Artist of the day: Old North East
"We all liked Old North East because we all had connections to the area," said guitarist/percussionist Renee Proffitt. "We chose Old North East as opposed to Northeast becasue we just liked it better."
With banjos, harmonicas, melodicas and multiple vocalists, the band plays a poppy breed of indie folk that calls to mind elements of Bright Eyes and the Decemberists.
Click here to listen to Old North East's Better Days. And after the jump, Julie Garisto introduces you to the rest of these St. Pete up-and-comers...
’Burg, represent: Jackson Davis, vocals, guitar, piano, bass, percussions, harmonica, melodica; Renee Proffitt, vocals, guitar and percussion; Brie Smeltz, vocals and piano; Cameron Korb, vocals, bass, guitar and melodica; Tony DeSantis, vocals, drums, guitar, banjo and harmonica.
Obvious questions answered: Are they actually named after the Old Northeast section of St. Petersburg? Yes.
Proffitt: “Yeah, we considered many names, but we all liked Old North East because we all had connections to the area. Cam, Brie, and Jack all grew up there. We were neighbors for years. Cam and Tony live in an apartment downtown currently. We chose Old North East as opposed to Northeast because we just liked it better.”
Old friends: “Well, we’ve all pretty much grown up together,” Proffitt said.
Smeltz: “Me and Cam were neighbors with Jack for years, and we all went to the same church and still do.”
Davis: Tony, Cam and I had our band that was pretty much acoustic and we wanted to try out more of an 'indie rock’ feeling and we knew we had to add some more bodies to make that happen, so Renee and Brie were the obvious choices for us.”
Beyond friendship: “I think we have good chemistry because we all know each other so well,” DeSantis said. “We have arguments and disagreements sometimes, but it seems like we’ve gotten a lot better at working through them and we believe that has made us much stronger as a band. Also, Cam, Tony and Jack played in an acoustic, folk and jam band for a few years before this project and so us three have a lot of experience playing together.”
Folky but fresh: “When we come to practice a new song and all get on our designated instruments we all play our instruments in a way that reflects our individual styles and influences,” Davis said when asked about the band’s vintage but original sound. “When Cam plays the guitar he might have a more bluesy style of playing while Renee might have more of a bluegrass-Southern feel to her way of playing. Make sense? That is what we think keeps it fresh, because every song is going to sound different depending on who is playing what.”
Proffitt: “Another interesting aspect is that we all sing. We have multiple lead singers, and we all do backup vocals, and we all play multiple instruments. Practically every song, we are changing instruments.”
On their song The City That Never Sleeps: “I went to New York over the summer last year,” Davis said. “I was really homesick and missing a lot of things in Florida. Don’t get me wrong — I love New York, but you know how it is. I was so ready to come back, but until I actually got to go back my dreams were the closest I was getting to being home. That’s pretty much the theme of the song I guess.”
Outside music: Korb is a recently graduated computer engineer; DeSantis and Davis are both students with part-time jobs; Proffitt and Smeltz are married with full time jobs.
Hear ’em: At the Truckstop Coffee CD release party at 9 p.m. Saturday, alongside Solia Tera and Gentlemen Please. New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. $6.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo: graceleighphotograph