Now arriving as seasoned veterans, the bands will hold a dual album release party at Cat’s Cradle tomorrow.
Neither band had a desire for fame and both started as friends who simply enjoyed playing music together.
“We’d get together every afternoon and just play music,” said Kirk Ross, guitarist and songwriter for LUD.
Ross said LUD first began when he moved to Chapel Hill in 1985 and would have improvisational jam sessions. John Harrison, songwriter and guitarist for North Elementary, said his band began in Carrboro around 2003.
“I had songs and I wanted to start playing them with people,” Harrison said. “A lot of my friends are musicians and we just started playing.”
“John is fun to work with,” said Reid Johnson, who runs Potluck Records with Harrison, and is in the band Schooner. “He is smart about it, but once it starts flowing, he lets it flow. There’s something really brilliant to that.”
Personnel changes have been consistent for both bands through their long careers, but two things survive: a passionate frontman and the idea that music is meant to be played for fun. This fundamental value is what has kept the bands local. They are honest to themselves and to their fans.
“If we had to go through two stoplights, it was a road gig,” Ross said. “We had a good time playing and being homebodies at the same time. I’ve watched a lot of people hit it hard and burn out each other and burn out on the sacrifice.”
“It’s much more than just: here’s a band, we have a record, we got to go out and sell tons of records and become famous or whatever,” Harrison said. “It’s a little bit of a family.”
Harrison said his “family” takes turns cooking dinner for each other every time they practice.
Both LUD and North Elementary may be stationary, but the band’s music is constantly evolving. Harrison and Ross said their new records focus on creating a more live sound than past albums.
North Elementary’s Honcho Poncho is an upbeat, straightforward and fun record, Harrison said.
“We wanted to know what we sound like without adding a bunch of extra things,” Harrison said. “This was the most raw, stripped down, straightforward record we’ve ever done.”
By contrast, Ross said LUD’s new album Defenestration Boulevard is folk music with a big, rock sound. He said all the guitars, bass and drums were cut live at the same time in a big garage to sound less processed.
“A lot of the songs are personal stories of different people,” Ross said. “They are generally fictional characters inspired by different collections of individuals. A lot of the songs are very song-songs, songs like songs, very songish.”
Both Ross and Harrison spoke highly of each other’s collaborative efforts within the local music scene. Last year, Harrison even filled in for a couple shows as LUD’s drummer.
“You start having a kinship with people who make original style rock ‘n’ roll. I like to surround myself with creative people and he’s one of them,” Harrison said.
Neither would mention the influence they have on local music.
“(Harrison) is super important,” Johnson said. “He knows everybody. He’s been encouraging of all sorts of different stuff. He’s a very influential part of the scene here.”
Cat’s Cradle is an appropriate venue as it can be a metaphor for two bands, long lasting and consistent. It also stands as a testament to the resilience of the local music scene.
“When we get going, it will really just knock you on the floor,” Ross said.