Experimenting with rock evolution

Justin Brake
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Music The Novaks unveil a 'darker' and 'heavier' sound with new album 'Things Fall Apart'

Last year I met Mick Davis at a downtown joint to shoot some pool and essentially take the band's pulse.

The raw-boned, curly-haired frontman, whose off-stage persona is anything but sinful, had only one thing to stress, "We're not f--king dead."

The Novaks (from left) Mark Neary, Elliot Dicks and Mick Davis. - Submitted photo

Last year I met Mick Davis at a downtown joint to shoot some pool and essentially take the band's pulse.

The raw-boned, curly-haired frontman, whose off-stage persona is anything but sinful, had only one thing to stress, "We're not f--king dead."

Fast forward to last week. Under new management, on a new label, without band member Chuck Tucker, and having survived a career-threatening bout of frustration, The Novaks (Davis, bassist Mark Neary and drummer Elliot Dicks) are finally set to release their sophomoric effort.

"Things Fall Apart" is four years in the making and is likely to be interpreted by fans and critics as the skid of the band's hairpin turn from the brink of stardom to the brink of destruction. But Davis says the album's title and 12 tracks of "dark" and "heavier" material are as much an indication of the now as they are of the past.

Seated in the same dingy joint as the last time we met, and sipping a beer, Davis is cool and collected as he discusses the new record, which hits record store shelves May 26.

The first thing he sets straight is the origins of the album's title, which was taken from the famous 1958 Chinua Achebe novel of the same name.

"The story's about a wrestler. He ends up hanging himself rather than moving into the future," he explains. "Rather than accepting change, he would rather die."

Antithetical to the band's present circumstance, if the book's main character and The Novaks shared the same evolutionary truths of life, simply put, there would be no more Novaks.

What makes "Things Fall Apart" worthy of a spin in the player, however, isn't its potential to mark the band's renaissance, but rather the contrasting Darwinist and creationist genesis of the songs, not to mention the influence of music producer and former Big Sugar frontman Gordie Johnson.

While the compositions are influenced by the band's recent history, it also signifies a new beginning and a new approach to making music.

"The record is one guitar, one guitar amp, one bass set-up and one drum set-up. We pretty much play all together on every track," says Davis, emphasizing the minimal use of overdubs on the album.

Recorded live at the Sonic Temple in Halifax in under two weeks, Davis feels the record is a "decent representation" of the band's live show.

The idea to make something of a live studio record belonged to Johnson, who took a liking to the band a couple years ago and offered to work on the project.

Although there is no production credit in the liner notes, "because there's so many cooks in the kitchen," says Davis, Johnson's influence is "really big in very subtle ways."

"It's just little slight arrangements to make them radio tunes," he explains.

Johnson and former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagen make guest appearances on "Under Those Wheels," a bluesy summertime number that represents what could be considered the record's lightest shade of audible darkness.

First single "There Goes The Night" is already receiving radio play in the province and on the mainland, but has been met with some early disparaging reviews, albeit ones which omit the remainder of the album.

"One guy called us a bar band," says Davis, "and to me that means, 'you sound like Georgia Satellites or George Thorogood or something like that.' I like those guys, but you're telling me you came to our show and that's what you got? I don't get it. I don't really care though ... it's only one guy's opinion."

Throughout our conversation, Davis keeps returning to discussion of the band's live shows and seems more exited about the June 12 CD release gig at The Rock House and the ensuing summer tour that will see them showcase at North by Northeast in Toronto, play a string of shows with Matt Mayes in Ontario, and open for legendary rock band KISS in Halifax.

"It feels like something's moving, happening," he says, speaking to the recent press the band has received. "But we don't need that because the shows are always good. We always get a good reception wherever we go and each time we go back it gets better and better, so I think for us, we will be known as a live band and that's the ticket."

As more critics get their hands on "Things Fall Apart," Davis and the band are likely to incite comparisons to classic rock bands like The Rolling Stones, as they did with their self-titled debut record four years ago.

But Davis won't have any of it.

"You can say we sound like the Stones all you want, but the Stones sound like Chuck Berry and Chuck Berry sounds like Louis Jordan and whatever - you can go on and on and talk about how much you know about music history. That's what it is, just rehashing.

"What's important is what you are saying. Is it any different? I think the record has that. We're starting to create something - we're a band, we have a sound."

When songs like "Rain, Rain, Rain" and "Cold and Lonely" are heard, the album should earn praise for innovative binary evolution, but will undoubtedly fall victim to the music media trend of pouncing on perceived over-influenced sounds.

This is unfortunate because somewhere within or between The Novaks' honest perception of rock music as "rehashed" and the inspiration cultivated from their recent struggles is a newfound confidence and an emerging sound deserving of affiliation with the "Novaks" title.

The record gets better with every listen, so throw it in your player on a warm day this spring and listen as Neary intros the album with a catchy bass line and Davis unleashes a blistering scream 10 seconds in. Give it another spin the next day and pay attention to where the album's gravitational pull draws you.

For me it was centrical, then outward. If you're a beginning-to-end album purist, strap on your seatbelt.

Whatever the country's response to The Novaks in 2009, let's hope they stick around and keep a healthy gig inventory in St. John's.

Organizations: Johnson's, The Rock House

Geographic location: Halifax, Toronto, Ontario St. John's

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • sonny
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Opening for KISS?! M*ck, you must be proud...a dream come true.

  • Lynda
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    The Novaks (Davis, bassist Mark Neary and drummer Elliot D*cks) are finally set to release their sophomoric effort.


    A sophomoric effort is not the same thing as a sophomore effort. Well, not necessarily the same thing - but in this instance, it does look like the writer meant sophomore and messed up badly by using the pejorative adjective sophomoric .

    Dictionaries are worthless when writers lack the sense (and the humility) to use them. Shame on the proofreader/editor too.

    (I can't believe the idiotic bad word filter is making me put an asterisk in Elliiot's last name....now THAT is sophomoric.)

  • sonny
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Opening for KISS?! M*ck, you must be proud...a dream come true.

  • Lynda
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    The Novaks (Davis, bassist Mark Neary and drummer Elliot D*cks) are finally set to release their sophomoric effort.


    A sophomoric effort is not the same thing as a sophomore effort. Well, not necessarily the same thing - but in this instance, it does look like the writer meant sophomore and messed up badly by using the pejorative adjective sophomoric .

    Dictionaries are worthless when writers lack the sense (and the humility) to use them. Shame on the proofreader/editor too.

    (I can't believe the idiotic bad word filter is making me put an asterisk in Elliiot's last name....now THAT is sophomoric.)