Thursday, Dec. 19 — Progressive-pop-rockers Narc Out the Reds, led by songwriter Chris Baratono, dropped a new EP, “Narc Out the Reds … Have Just Enough to Cover Up,” via GTG Records last month. This is the third release from the Lansing-based outfit.
The band’s sound blends glam and Pixies-style alt-rock with a brush of ‘80s new wave. Baratono chatted with City Pulse about the new EP and what it’s like gigging in Lansing these days.
In the past you’ve said your music is “paranoid pop” — do you still feel that’s true?
Why did you ask that? Did someone put you up to it? ... I would say yes. I write pop songs in rock format, I suppose. I guess “paranoid” is just a state of mind or awareness of what it takes for me to be at my best. Some people excel when they are most relaxed. I have to be cornered or chased. I like to think it comes out in the songwriting and sound. We’re sort of an in-betweener type band. We kiss all the rock sub-genres but don’t sleep with any of them.
Why did you pick the “Narc Out the Reds ... Have Just Enough to Cover Up” title?
Well, my idea was to do a trilogy of “helping verb’” EPs that referenced the band name. The first one was “Narc Out the Reds ... Are On the Run,” then of course this one. I’ve picked the title for the third already, but I'm not spoiler-ing it yet. Tying the songs together via a trilogy just seemed right. Plus it’s less pressure than putting out a full length on our meager budget — jabs instead of swings.
When did you start recording the new EP?
We worked in fits and starts and then long lulls throughout 2012 and most of this year. That’s a lot of time for an EP, but recording is expensive and I like to sleep on session output to the point of nausea. Isaac “Ike” Vander Schuur (of local band the Hat Madder, which Baratono also plays in) recorded and mixed the record and kept us in line. He’s a great bullshit detector and I need that sometimes. I have a long history with Ike so a lot of arguing, laughing and drinking happens — wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who all played on the record?
This time around I had a stable band, so no parade of guest spots. John Miller played drums, Ben Southwell guitar, Joshua Siwek on bass and I did my guitar and vocals thing and kept track of baseball scores. All the guys sang backup here and there, including Ike and cohort Nick “The Cinnamon Seagull” Merz. Ike played slide on a tune and Nick cello’d a bit. Also, the enrapturing Ariella Zanoni played keys and sang parts on “Death Of a Summer.”
What sounds influenced this new disc?
I would say the main influences on the new disc come from the music of our collective formative years, which for me was the '80s and '90s. The other guys would be more '90s and '00s. I imagine that if there are contemporary touches on the new EP they are more frosting than cake. It's a somewhat retro sounding and written record.
How is it playing in a band in Lansing these days? Are there enough venues/outlets for local bands?
It all depends on whom you ask. Some will say playing in Lansing sucks and others are fiercely proud of playing here. The most honest answer I can give is that I fall somewhere in between and my exact position moves daily depending on what I had for breakfast. I would say that as far as local, original music is concerned, there are not a ton of listeners who are not already a member of the band scene. It’s hard to have a scene if most of the audience is music makers and not music seekers. It didn’t used to be the case, but access to new music is so easy now. It literally requires no effort. I sound like a salty old bitterpants.
What’s next for the band?
We’ll be releasing a 10-inch vinyl single next year, hopefully sooner than later, but I do dawdle. We had two songs left over from the last sessions and they were both very long songs, 10 minutes each. As a band we feel like they are our favorite tracks we’ve done yet, but putting them on the EP seemed wrong and not very concise. So we’re going to work on them a bit more and put one on each side of 10-inch vinyl at 45 RPM.