The Northstar Session succeeds sans label

by Allie Daugherty

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courtesy of the northstar session

courtesy of the northstar session

Scoring a record deal used to be what bands in garages across the world dreamed of. But now, becoming recognized and being able to tour nationally is a dream many unsigned bands have already realized.

The Los Angeles-based trio The Northstar Session is an example of this trend. The band has already achieved its fair share of successes despite being completely independent of any record label.

“I could talk about how we’ve been able to record three albums and two EPs in just less than four years, how we’ve been touring nearly three weeks out of every month for the last two years, and all the while haven’t lost a cent,” Dave Basaraba, keyboardist and accordion player for the band, said. “But perhaps our greatest success is that we’ve been able to do all of this without the backing of a record label, and still pay our rent — yes, I said we’re touring around the country and still paying our bills with only our music in 2011. There’s a lot to be said for being independent in today’s music business.”

The fans benefit from an independent band as well. San Diego resident and avid concert-goer Courtney Rogin said the best thing about independent bands is the inexpensive prices because there’s no big corporation looking to make a profit.

“Usually, the CDs are much less expensive, and you know the money being spent is going directly to the band,” she said. “The shirts are also either more unique or better quality because the bands are paying to get them made themselves.”

Basaraba recognizes this and knows the music industry has changed. He, along with fellow band mates Matt Szlachetka (guitar, vocals) and Kane McGee (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals), is taking advantage of it.

“We also differ from a lot of bands out there in the way we approach success,” Basaraba said. “We are not looking for overnight fame, or the hit single that most bands spend all their time grasping at.”

“It’s our passion for music and performing for people first,” Szlachetka added. “But we also understand that our goal is really to reach as many people as possible with our music, and the harder we work at keeping this project on the road, the easier it will be to accomplish that goal.”

This approach has earned The Northstar Session rave reviews for its latest album “Late Bloomer,” which the San Diego Troubadour said “shows an expanded palette of pop-rock ideas at work. The level of polish and craft in the 10 tunes continues to impress with crisp harmonies, arrangements that enhance the songs and smooth musicianship.”

The success of this album, and the talent within it, also netted the group a spot on the NBC show “Parenthood” this fall, even though the band had no corporate support or connections pushing for the extra publicity. But despite the victories the boys have had on their own, they know they can’t do it forever. Still, they continue to enjoy what they have now.

“We realize there is a time and place for a band to actually need the size and relative efficiency of the ‘machine,’” Basaraba said. “We know that at some point our style of marketing and advertising will no longer match what is needed … we realize that three guys cannot do everything forever. But for now, we are a fledgling company, with the decision-making authority as well as the creative authority being split between the three of us, and we like it this way.”

Basaraba said the group’s success likely stems from the fact the three treat the band as a business that allows them to make art; not the other way around, something he said most other bands neglect.

“If they don’t treat their work like a business, they better be the greatest band in the world, or have a truckload of luck coming their way,” Basaraba said. “That’s not to say that the latter doesn’t happen, but in the somewhat flooded music market these days, we’re just being realistic.”

Basaraba and his bandmates are also seeking a strong business foundation for the future.

“We’re looking for a career that builds over time, with quality that consistently grows, and a fan base that becomes a part of us as we grow,” he said. “All I’m saying is that we work so hard in rehearsals, writing songs and recording them, that we feel it’s only right that we work just as hard on the business side building and cultivating the brand.”

Fans can see Basaraba and The Northstar Session doing just that this month as they tour throughout California.

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