“When they asked me to sing on ‘Run,’ I originally said ‘You don’t need me, just get Robert,’ admits Howard. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I liked Robert’s voice. But they kept pushing and I figured, it’s just one song.” Of course, it’s rarely just one song. Once Robert heard Ivan’s take, he insisted he sing them all. “It was like somebody said ‘Here’s a CD of Greatest Hits of this genre of music without vocals that no one’s ever heard,” Howard explains. “Surprise! You get to sing them!’” The end result is the trio’s latest collaborative project De La Noche.
The trio’s latest project can trace its origins to Rogan and Weeks’ adopted hometown of Wilmington, NC. During mid-2015, Rogan found himself rudderless. He had gone through a divorce and found that he had a lot of time on his hands — with few distractions. He began playing around and writing material. Feeling isolated, Rogan contacted his pal Weeks to collaborate on material that they wanted to feel closer to the 80s synth pop they’d grown up adoring than the guitar-driven indie rock bands they’ve long played in. Howard found it easy to slip his imitable vocals into the De La Noche material. “I tried to let the music dictate the sentiment of each song and just created a character that could fill all these melodic parts.”
When asked about how De La Noche differs from his other projects, Howard says that ‘with most of my other projects, I’m the one that usually starts the song, travels with it the long road, and grinds it out ’till it’s finished. By the end, even though i love the songs, I still get tired of them — or they take on a different meaning from the struggles I was going through at the time. With the De La Noche, I just came in 2/3 of the way there. The songs were already written, and Matt Douglas of The Mountain Goats fame had already played his guest sax licks all over it. All I did was just sing them with my slant.” Coincidentally, that slight bit of emotional distance from the material reportedly allowed Howard to take a far more adventurous approach to his vocal delivery.
De La Noche’s full-length debut Blue Days, Black Nights is slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Get Loud Recordings, and the album’s first single is the slinky album opener “Avenues.” Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, brooding and mournful sax and Howard’s breathily plaintive vocals, the track strikes me as one part Quiet Storm R&B and one part Manifesto and Avalon-era Roxy Music. And in fact, much like Roxy Music’s legendary work, the sultry track is imbued with an aching loneliness. “I wrote (“Avenues”) about the morning my divorce was finalized,” the band’s Rogan explains in press notes. “Walking from the courthouse to meet Brian for coffee in downtown Wilmington. That was the one that really set the tone for the record.”