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Songs say so much
by Nathan Orme
Jan 26, 2012 | 1089 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The Novelists, comprised of Joel Ackerson, Megan Slankard, Eric Andersen and Zack Teran, will release its debut CD “Backstory” on Friday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
SPARKS — Singer/songwriter is a good job if you can get it.

And from the sounds of it, the job is pretty good even if you’re still trying to get it.

Two area stages will hold the aforementioned types of performers this weekend, each with different styles and approaches but similar outlets for their thoughts and art.

On Friday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, the four-person musical collective called The Novelists will release its debut CD, “Backstory.” On Sunday at The Knitting Factory in Reno, a trio called Patrolled by Radar will wander north as part of its attempts to venture beyond the Los Angeles bar scene.

The Novelists is a foursome comprised of Joel Ackerson (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Eric Andersen (vocals, piano), Megan Slankard (vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Zack Teran (vocals, upright bass). Ackerson, who is from Syracuse, New York, but went to college at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the group came together because the four members were working on individual music careers but needed help financing their touring efforts. Though cooperation initially brought them together, the music made them jell.

“(This band) is the lifelong realization of what I wanted,” said Ackerson, who turns 34 today. As an admirer of bands such as The Beatles and the Eagles, Ackerson said The Novelists members are all strong songwriters and musicians, which can lead to an admirable catalog of music even if the collaboration isn’t destined to last.

“They had a healthy competition, even though they all broke up,” Ackerson said of his musical idols. “But they were so prolific when they were together.”

The Novelists’ debut album has nine tracks, all of which are mellow with instrumental emphasis on the piano.The album’s writing credits are evenly distributed among the members, so the greatest appreciation comes in finding the stories behind each song. Ackerson described his three compositions on which he is credited — “On My Side,” “I Don’t Want To Be Like You” and “Remember You Well” — as being expressions of personal experiences and feelings about love, death and individuality.

Ackerson said expression always has been the driving force behind his music, starting with his very first song, “Lost in Space,” a tune he made up at the age of about 10 after seeing the Space Shuttle Challenger explode on television.

“That was the first major trauma where I had to understand something that was too big to understand,” Ackerson said.

Stories are also the driving force behind the music of Patrolled by Radar, led by longtime songster Jay Souza. A 15-year-veteran of the L.A. bar scene, Souza’s music has more of a country/rock flair to it, and his lyrics are usually taken from things he sees with his own romanticized spin on it.

For example, the song “Cost of Disappointment” from the album “Be Happy” on Knitting Factory Records, is about an older man who was dealing with his wife’s terminal illness. Souza said he finds a lot of inspiration from the tales he hears from patrons at his primary job as a bartender, and when he writes about the sad stories he hears day in and day his brain finds a funny way to express them in song.

“It’s just the way I look at life,” Souza said by telephone while on a break from tending bar. “I try to see the humor in the darkest of topics.”

Souza’s self-described “weird” family life got him started writing poetry as a teenager, which got him recruited to write lyrics for a band. Many years later, he said he still isn’t sure if he has made a real transition from poet to lyricist, but if the hundreds of songs he has written are a testament he has at least has been practicing enough.

“I’m still amazed anybody thinks I am doing something worth paying attention to,” Souza said.

The Knitting Factory’s promotion arm is paying attention to the efforts of Souza and his bandmates: guitarists Bosco Sheff and Bryan “BC” Coulter and bassist Bryan “Reno” Stone.

“The band is very personable live,” said Bruce Duff, with Knitting Factory Management. “No matter what the setting, you feel like you could be in a living room with them telling you stories. Also, Jay’s songs strike a chord of familiarity with most people. We’ve all been through something similar, and he has a way of making you crack a smile even if it’s not such a good memory the song has evoked.”

The Novelists perform at 8 p.m. in the Celebrity Showroom at John Acuaga’s Nugget. Tickets costs $15 in advance. For more information, visit www.thenovelists.com.

Patrolled by Radar performs with The Jayhawks at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $22 to $40. For more information, visit http://re.knittingfactory.com or http://knittingfactorymgmt.tumblr.com/patrolledbyradar.
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