Born and bred Southerner Tres Altman was reared in NC and spent many summers in Wrightsville Beach. Though the lead singer and guitarist for The Paper Stars headed west to Boulder, Colorado, for a stint, he’s landed back on the East Coast—and has revitalized his band and their sound in a new EP release, set to come out this weekend.
“I started out as a drummer who just couldn’t seem to stop picking up guitars and writing songs sometime around high school,” Altman tells encore. “I put my first band together in eighth grade so it’s kinda been a mission since.
Altman founded The Paper Stars in 2005 and self-released three albums, “The Paper Stars” (2007), “Under the Sun” (2013) and “Border Country” (2014). While the majority of his music has been acoustically enchanting, with a clear folk oeuvre, Altman has gone electric on the five-song EP, “The North Star Sessions, Vol. 1.” It will be released at The Paper Stars’ show at Palate Bottle Shop and Reserve (1007 N. Fourth St.) on Oct. 17.
“With that I’m thinking and writing in a more ‘electric’ way,” he tells. “I’m also reconnecting with my fabled ‘Southern roots.’ I’m thinking now there really is something to that. I’m feeling into my ancestry and the stories embedded in this landscape. It’s deep. And its full of soul.”
Produced at North Star Post and Sound, with engineering and mixing by Brandon Hackler (and mastered by Tom Waltz), “The North Star Sessions, Vol. 1.” came together rather effortlessly for the current lineup: Altman (guitar/vocals), Kevin Rhodes (drums/keys/vocals), Coleman Corzine (bass), and Michael Del Signore (guitar/vocals). Mike Rayle also contributed to a few tracks on organ. The group went into the studio and tracked the instrumentals in only one session. “Tres cut vocals the next day and that was it—quick and easy,” drummer Rhodes says.
Rhodes—who’s played in numerous local acts, including Velvet, Mosquito Mite, Lamont Skylark, and Marching Rams—met Altman when he sat in during an Onward Soldiers project, Rhodes’ last band. They were doing an open call for a group singer.
“I think [it was for] ‘Cry’ from the second Onward record,” Rhodes recalls. “I noticed Tres had a great voice. He looked into my eyes, and we fell in love right then and there.”
The two began to play together over the last few years and randomly met their bassist, Coleman, at a local show, which led to a few jam sessions. “Michael’s (guitarist) girlfriend was Tres’ little boy’s nanny, and so that’s how we hooked up with him,” Rhodes says. “Dumb luck.”
“The North Star Sessions, Vol. 1” is a mark in a different direction for Rhodes’ and Altman’s normal Americana/alt-country sound. The EP treads into blues riffs, cadences and rhythms ingrained in the Deep South, with an electrical current of raw rock and penetrating vitality. Rhodes admits they tipped their (high) hats to pioneers like Leadbelly and Lightning Hopkins.
“We just banged around for a while and this is what came out,” Rhodes says.
“Geography and movement certainly influence the songs,” Altman tells of recording back in the South. “What comes out is a direct reflection of what’s coming in. . . . Inspiration comes from every angle but most importantly from the people with which you make the music.”
However, the five tracks on the EP all sound modernized, with a sexy grittiness that’s polished in its rotundity. And it’s all catchy, from the European-sounding staccatic gallop in “Latcho Drom” to the soft lullaby stillness apparent in “Too Soon.” Yet “Call Out My Name” mystifies and hypnotizes in the heaviness of a man baring his heart.
“The song that came most easily was the first track on the album – ‘Call Out My Name,'” Altman notes. “It basically just wrote itself.”
No doubt, it will draw comparisons to blues rockers on the circuit currently, including The Black Keys. Quite frankly, that’s not a bad thing.
Though The Paper Stars have no plans to tour on a large scale, they want to continue recording and making music together—which, essentially means “The North Stars Sessions, Vol. 2″hopefully will be on its way, too. Until then, catch their “Vol. 1” release this Saturday at 4 p.m.
“Palate just built a bigger stage in the beer garden, and I’m pumped that we are doing day shows,” say Rhodes, who’s part owner of the bottle shop. “Kids of all ages can freak out and enjoy the music.”