An Interview With Daniel Radin of The Novel Ideas

Country-folk. Roots-rock. Indie-Americana. Call it what you want, The Novel Ideas‘ music is far more than just a label. Its a vast terrain of emotion ranging from the melancholy and meditative to triumphant and rollicking. It moves, it changes like a live-being that isn’t just one thing or simple in how it is layered…its many feelings and many layers.
A lot of this in part, due to the writing of not one but three songwriters and the voices of many, instrumentally and vocally, instead of one. Its a collective, because truthfully, the sum of the parts of great things always leads to something even greater.
We caught up with guitarist and singer, Daniel Radin, from the band to talk a bit about their new self titled release. Read on.
RLR: So, on this new record you guys combine the forces of not one or two songwriters but 3 of you. How do you find that process to be when arrangements come into play? Is there any healthy competition like “well, my tune is gonna be the lead-off track”?

DR: Since we do have three different people writing songs in the band, we’re always very conscious of having every song feel like it’s a song by The Novel Ideas. Up until the new record, we didn’t really have any recorded music released that we felt represented who we thought the band was, that’s part of why we chose to have it be self-titled.

RLR: That also being said, the record, though 3 different songwriters are included, is a super coherent and fluid collection of beautiful songs. I think thats a testament to really putting in the work as a band. In terms of when a song is brought to the other members, how does that look from a soup to nuts perspective? What do songs typically look like when the come to the band from each writer and how do things tend to develop through each of those paths?

DR: The arrangement for a song is actually often the most collaborative part of our process. Often one person will come to the band with a song skeleton: lyrics, melody and chords and we’ll try it out during band practice. Sometimes everything clicks really quickly and the song is done within an hour, but more often than not we work on the arrangement for months before landing on something we all feel good about. I think the key to good collaboration is not to feel to precious about any aspect of a song. If there’s something that’s not working in a song we will always try different ideas from different members of the band until we find something everyone is happy with. Sometimes that’s a melody, sometimes a rhythm, sometimes even an entire verse or chorus. 

RLR: With your last release the “St. Paul Sessions”, I know we talked about how important it was for you to capture your live performance and that record was basically just that…a beautiful room and beautiful songs captured naturally. This record is somewhat more produced, perhaps, but it also feels very organic and flows beautifully. First, was the capturing of your live performances still a big priority for this record? And, if so, how did you guys manage to do so while in the studio?

DR: Some of the new album was recorded live. The process for recording was that we would play the song a few times all together, until we felt like we got the feel and tempo right. Then we would nail down a tempo and record drums and bass together, then guitars, then later on vocals. We actually recorded St. Paul Sessions after The Novel Ideas. I think if we’d known we were capable of playing the songs live we might’ve recorded more of it live and all together. We’d definitely like to try and record the next record live if we can!

RLR: Your harmonies are like, transcendent. Almost ethereal, especially on tracks like ‘The Blue Between’ us. It creates this incredible space in the song. Do you guys now find that you naturally go to the space, huge harmonies and creating a real feeling with your voices when you are going after parts for a song? I find that to be a fairly difficult emotion and  vibe to create but you guys make it seem easy.
DR: Recording harmonies was actually a struggle for us. Since we have four different singers, we wanted to make sure that even though there is a blend to the voices, that a listener could still hear each individual voice if they listened closely. On our first album the harmonies were kind of just a block of sound, whereas I think the harmonies sound a bit more natural on the new record. We ended up feeling happy with how they came out, in large part due to Ryan Freeland who mixed the record. He has this natural approach to sonics that we were searching for but never knew how to achieve until we heard his method. In terms of where we have harmonies in a song, that’s often in the arrangement part of writing a song. We try to be careful to toe the line because sometimes though its satisfying to add harmony to every section, it doesn’t always serve the song best.

RLR: You guys classify on the Bandcamp page as ‘country-folk’, but there are certainly some elements of rock and indie and all sorts of other sprinklings. When you were heading into the studio for this record were there any albums you used as a reference for mixing or sounds you were looking to get? Was it more of an idea in your heads that you already knew?

DR: All we knew when recording and mixing is that we wanted the album to represent what you might hear at one of our live shows. This proved to be far more difficult than we had initially though and ended up mixing the songs multiple times before working with Ryan (Freeland). Honestly a lot of our favorite sounding records were ones that he had mixed, so it was easy to find reference songs or albums. I think this album was a learning process for us in a lot of ways. It’s not that anything before the finished product was wrong, the problem was that we had a sound in our ear we were trying to recreate but sometimes without the vocabulary to express it. 

RLR: We are obviously big on community here at RLR, so what are each of you listening to lately from friends or contemporaries that you are particularly excited about?

DR: I was lucky enough to play on and hear Sam Moss’ forthcoming album which is incredible, can’t wait for him to release it. The new Honeysuckle album just came out which I absolutely love. They get better every time I see them. We’re touring with this talented guy named Jason Hawk Harris from the Show Ponies that is releasing new music under his own name. Real beautiful sad songs, can’t wait to see him live.

RLR: What’s next for you all?

DR: We’re currently on tour! Heading for a long run out west and then up the west coast. Playing lots of new cities, eating lots of new sandwiches. The current plan is to tour a lot and then hopefully play some festivals In the Summer, fingers crossed!