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Best of What's Next: Schooner

May 6, 2010  |  6:00am
Best of What's Next: Schooner

Hometown: Carrboro, North Carolina
Album: Duck Kee Sessions (EP)
Band Members: Reid Johnson (guitar, vocals, ukulele, harmonica), Kathryn Johnson (keys), Maria Albani (bass, vocals), Billy Alphin (drums), Chris Badger (keys)
For Fans Of: The New Pornographers, The Love Language, The Magnetic Fields

One night in March, right as the weather is getting warm in North Carolina, Schooner frontman Reid Johnson comes home from his day job to an excited dog and a house full of kittens just born to a recently-rescued mama cat. Speaking on the phone amidst his menagerie, Johnson’s affable voice reveals just a touch of Southern accent on certain syllables, especially when he gushes about the Tri-Cities area he and his band call home. “It’s just as good as anywhere else, creatively,” he says, “and we’ve got mountains and the beach here, too.”

When he sings, that slight twinge becomes a charming twang, lending his often-brooding, occasionally-rocking songs with a decidedly soothing quality. Johnson’s southern-fried Stephin Merritt baritone is one of the only constants in Schooner’s constantly-expanding catalog of material. On the band’s most recent full-length, 2007’s Hold On Too Tight, a vintage-sounding country song (“I Pray For You To Die”) plays back to back with driving punk-folk (“Strange Alibis”) and woozy pop (“Carrboro”); the five tracks of their latest EP, Duck Kee Sessions (available exclusively through Cytunes, with all proceeds going to fighting cancer) alternately features giddy, twinkling xylophone and laid-back, shuffling percussion. “I have my little ADD thing going on,” Johnson explains. “But I don’t really listen to the same music all the time, and that’s not how my brain works either. People are dynamic, I don’t see anything weird about playing a country song followed by a song with a really strong back beat and a little noise happening.”

A while ago, Johnson went though a rough patch with the band and thought about quitting music altogether, but bandmate Maria Albani convinced him to come out of early retirement, and the rest is history. There’s still that day job, though. “I enjoy writing music and I enjoy actually playing music in front of people, and I think I have interesting things to add to the musical community,” he says. “[...] Schooner will keep playing anyway, but if I could get to the point where I’m making a living on just my music, that would be my ideal.”

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