Rachel Stolte, half of the songwriting duo behind the Los Angeles-based band Great Northern, swears that after over five years of constant shows and tours, playing live is still what keeps the band most inspired.  “It’s like arrested development,” she says, pausing for dramatic effect, “you get to go out and play and rock every night, and have drinks!”  Though she was singing in a punk band some time before Great Northern, and music partner Solon Bixler had been in bands from 30 Seconds to Mars to Earlimart since around 2000, getting the chance to tour is now something they both appreciate more, rather than less. In fact, constantly sharing the stage with such a variety of bands, from Silversun Pickups to, most recently, The Dears, not only led to their natural growth as musicians, but it got both thinking, “what could we do to make our own sound bigger?”

Their newest album, Remind Me Where the Light is, not only builds on the nuances and chiaroscuro depths of their 2007 debut, Trading Twilight For Daylight, but it reveals Great Northern coming into their own on a much grander scale.  Besides finding and using added range in her voice on Remind Me…, Stolte found a new surge of energy when she decided to start playing the guitar live.  She says, “I love playing guitar.  Since you wear it so close to your body, it’s like a part of you.  The vibrations actually help me sing.”


To help expand their sound at the onset of recording, Stolte and Bixler began working with producer Michael Patterson (Beck, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Puff Daddy, She Wants Revenge). They chose to dive in and lose themselves in the process of creating a second album, unafraid to let Patterson force them to stretch as artists, while exploring new areas of their sound.  Stolte says, “Working with the new producer kicked our asses and definitely helped me to find things in my voice I hadn’t used before.”

Though creative life in the studio was far from easy, some of the duo’s more hair-pulling moments led to some of the most remarkable songs.  Their stellar “Houses” single, in fact, was a song that had nearly been tossed.  “I couldn’t make it work,” Stolte says.  “It was the most frustrating to try to find a melody for it to sing.  We were about to trash it, but I had a down moment, went to the back of the studio and came up with a vocal melody.  They both heard it and immediately said, ‘that’s it!’”  It was quite an example of the light at the end of the tunnel, (which works back ever so nicely to the album title as well).–MVW/live photos by Carrie Alison