or pain. Writing these songs, is there a particular inspiration to them? Are they autobiographical to a point, or do you assume various narrators?
All of my songs are autobiographical. If I write it in a song, you can guarantee that it actually happened. I don’t put a lot of poetic value into my lyrics, it’s more of a story telling, and I like it that way. I think people are drawn to dark and sad songs because everyone feels it at times. Every person on earth knows what it’s like to have unrequited feelings for someone, or what it’s like to not feel good about yourself. Most people are afraid to talk about it and I’m just not. The inspiration for anything I write is simply my experience of something that has happened to me.
Are you currently working on any new material?
I’m always writing music. I have probably over 10 new songs right now, but will the public ever hear them? Maybe not. I am picky and hard on myself and I won’t release a song I’m not in love with.
Do you have a favorite venue you’ve played at? How often do you tour?
I played at Revolution Live in Ft. Lauderdale and that was probably my favorite venue, just because it’s a huge club and I’ve been going to shows there for like 10 years. But, there’s a lot of venues I really enjoy playing: Be Here Now (Muncie, IN), Capstan House (Orlando, FL), The Goat House (Odessa, FL), Ashley St. Station (Valdosta, GA), and what was the best venue ever before closing the doors- The Talent Farm (Pembroke Pines, FL), to name a few. My touring schedule is ever changing. In 2014 I went on a 5 tours of varying lengths. Things will pick up a lot in 2015.
Do you enjoy performing live? What does this experience offer to you? Does it help with creating new music?
Performing live is my favorite part of playing music. It offers a lot. It’s definitely a freeing experience for me personally, but it’s also really gratifying to see people becoming emotionally vulnerable and/or relating to my songs. I think it’s really powerful that a show can be cathartic for the performer and the audience. Seeing the way people care about Northbound at shows definitely pushes me to want to keep making music.
What are some of your favorite musicians or bands?
Alkaline Trio, Into It. Over It., Say Anything, Fall Out Boy- all the good stuff.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
My advice to aspiring musicians would be very, very simple. Stay true to yourself, and always be honest in your writing. Be influenced and inspired by bands, but try to write in the way that YOU would write. Don’t try to rewrite your favorite songs, but keep in mind that there’s only so much you can do. I think when people try to go out of the box too far it always ends up feeling weird or forced. Don’t be whacky for the sake of being whacky. Do what you want.
Do you have any advice for high schoolers in general?
Keep your head up. It ends eventually. “Cool kids” are probably more insecure than anyone who’s not super popular. Be yourself, do not do anything you are not comfortable with to fit a mold or be liked by someone you’re attracted to, or want to be friends with. If people don’t like you for who you are, then you don’t need them.
Northbound’s music can be purchased online on their bandcamp page