The Noses don’t blow
I really like this band, but I don’t much care for their name. “The Noses” is a bit standard issue, and it has a sort of unfunny goofball ring to it. But singer-songwriter-guitarist Kyle Lebby points out that the name does have its strengths: “With a name like The Noses, you’re not going to immediately know what kind of band it is.”
Indeed, The Noses aren’t an easy band to pigeonhole. The sound is essentially alt-country, but it’s open-ended. They demonstrate a Neil Young-like adaptability in ranging effortlessly from slow country folk to teeth-stinging grungy rockers. And they can do all the dynamic variations in between those two extremes. They’re at their best with twangy, atmospheric mid-tempo songs. The fact that they can hit all the colors in the spectrum means they can fit in different contexts—from polite coffee shops to seedy biker bars. They appeal to fans of Led Zeppelin and Joni Mitchell as much as to fans of Johnny Cash or Wilco.
Lebby and lead guitarist Shane Rotter are Texas transplants with handsome drawling accents. Bassist Steve Humphrey is from Chico, and drummer Larry Cerio is a veteran of local hard blues bands like the Voodoo Cats. They’ve only been playing together a few short months but have already crafted a solid set of distinctive material.
Songs like “Be Right” are showcases for Lebby’s appealing baritone voice, which is at times reminiscent of Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt fame. But whereas Farrar can tend to sound uptight, Lebby has a playful and soulful croon that sometimes approaches the ethereal heights of Jeff Buckley or the Waterboys’ Mike Scott. The Noses like to use their own PA system because of the distinctive retro reverb effects Lebby uses on his vocals.
In contrast to the laid-back stoner country of songs like “Be Right,” the long, guitar-heavy “Any Day” alternates slow, sludgy minor key atmospherics with foot-stomping instrumental rock-outs. Rotter’s guitar leads have a great distorted twang with a lot of quavery sustained notes drenched in warm distortion, tremolo and reverb.
Cerio gives a solid, hard-hitting backbeat to the heavier material, but he provides just as deft support on country ballads like “Waitin'” and “Won and Done” with swinging beats and fancy brushwork.
Additionally, some songs feature touches of mandolin and harmonica, which augment the Americana sound of the band. The music is quintessentially American and played by guys who clearly know their history. They’re influenced by classic outlaw country but just as likely to cry tears in their beers for Smokey Robinson as for Waylon Jennings.
The prospects are promising. The Noses are relatively young as a band, but their sound promises to mature into something very exciting. The songwriting is interesting, and the gel of musicians and blend of sounds, though not in any way groundbreaking, is unique. However, I still kind of think they should change their name.