The Brooklyn Horror Noir Trio Night Powers has a new album out, The Hand of The Thief (Mirror Universe), and we caught up with them and asked them a few questions.
I see you refer to your music at Horror Noir? I’ve never heard that before, what are you inspirations for that name?
Rob: For me horror noir means a musical and visual world that is dark, cinematic, mysterious, sexy and frightening but also endowed with a class and grace from an older time … Night Powers is trying to create a complete and complex universe that someone can enter and explore.
Who are some of your influences? I hear Nick Cave in there a bit in the pacing and build of your songs.
Inbar: Thanks for that! Nick Cave is definitely an influence for sure. I’d say that some of our influences are artists like him, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – but a lot of our influences are soundtracks from film and cultural histories. It’s just as much Lotte Lenya and Nino Rota as it is The Cramps and Thee Oh Sees, if that makes sense. There’s even some Martin Denny in there, too. I, for one, was raised singing Jewish tunes, so that was a big influence on me. All Jewish music is sad and moody. I can’t write a song in a major chord!
Rob: Lots of 60s and 70s horror soundtrack stuff for me (Rosemary’s Baby, Eyes Without a Face, Blood on Satan’s Claw), dark surf and garage rock, Suicide’s drones and broken drum machines, plus newer indie stuff like The Black Angels and Sunset Rubdown factors in too. Oh and I love old smoothies like Roy Orbison and Francoise Hardy! I am always working on my croon.
Natalya: Again, I think Rob and Inbar solidified the band’s musical underpinnings before I joined, but I bring some of my own influences in terms of vocal style and lyrical content. I grew up singing classical and operatic repertoire – Puccini is one of my favorites – and I listened to a lot of Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Sarah Mclachlan, Lauryn Hill, and other female singer-songwriter divas, too. I also like Portishead a lot. I think some of that comes across in my higher descant parts, in particular. I was also pretty heavy into theater in my first few year in New York, and that has informed our approach to our live shows.
Is there a narrative built into the album? It seems like the songs titles tell some sort of story?
Natalya: Oh, yes! Bingo – you got it. Our whole album is a riff on Russian folklore about the mythical witch Baba Yaga. We decided to be a bit more forthright about that in our last live show, but usually we’re not so overt about the underlying narrative structure. It’s just there for anyone who cares to investigate.
Inbar: Our music is more about telling a story and setting a mood than about our emotions or our daily lives. There’s definitely music that speaks to emotions lyrically, and I’m not undercutting that. There’s a bit of escapism in our music, so we gave our album a narrative arc. It’s like a soundtrack to an old Russian fairytale that you never knew existed.
Rob: It’s a tragedy, the tale of a thief who ends up in possession of a black magic talisman called The Hand of Glory…which leads him to power and riches but also to a bloody end. I could see it as a graphic novel some day.
What music were you listening to when you were writing these songs? What are you three all time favorite songs?
Natalya: Hmmm, I’m not totally sure what I was listening to when we were writing these songs. Recently, I can’t get enough of Tei Shi. My three all-time favorites? I think probably Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “I Wants to Stay Here” from Porgy and Bess, “Vissi D’Arte” from Tosca (Maria Callas’s recording makes me cry sometimes), and “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” by Jeff Buckley.
Inbar: Rob and I were trading a super long playlist back and forth while starting work on the band. Some horror soundtrack stuff, some garage rock stuff. I think the biggest influence on me as far as the album goes is the Lux & Ivy’s Favorites compilations put together by WFMU. Basically, they took every song that Lux and Ivy from the Cramps ever mentioned in any interview and assembled them into sixteen amazing compilations. I think that’s all I listened to for about three years! But if I had to narrow down my all time favorite top three songs it would be Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Nocturnal Me,” Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand,” and Pulp’s “This is Hardcore.” Though I do need to mention that the Joe Meek produced track from John Leyton “Johnny Remember Me” heavily influenced production of the album.
Rob: These three favorite songs are not particularly related to the music we make in Night Powers (I have had many other musical lives) – Bruce Springsteen “Thunder Road”, The Replacements “Left of the Dial” and Elvis Presley “American Trilogy”. In terms of what I was listening to do while we were making the record for influence and context, I would say “Cat’s Eyes” by Cat’s Eyes, “Experiment in Terror” by Henry Mancini, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by the Shangri-Las, “Monk Time” by The Monks, “I Wrote in Blood” by Still Corners.
I know in your live shows you have a lot of projections from Noir Films, what do you feel is the essence of Noir, and whats’ your interest in it? How does it inspire you?
Natalya: I think the essence of Noir is trying to get away with something and getting caught. There’s a sort of fatalism in it. I think our music has some of that, too. You can sense that things aren’t going to work out for our characters – that everything’s sort of doomed, and there’s a beauty in that, in watching it all coming crashing down.
Rob: Most of our projections are films edited to sync up to our music and the themes in the lyrics. We have used early horror films such as “Vampyr”, “Haxan” and “The Hands of Orlac”, Film Noir such as “Night of the Hunter” and “The Big Combo” and later art films such as “Sátántangó”. We are mining these films to lend a timeless, ancient, otherwordly quality to our music, a feeling of beauty and menace, sex and horror, light and shadow. Also, we are trying to be storytellers rather than just a rock band and the narrative visuals really help us with that.
Where does your name come from?
Inbar: We settled on Night Powers after we realized our original name, Night Paints, was easily misheard. People always thought we were saying “Night Pants” or “Night Pens” or something. But where did Night Paints come from? Well, both Rob and I work at the Department of Transportation, and Night Paints is a unit within the agency that, aptly, paints the lines on the streets after dark. Their name is so badass sounding, and we wanted to pay homage.
Rob: Plus the name gets at that feeling of the dark supernatural we are trying to put forward.
If Night Powers were a Rare Earth Mineral, what would its qualities and where would it be found?
Natalya: Geez, I don’t really know anything about rare earth minerals, but I’d say we’d be gold – does that count? It’s one of our primary colors in terms of costuming and props, and there’s something kind of nostalgic and regal about it. That’s a big part of our aesthetic – conjuring a distant, tragic time and place, and the supernatural world.
Any shows(outside the release show) or tours planned in the future?
NP: No tours right now, but an event with Noise Love on August 28th and possibly something with Hypnocraft coming up in New York City! Plus we are planning a burlesque presentation of our album and the accompanying story.