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- Posted on Mar 7th 2010 10:45AM by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
The Novas were formed in 1963 as a teenage surf-rock band in Dallas. After gaining regional acclaim playing at clubs, concerts and parties in the Southwest throughout the 1960s, the band broke up – and took a 30-plus-year hiatus. But after coming back together for a special reunion performance in 2005, erstwhile band members David Browne, John Solly and David Dennard, joined by newcomer David Davis, decided to give the Novas a second chance. This March, they'll be playing in SXSW's "Texas Garage Bands" showcase. Spinner spoke with Dennard about jangle pop, high school reunions and Lady Gaga.Describe the Novas' sound in your own words.
The modern term is "jangle pop," which kind of hearkens back to the Byrds and that sparkly, 12-string sound. It's like the Hollies, Tom Petty, Love. There are even many songs from the middle period of the Beatles that were jangly. It's kind of ... a '60s sound.Do you mainly cover others musicians' songs, or do the Novas play any originals?
We do both. We're probably best known for our first single, 'William Junior.' We have an album out ['The Sump'n Else Tapes'] that's a mixture of covers and originals. But since we sometimes have to play for three or four hours, we don't have enough of our own songs, so we play a lot of covers, as well. Just songs from 1960 to 1969, though; we don't do any Lady Gaga. Although I like Lady Gaga.
How did the Novas form originally?
We were all [high school class of] of 1968. I went to a different school (from the other band members), but I was introduced by a classmate of mine who was their original bass player, Mike Mullen. He had been forced to quit because he was also a great football player, and his parents wanted him to focus on that. It was before the Beatles came out; most of us had been playing Beach Boys, classic R&B. I was playing surf music. But once they did, we were like, 'OK, now I get it. I see where we need to go with this." And we started growing our hair long.
How did you come up with your band name?
It existed before I joined the band, but it's been explained to me over the years as having been chosen because a nova in astronomy is an exploding star. I guess that makes sense.
Well, I guess as a band I'd have to say the Beatles, the Byrds, the Hollies, Buffalo Springfield -- stuff that had a lot of harmony to it, that had melody and well-crafted songmanship.
So in a Beatles or Stones debate, you'd pick Beatles?
That's hard for me, because I love the Stones. The Stones are kind of the naughty Beatles. The Beatles didn't have the sort of swagger the Stones had, so personally I'd have to err on the side of the Stones. The rest of the guys would say the Beatles without even thinking about it, though; I'm the outlier here.
I've had to take a lot of flak for liking Lady Gaga. I also like reggae, Indian music and sitar, 1930s blues. All kinds of roots music. And some punk.
What brought the Novas back together so many years later?
It was a funny thing: I run a Yahoo group called the Big D 60s, and it's sort of a clearinghouse for stuff that happened musically in the 60s in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There got to be a growing interest in doing a reunion of some of these bands. So in 2006 we put a show together, and a couple of other bands re-formed temporarily to play that big show. And we had so much fun and it was such a hit, we decided we ought to keep doing this. We don't play clubs that much now; mostly private parties. We're not trying to get signed to a record label or anything at this point.
I don't know if we'd record again. Recording is expensive and it's time-consuming, and I'm not sure what the point would be. We're not trying to promote our band as recording artists anymore. We mainly play parties, so there's not a lot of value in trying to put out new Novas material. That's kind of generally what happens with most old recording artists -- even the new Rolling Stones doesn't sell that well.
I saw your next three gigs after SXSW are high school reunions.
Yeah, we do a lot of that sort of thing.
Golly -- some of them I can talk about and some I can't. The weirdest thing that happened was when I was playing with a band called Gary Myrick and the Figures, and we were on tour with the Ramones. The first show, we did our sound check, we went back to the hotel, and when it came to show time, their British roadies had sabotaged all our gear, changed all the settings on our amps, loosened the pedal on our drum. We sat down to play, and everything just went to s---. It was insane.Another crazy thing: One of our road managers was a real stoner, and he was driving a big van that had all our equipment in it. Well, he hadn't secured the back doors of the van, and they came open. And he went on for miles until he realized our equipment was rolling out of the back of the van.
What's in your festival survival kit?
I think we're just going to hit and run. Some of us will probably drive back to Dallas that night. We don't have much of plan except get onstage, be the best we can be, and get the hell out.
We're really looking forward to it, and really honored to be included. We may not keep doing this much longer. We all have lives; I have kids in college. But it's fun to have a second time around, for a band. We were really pretty famous, locally and regionally, when I was in high school. We were on TV, on the radio; we played clubs and private parties. We were celebrities locally. Usually, that's the end of it. But here we are again. I don't know how we get to have two kisses of the pig, but here we are.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.