Nocona is one of the most promising frontrunners of the Americana revival scene as of late. An amalgam of country, alternative, psychedelic and roots rock, the LA-based quartet has played to audiences ranging from Bonnaroo to bars in Lubbock to Indio’s Stagecoach Festival. A most intriguing addition to the folks playing the festivals this summer, Moxipop spoke to lead guitarist and vocalist Chris Isom about the band and its place in the realm of this ethereal thing we call alt-country.
Mxp: Nocona isn’t easily pigeonholed into alt-county or rock. How would you describe your sound?
Isom: I think our music is outside the mainstream, but we’re basically a rock n roll band. I just feel like that term casts an incredibly wide net. We have tons of country, Americana, psychedelic, punk and garage rock influences but I don’t think we are really “alt” any particular genre, although we are an “alternative” to most popular music I hear.
Mxp: What current or past artists have influenced your sound? Is there a particular genre that’s informed Nocona over another?
Isom: I think psychedelic, traditional country and garage rock have all left their marks. Artists like The 13th Floor Elevators, Can, Love, The Sonics, The Flying Burrito Bros, Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Three were huge influences on me growing up and I guess they continue to be.
Mxp: The band played at Stagecoach earlier this year, a festival that seems to garner a fairly specific audience. Do you feel your music, in some vein, lends itself easily to the same circles of listeners as Nicki Bluhm or Trampled By Turtles?
Isom: I hope some of their listeners might enjoy our music. We are different, but we had a great time sharing a bill with Nicki in Broke Down In Bakersfield at the Independent in San Fran and were even lucky enough to get Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz to sit in on pedal steel on two songs. We would love to share bills with either one of those artists.
Mxp: Having played Bonnaroo, Stagecoach, and other festivals, how does it feel with the upcoming date at Outside Lands considering the enormous hype it’s received this year?
Isom: We are over the moon about being on the Outside Lands schedule and can’t wait for that gig!
Mxp: A concurrent theme with a majority of the festivals this year seems to be a proliferation of Americana-rock and alt-country acts. Can you speak to that at all? Do you think there’s a reason those genres have dominated the lineups lately?
Isom: I have no idea, we’re just trying to write, record and perform the best music we know how to and hope people like it. We have heavy southern roots so the country and americana is there with us, but I can’t speak to how it is with other bands or what musical trends there are regarding that.
Mxp: The first album purports themes of frenzied wanderlust, American landscapes and nearly oppressive melancholia. What themes can we expect from your upcoming album?
Isom: I suppose we are carrying on in much the same way on this record, but the songs are better developed and have more complex themes. A number of the songs on the new record are stretching out into some sonic areas that maybe we only touched on or didn’t go to at all on the first one.
Mxp: There always seems to be a brand of “storytelling” that people assume goes hand in glove with alt-country and Americana-rock. Do you find a lot of Nocona’s music is storytelling or is that too arbitrary a term to label your songs?
Isom: I guess all songs are stories on some level, they all need some form of narrative arc, but I feel our songs run a bit more abstract thematically than a lot of what people might call alt-country and Americana-rock.
Mxp: What contemporary bands do you hold in high regards? Are there any you’re looking forward to sharing a bill with at future dates?
Isom: I like a lot of contemporary bands but I don’t listen to a ton of them. Some artists off the top of my head I’d enjoy sharing a bill with would be The Sadies, Calexico, Kurt Vile or the Flaming Lips, but there are so many.
Mxp: Any final words for the folks coming out to see your shows?
Isom: Get ready for one hell of a show!
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.