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photo by Emmett Baggett

photo by Rachel A. Dobken

with his Long Island high school friends. On DiPasquale’s musical roots: “We’re all jam band kids, and Dan doesn’t come from that at all,” Cohen says. “His opinions and influences keep us away from being another annoying jam band.” Despite coming from different musical backgrounds, the band members skillfully combined their tastes and styles to form Northbound. The band cites the Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and other classic rock bands as their biggest influences. The mixture of influences makes Northbound’s sound both fresh and new. Its seven-track EP showcases a medley of different sounds, including tracks that blend rock, bluegrass, and folk. But the band doesn’t want to be boxed into one genre. “A lot people think of us as this folky band,” Cohen says. “And then they come to the show and I have my guitar amp turned up, then I turn on the wah pedal, and the tube screamer. That’s not folky at all.” Sacks adds that it’s hard to clearly define the band’s genre, especially since most of its songs are a blend of different influences and styles. The variety of instruments, including the mandolin, banjo, and harmonica, adds to the band’s unique sound. The group doesn’t want to be called just a jug band or bluegrass folk band. Musically, they’re doing a lot more than that. The track “Two Things” on the EP showcases the band’s ability to seamlessly blend blues and rock elements. Starting with a sharp harmonica; the song also incorporates skillful guitar solos and ends with a folky upbeat blend of both instruments. Sherman says the recent addition of the keyboards also gives the band an edge. “The sound of the band has changed a little bit since I’ve joined,” he says. “It’s been elevated to a more pluggedin, kind of rock sound, but keeping to the bluegrass roots.” “What we released in the past, and what we will be releasing, you can definitely start seeing that our sound and style, and what we want to do, is different,” adds DiPasquale. Yet even as their sound transforms, the core of Northbound remains intact. Gittleman, the primary songwriter, draws inspiration from his personal life. He’s not

interested in sending a particular message with his songs, but hopes fans can connect to the stories and experiences in the music. “The song-writing process starts with the skeleton of the song,” he says. “Basically I’ll just have a verse, chorus, something like that, and then as we play together, everyone pitches in on what works, what doesn’t work.” Cohen, who does a lot of arranging, says good music is best when kept simple. “It doesn’t have to be complicated as long as it sounds good to us. We try to have songs that people can have a good time to,” Cohen says. “We have the philosophy [that] every show should be a party, [and that] the music should be organic.” DiPasquale adds that danceability is key. “I’m big about the snap, lots of snap,” he says. On a rainy Thursday night in March, Northbound gets ready to take the stage at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse. Cohen arrives to the theater last. It’s midterm week, and he had a karate exam just hours before. He rushes to write the set list, scrawling the eight songs on a piece of scrap paper in permanent marker. The crowd is small tonight, but that doesn’t stop Northbound from having a good time. They kick off with “Devil Child,” an original song from their EP. Gittleman straps on the harmonica rack and riffs loudly as the song climaxes. The small cluster of concertgoers raise their beers. Back in the small living room, Northbound plays its ballad “Lorax’s Lament.” Gittleman and Sacks play their guitars. Cohen strums the mandolin and DiPasquale keeps the beat with a small drum. Gittleman leads the vocals. The ballad is based on Lorax, Dr. Seuss’s fictional character who’s concerned about the environment in The Lorax. The “silly” song, as Gittleman describes it, is lyrically sweet, and the band captures a loveliness. Later, with their instruments put aside, the conversation turns to the future of the band. All the members will graduate next spring. Northbound plans to stay together and make things work, even if it means juggling part-time jobs during the day. Says Cohen: “Sort of a Hannah Montanta/ Miley Cyrus thing…normal, happy-golucky kids during the day and rockstars at night.”

Drum Roll // DiPasquale pounds out a beat during a show at Westcott Theater. Delicate Mix // Northbound’s sound can't be categorized into one genre or another — it’s their own. Sweet Sound // Gittleman sings to the crowd during a gig in Syracuse. Long-Distance Friend // Northbound’s fifth member, Sam Sherman, attends George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but keeps in touch with his bandmates through phone calls and email. photo by Emmett Baggett

MAY 2011

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Volume 1: May 2011  

Page through a sneak preview of our debut issue, dropping next Wednesday at our new tumblr--get your adrenaline pumping with 4 summer advent...

Volume 1: May 2011  

Page through a sneak preview of our debut issue, dropping next Wednesday at our new tumblr--get your adrenaline pumping with 4 summer advent...

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