Leading up to the highly anticipated Day for Night festival, Rodney Connell and Brandon Duhon are quite excited their future-wave project Night Drive is on the bill. Getting to say they played a festival alongside Aphex Twin, Björk, Run the Jewels, John Carpenter, S U R V I V E and Squarepusher will be major bragging rights. Aesthetically, out of all the festivals they have played before, this is perfect for what Night Drive does. And this festival will be in an area they know very well.
For both Connell and Duhon, it's a big hometown show, to an extent. Duhon grew up in New Orleans and currently resides in Houston, while Connell lives in Austin, but grew up in Spring. Connell freely admits growing up in the suburbs north of Houston was not the ideal situation for him in terms of what interests him. "It wasn't until after I graduated [high school] and went off to school, you kind of see the world in your own eyes a little more," he says. Finding a footing in Austin, he realized the bubble world he grew up in kept him away from stuff that he now finds exciting. Coming back to visit Houston, he finds a lot of value in venues in the Heights and around downtown Houston.
For Duhon, he did not get into playing music until after he graduated college for painting and visual arts. Randomly at a party one night, he agreed to play drums in a jazz band. "A group of my friends played in a jazz band," he says. "I wasn't really into jazz, but I played in a band with them because it was my friends. After that, I realized music was something I was really into."
Putting up a classified ad on Space City Rock with the words "musician who wants to play in a band that sounds like My Bloody Valentine," he found some bandmates through there, but eventually he encountered Connell in Austin and they talked about collaborating.
Connell can't remember exactly where the two met, but they realized they had instant musical chemistry. Both had been chief songwriters in their respective bands, which was a very helpful way to find Night Drive's sound. "It came up organically," Connell says. "Neither of us had really planned on it." They were motivated to make some music even though they live three hours away from each other. "In the beginning, you don't know what to do with this stuff," Connell says. "There was no goal," Duhon adds.
Night Drive is a simple setup: Connell sings lead while Duhon sings harmony and plays keyboards and samplers. The resulting sound, as found on their singles, is highly danceable and very engaging. Harkening back to '80s synth-pop hits from New Order, Depeche Mode and Erasure, their songs don't overstay their welcome by going too long or get boringly redundant. "I like the pop-song structure, as it distills the most potent parts of a song," Duhon says. "In the same way that Philip K. Dick did short stories. [He] took the novel and slimmed it down into a short story."
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Since Duhon's first forays into writing electronic music were 30 seconds long and Connell's previous band had seven-minute songs, they found a good intersection with what they wanted in Night Drive. "I think we get bored quickly," Connell says. "If a song's five minutes long, we're like, 'We've got to figure this out.'"
Even though they live in different parts of the state, that hasn't stopped them from touring a lot. They've played many shows in Houston, Austin and Dallas as well as New York, the Midwest and the West Coast.
Along the way, they have opened for CHVRCHES, YACHT, Nervous Curtains and the Psychedelic Furs. They've spent the past year working on their self-titled debut album, which will be released in February 2017. Spin premiered their excellent new tune "Rise and Fall" recently, and the group hopes to do even more touring for it. "We plan on touring the shit out of it, honestly," Connell says. "Our plan for next year is to go far and wide as much as we can."
Night Drive performs at 7:50 p.m. Sunday, December 18 on Day For Night's Yellow Stage. See dayfornight.io for details.