Northstate, the new duo of North Carolina natives Marcus Kiser and Brent Lain, is Southern roots country with the radio-ready hooks of Nineties rock. And it's irresistible. Although raised on the standard Southern template of Johnny Cash (“He sounds like my grandfather,” says Marcus) and Christian music, it’s a more rock-forward type of music that bonds and inspires them.
“I remember in middle school I started watching MTV,” says Brent. “Nineties rock was just so good. That’s when I was exposed to Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, all these bands that had a big influence on me.”
And just like those rock groups (and country legends, too), they cut their teeth in bars, earning fans one at a time and doing it all on their own—and in their own no-shortcuts way.
Instead of pandering to hard-to-impress elite audiences, playing “it” bars, and making high-brow connections and shaking label suits' hands, Northstate have paid their dues playing small clubs, opening for bands that would one day become their peers, from the Cadillac Three to Old Dominion.
Their debut EP 13 Bridges solidifies their from bars-to-stars status. Lead single “Lookin’ At You” is a radio-ready track about the inability to look away frm a lover no matter what distractions may arise. On the equally accessible “Back Pocket,” Marcus pays up-tempo tribute to a concert date whose hip-shaking dance moves make it impossible to pay attention to the show. Elsewhere, the muscular “Pontiac” affords Brent the chance to stretch out on guitar, spreading his wings on the Southern rock-tinted jam, while Marcus verbally struts his way through the lyrics, which tell a different tale than most country songs: a down-on-his luck protagonist trades in his truck for a Pontiac sedan and finds his life turning around.
The 13 Bridges EP is pure country – and pure Northstate. That's by design. “Going through changes in the band, the biggest thing we’ve learned is that you’ve got to be true to yourself, because that’s the easiest story to tell,” says Brent. “You cannot be something you’re not.
“It’s a snapshot to who we are. We’re loud. We’re country. We’re rock,” says Marcus. “There’s gonna people that don’t like what we do, there’s going to be people who don’t connect with our music or who we are as people, but this is a snapshot for the people who get it. As a musician, that’s all you can ask for.”