“If you need a ringer on your music-trivia team, he’s your guy,” Brian Weeks boasts of friend and bandmate Robert Rogan. The two have been playing and making music for the better part of two decades and in multiple acts.
“Summer Set, ELF, a Cars cover band called Automobiles with Seth Moody, most recently Feather,” Weeks lists of their collective résumé. “Anybody who has played music with Robert will tell you he is intensely focused. He keeps everyone in line and on time when rehearsing and playing.”
Three years ago the two began another side hustle, De La Noche. At the time, Rogan had garnered a newfound inspiration for songwriting. He also wanted to hone in on an electronic sound. “He was using loops and layers,” Weeks remembers of his first song. Within a few weeks, Rogan’s output was prolific; he wrote 15 or 20 more. Though they booked a show in 2016, the band didn’t play live again and instead got to work on their debut album. “Blue Days, Black Nights” was released a few weeks ago and reviewed with praise—or as much praise as one would expect—from Pitchfork.
Its creation was a nomadic endeavor, so to speak, made in parts in Wilmington and Raleigh, NC, and Portland, Oregon. Thus it took the duo a bit longer to complete than normal. Rogan would turn over “fully formed sketches” of songs to Weeks, who would then shape and arrange them melodically, with guitar, keyboard and programmed drums. Once the tracks were almost complete, they decided to add in sax. Weeks reached out to Matt Douglas in Raleigh, whom he met while on a Rosebuds tour in the early aughts. Douglas, best known for playing with the Mountain Goats, has shared the stage with Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ani Difranco, Tift Merritt, and the Rosebuds.
“We were playing Sade’s ‘Love Deluxe’ front-to-back on that tour,” Weeks recalls. “The Rosebuds had recorded a cover of that whole album. Matt is an excellent sax player and super nice guy . . . Matt recorded his [De La Noche] sax tracks at his house and sent them back to us to mix into the songs [and] did a fantastic job.”
Rogan originally sang vocals on the 11-track album; however, both he and Weeks wanted the sleek and transcendent calm of Rosebuds’ singer Ivan Howard. “Ivan and I have been friends since college and in bands since we were in our early 20s,” Weeks tells. “I heard him singing ‘Let Love Rule’ by Lenny Kravitz in a dormitory stairwell at UNCW and knew I wanted him to sing in my band.”
Post university the two played in Reverse—an outfit influenced by Brit pop bands—before Howard started the Rosebuds. Weeks also played for the dance-y solo project, Howard Ivans
“When Robert and I were working on the vocals for De La Noche’s song ‘Run,’ I sent it to Ivan to see if wanted to sing on it, and within a few days, he sent back his vocals, which sounded amazing,” Weeks says. “He’s just got a killer voice and he had all of these cool harmonies on the tracks. Robert and I knew he should sing on all the songs. Luckily, Ivan agreed.”
With all the parts in place and the record complete (with album artwork by Justin Mitchener of Brand Engine, who also did the encore cover this week), De La Noche is ready to officially kick off their album release on Friday at Bourgie Nights. Ivan Howard will be joining them on vocals, with Rogan and Weeks on guitar, and Chuck Spry of Loose Jets fame on drums. All other accompanying parts will be played on laptops.
“It’s been really interesting to see how people are interpreting the songs,” Rogan tells of the sexy vibe emanating from the sublime synths and poppy rhythms. “Ivan told us something early on: People are going to hear what they hear, and the songs really don’t belong to us anymore once they’re out there. The sound and vibe just came out without any preconceived or conscious intent. It was really just channeling the stuff we heard as kids, like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Sade, etc. At the end of the day, if our music makes anyone even a little happier than they were before they heard it, then I feel good about it.”
While Rogan isn’t one to make long-term plans, he does envision De La Noche evolving beyond its current incarnation. He wants to create music with friends and even grow the collaborations. “Ivan will always feel like part of the lineup,” Rogan assures, “and I hope he will sing some songs again for us in the future because he’s a super good dude with a crazy good set of pipes. But we hope to work mostly as a production team that writes and produces songs that feature other performers on vocals, etc.”
Listen to a playlist curated by Robert Rogan for encore below.