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Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Austin, Texas, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band R&B Soul


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Nightowls Ahead of Schedule with ACL Fest Gig"

Ryan Harkrider wasn’t expecting the moon when he wrote to local concert promoter C3 Presents to ask about a gig on the indoor stage at Stubb’s, where his band the Nightowls has played several times over the past year or two. So imagine his surprise when he ended up on the bill for C3’s marquee event, the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
“I had emailed, saying, ‘Hey, we want to do another show at Stubb’s, can you please please let us in?’ And they said, ‘Sure, how about you play ACL, too?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”

+Blackstock: Nightowls ahead of schedule with ACL Fest gig photo NICOLA GELL
The Nightowls celebrate the release of a new EP on Friday at Stubb’s.
It was a very nice surprise for the 10-piece Austin soul revue, though not entirely out of the blue given the dues the Nightowls have paid since forming in 2011. After building a devoted local fan base playing early week residency gigs at South Lamar hangouts the Highball and One-2-One Bar and Rainey Street indoor/outdoor bar Icenhauer’s, the band put out a record last year with the express purpose of raising the stakes.

“When we made the album in August, that’s essentially when we signed on and hired McGuckin (a local public relations firm) to work for us,” Harkrider says. “And our specific goals were: We want to play Blues on the Green, we want to play ACL. Let’s do that in two years.”

They realized both goals a year ahead of schedule, playing KGSR’s popular Blues on the Green series in Zilker Park this past July as a prelude to next month’s ACL gig. They’ll play Oct. 11 at noon on the Austin Ventures stage, following Riders Against the Storm in a one-two punch that should kick off the fest’s final Saturday with a prime local flair.

“Good As Gold,” the album the Nightowls released last December, brought fresh focus to a band that had established itself as a worthy pairing with the local cover act Matchmaker at the “Motown Monday” series, which recently returned to the reopened Highball after an extended stay at the One-2-One Bar.

Like Matchmaker, the Nightowls are adept at churning out entertaining versions of Motown classics. This past Sunday at Icenhauer’s, the back patio was filled with patrons basking in the sun and snacking on free chicken and waffles as singers Harkrider and Tara Williamson and seven backing musicians ran through hits such as “Heat Wave,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

But “Good As Gold” proved the group is fully capable of bringing its own original material to the fore. Renowned local jazz guitarist Jake Langley helped the Nightowls craft nine songs that represent their stylistic range as well as their tight professionalism with arrangements and production.

Four more cuts that didn’t make it onto the album have been gathered on a follow-up EP, “Good As Gold B-Sides,” which receives a formal release party this Friday at Stubb’s. Among the highlights is “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave,” a song Harkrider wrote five years ago for an Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau contest. Harkrider’s tune ended up winning the contest and was adopted as the bureau’s official theme song for the city.

“I traveled all over the U.S. with the bureau,” Harkrider says, recounting trips to locales including Chicago and Alaska. “Sometimes when they’re bidding on a convention for Austin, they’ll send me as an Austin ambassador to go sing this song.”

Lyrically it’s a pretty simple tune, and not overly specific to Austin; other than brief references to the Hill Country and Congress Avenue, it could probably be adapted for other cities. Musically, though, it’s an instantly likable and memorable number, one that seemed ripe for revisiting beyond the initial recording Harkrider made in 2009.

An Austin native, Harkrider finished up a music degree at the University of Texas that year and was recording his solo debut, “Days Like This.” But he’s learned a lot since then, and that experience is brought to bear on the new version of “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave,” which streamlines some of the verses and punches up the instrumentation with a more sophisticated touch.

The first recording “was part of my first attempt at making a record as myself,” says Harkrider, who gigged around town in high school and early college with the band Hallow. “The learning curve was very high at that point. I feel like, five years later, I have a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t. And I’ve got a better band.”

Harkrider refers to guitarist Amos Traystman, also a principle in Matchmaker, as “my right hand man” and a key player in planning the group’s business affairs in addition to his onstage contributions. Bassist Rob Alton, a graduate of Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, is the band’s musical director.

At the fore vocally along with Harkrider are Williamson, a recent West Coast transplant, and Harkrider’s wife, Ellie Carroll. Drummer Ben Petree and keyboardist Oscar Interiano fill out the back line, with Austin scene veteran Sweney Tidball sometimes filling in for Interiano on keys.

Out front with the vocalists are the “Fresh 2 Def Horns” – Javier Stuppard on trombone, Michael Rey on trumpet and Joseph Serrato on saxophone. (Williamson’s husband, Justin Smith, sometimes fills in on trumpet.)

Though the band celebrates the new EP at Stubb’s this Friday, Harkrider is already excited about a new recording the band made last month at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where much of the iconic soul music that has influenced the Nightowls was made in the 1960s and ’70s.

“We wanted to make a pilgrimage to one of the birthplaces of Southern soul music,” Harkrider says, noting that they enlisted house studio greats including Spooner Oldham and David Hood to play on the sessions. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to write something on the fly, be inspired by the history of the studio, and allow that inspiration to come out creatively.

“And it was terrifying!” he adds with a laugh. “But we’re really proud of it. I think that it’s going to be something special. We definitely want to reach a bigger audience with this thing. It ties into the history of soul music for the last 50 years, so there’s definitely a wider appeal for it.” - The Austin American-Statesman

"The Nightowls Feature Article"

Screenwriter William Goldman’s famous dictum about Hollywood— “Nobody knows anything”—applies in spades to the music business, and success therein, circa 2014. What does “success” mean to an Austin musician these days, anyway? Giving up the day job? Headlining on the Austin Ventures Stage at the ACL Music Festival? Seeing your new single in heavy rotation on KGSR? Reigning as most-blogged-about at South By Southwest? Or maybe success means something as simple and satisfying as taking your shiny nine-piece band out for a spin on an unseasonably balmy and sun-drenched Sunday afternoon in January.
That’s where we find the Nightowls, holding down a weekend residency at Icenhauer’s, in the heart of the Rainey Street District. They’re crammed on the tiny outdoor stage, the keyboard almost poking in to the neighbor’s yard, the horn players swiveling in tight lockstep, the singers practically sitting in the laps of the throng of hipsters sipping Lone Star tallboys and fruit jars full of sangria.
Though they have a new CD of original material, Good As Gold, under their belt, on this day, the Nightowls are leaning heavily on the Motown/Stax-Volt soul music canon: Martha and the Vandellas’ Nowhere To Run; Fontella Bass’ one-hit wonder, Rescue Me; Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man and—for a giggling cohort of tipsy girls out for a bachelorette party—a leering version of Marvin Gaye’s belly-rubbing anthem, Let’s Get It On.
Though they’ve only been together a little more than two years, the band is tight, the horns vamping on cue, the rhythm section nailing down the bottom. And the slightly built vocalist at front and center is bringing it home with wounded fervor on a song from the new album: “I woke up this morning on the wrong side of the bed. Just gonna be one of those days.”
The singer is named Ryan Harkrider and, along with his musical and business partner, guitarist Amos Traystman, he assembled the Nightowls in 2011. With their tight-knit sax, trumpet and trombone brass section, their call-and-response female vocalists—one of whom, Ellie Carroll, is Harkrider’s wife—and their overriding affection for the lyrical joys and sorrows of classic R&B, the band fits nicely in to the timeless yet freshly fashionable fusion of pop, funk and soul popularized by the likes of Sharon Jones, John Legend and Adele, as well as locally, to greater and lesser extents, Nakia, T-Bird & the Breaks and Akina Adderley.
Good As Gold was produced by Jake Langley, whose production credits include Roberta Flack and Bobby “Blue” Bland, and was released in December on the band’s own label. Texas Music Magazine called the album “a smooth, addictive blend of pop, R&B and funk. … The sound is contemporary/vintage, resembling music of a bygone era yet somehow feeling fresh and exciting.”
Now the question becomes: How the hell do you let people know about it? There are the band’s own gigs, of course—20 or so a month in Austin and cities throughout Texas. The 20th century dinosaur standbys of newspapers, magazines and commercial radio still exist in uneasy juxtaposition to social media like Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Buzzfeed. And there is satellite radio, along with online music services like iTunes, Spotify and Pandora.
Plus, roughly a jillion music blogs and websites, not including the band’s own. It’s exhausting and a little dispiriting. There’s never been more music at the fingertips of consumers and it’s never been harder for a musician or a band to break through the static. If standing out is the first imperative of making a successful career, how do you stand out?
“Good question! I have no idea,” says Harkrider.
It’s a few days later and Harkrider is sitting in the foyer of his publicist’s office. Good question or no, it’s clear that, despite his disclaimer, he’s given the matter a lot of thought.
“Being a dance band, we try to put on great shows and try to promote the album. That, for us, has been the best thing. We like to connect with people, and if we can get them out of their seats and moving, they can connect with us as a band, and that will connect them with our album,” Harkrider says.
“We work hard on the shows. Getting them there is one thing, but if you can’t get them there and impress them, it’s kind of all in vain,” Traystman adds.
That’s the classic old-school work ethic talking, but in the meantime, the band utilizes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well, not just to promote their gigs and music but, as Harkrider stresses, to create a personal connection. For instance, on a recent road trip to Houston, the band made a stop at Hruška’s, the beloved gas station and kolache emporium on Highway 71. They posted a photo of the joint on Instagram and fans responded.
“It’s a story,” Harkrider says. “Not only the story that the Nightowls are going to Houston to play a show, which is the information we want to convey, but also we want people to say, ‘I know that place! I love the kolaches!’ They can envision us driving in the van, listening to music, spotting the sign. … We want to create a narrative. There’s nine of us, so we try to have real stories.”
Spreading the band’s stories is a job for a publicist.
“We have to have a band that’s out there already playing and building their fan base before we can work with them. Bringing fans are the key. If they’ve got the wheel moving, we can grow that,” says Jill McGuckin, the founder of Austin-based McGuckin Entertainment PR.
In addition to the Nightowls, the company has worked with Patricia Vonne, Reckless Kelly, Ruby Jane, the Greencards and others.
“The one thing that sticks out for me with the Nightowls is that they ’re not afraid to work hard, and Ryan is very dedicated to making the band successful,” says Publicist Heidi Labensart, McGuckin’s associate. “The challenge for us is to find the right outlets to promote the band.”
McGuckin and Labensart are constantly vetting regional and national media outlets to track which are legitimate news purveyors and which are just piggybacking on other social-media feeds.
“A lot of media are lurkers,” McGuckin says. “They pick up as much from Twitter and Facebook as they do [from original sources].”
“Jill and Heidi have helped us because they can have an outsider’s point of view of the band,” Harkrider says. “They have helped us see what it is and what’s actually going on and getting those CDs to the right people who can help.”
Those people who can help naturally include radio station music directors. Radio, whether online, via satellite or over the airwaves, still has an important role to play in an artist’s development, says Jeff McCord, music director at KUTX.
“The vast majority of listeners get their new music from radio, although that’s something we worry about with the younger demographic,” McCord says. “All we can do is counteract the reality that people have millions of pieces of music at their fingertips. Spotify has millions of songs, but if you don’t know where to go. … That’s where we feel we have the leg up. We spend a lot of time curating.”
McCord, like every other music director, is inundated with submissions every day.
“There’s not enough time in the world to listen to everything,” he acknowledges.
So he winnows the field in timeproven, old-fashioned ways: He talks to friends and peers whose opinions he respects. He reads the trades and keeps up with relevant websites like Pitchfork. He peruses articles people send him about trending bands (“If something’s going crazy, you hear about it,” he says.). He talks to folks at parties and in the clubs.
“I cobble all those things together and do the best I can to keep up,” he says with a rueful chuckle. “I’m not on social media all the time, but if something goes viral, somebody tends to talk to me about it. Or, I hear about it from my son.”
Musicians are sometimes their own worst enemies, he notes.
“I have to go after bands I’ve heard about, but they haven’t sent the station anything. Radio’s not on their radar, or barely so,” McCord says.
That’s not a mistake the Nightowls are apt to make.
“We have a very grassroots, DIY approach to radio and press,” Harkrider says. “We’re always walking it around, trying to make good contacts wherever we play. We work with the club owner: Who do you talk with? Who do you work with? Who can we give this to? We want to help you help us promote the show.”
How do you make an impression on a club owner or a booking agent?
“A band’s ability to promote, and how much effort they put in to their own shows goes a long way,” says Kristyn Ciani.
She should know. As a talent buyer for Austin entertainment giant C3 Presents, she booked the Nightowls at Stubb’s for the first time.
“Some artists don’t do much more than list a show on their blog or web page. Others take it to the next level. They’re out there on the streets with flyers and posters, they’re doing Facebook campaigns and getting their fans involved and engaged,” Ciani says. “They’re trying to work the press and the radio. Something good will eventually happen.”
pg50-owls6Where the Nightowls were concerned, Ciani was impressed by their sharp-looking live show (“a tight, fun sound,” she says.) and an evident willingness to put in the effort to sell that show. Harkrider acknowledged—with humor—that, like Goldman’s Hollywood, no one knows anything when it comes to knowing absolutely what works and what doesn’t . When a reporter pointed out facetiously that he knows as much about what succeeds as, say, the president of Sony Music, the Nightowls frontman responded, “Yeah, you know as much as he does and as little as he does. It’s empowering and terrifying, both.”
Harkrider, like most of his peers, came of age in a different cultural universe, when MTV still played music videos, the local record store was the place to hang out, cell phones were just phones, not media hubs, and hit singles on the radio ruled the roost. An Austin native, the 28-yearold singer grew up in a musical environment. His parents were both church choir directors and he studied music, vocal performance and composition at the University of Texas. He started writing songs halfway through college.
Ironically, for an Austin musician, Harkrider missed some of the pivotal years of South By Southwest because the acapella group he performed with in college went on the road every spring break. He began his musical career as an Americana-style singer-songwriter and, indeed, he has a solo album in the can, but soul music had beckoned ever since he got a copy of the Jackson 5 Ultimate Collection album as a kid.
“Not only does singing soul music pair you with these fabulous musicians, but you learn firsthand how those songs are constructed and what works and what doesn’t, as far as song structure,” he says.
Harkrider and Traystman polished their soul music chops with the Matchmaker Band, an ensemble that runs on a parallel track with the Nightowls. The Matchmaker Band is an all-covers 10-piece group that plays mostly weddings and private parties. Harkrider and Traystman perform with both groups, although the Nightowls is a forum for original material, penned mostly by Harkrider, with arrangements by the band, versus the Matchmakers’ all-the-hits catalog.
“The approaches to the two bands are different, but the mindsets we have in terms of infrastructure are very similar,” Traystman says. “Everybody has different strengths. Ryan and I are more on the administrative/ visionary side.”
“Moving from the cover-band world to the indie/ original material world has been “a learning curve,” Traystman adds. “The biggest thing we have to set ourselves apart is that we’ve found a niche, stylistically. We want to put our own take on things but not compromise what makes that classic music so great.”
In addition to Harkrider and Traystman, the Nightowls also include vocalists Tara Williamson and Ellie Carroll, horn men Justin Smith, Jonathan McNutt and Javier Stuppard, bassist Rob Alton, drummer Ben Petree and Oscar Interiano on keyboards. Now, with their CD out and word-of-mouth spreading, Harkrider can focus on the next rungs on the ladder.
“We’ve got to be realistic with it. This is our first album, our first mark on the world. We haven’t showcased at South By Southwest, but we’ve got our name in the hat this year,” he says. “I’m from Austin, so I want to play at ACL and Blues on the Green. Those are my most immediate attainable goals. A year from now, the next piece of the puzzle, we would love to find a touring band—Raphael Saadiq or Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings would be great—and jump on with them, or put together our own tour.”
For the time being though, the Nightowls’ success is measured one new fan or successful gig or CD sale at a time. And that’s not something you can delegate to a publicist or a radio DJ or a social-media website.
“Amazon and iTunes are great platforms to connect with people all over the world,” Harkrider acknowledges. But you can’t autograph a download at the end of a sweaty night onstage and put it in someone’s hand. “It’s just real. To me, having a CD and being able to give it to you and look you in the eye and say thank you is something real and very important.”
“I think it’s the only way bands can make it these days,” says KUTX’s McCord. “They can’t wait around and rely on anything to happen. They’ve really got to have the smarts and the wherewithal and know the bases they need to cover. They’ve got to realize they’ve really got to work their butts off to do this.”
To paraphrase George Clooney’s character in A Perfect Storm, it’s not a work ethic, it’s just work. They may look sharp onstage, but Harkrider and the Nightowls aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. In the immortal words of Marvin and Tammi’s 1968 Motown hit, there ain’t nothin’ like the real thing. - ATX Man Magazine

"Good As Gold Album Review"

A band of nine has to play out a lot to make the hard work worthwhile. Two years ago, The Nightowls started playing covers of Al Green and Stevie Wonder tunes in the bars of Austin, Tx. Their own tunes gradually won fans at Stubb's BBQ and One-2-One Bar. This debut album offers nine original tunes steeped in classic R&B and Motown sounds.
Frontman Ryan Harkrider acts as the songwriter for this ensemble that includes horns, sax, two female backup singers, drums, bass, keys and guitar. Harkrider's flexible tenor has a pleasant edge and bright, high overtones. Inspired by smooth Detroit stylishness, this tasty southern soul is soft-edged, more discreet than one would expect. In the studio, everyone played and sang live; the best takes were mixed on an analogue console directly to two-track tape, capturing the live energy, skill and vitality. The Nightowls may sound a touch too polite, but they will hit their stride before too long. Austin, keep an eye on The Nightowls. - Elmore Magazine

"The Nightowls: Keeping Austin Soulful"

When people think about the local music scene here in Austin today, the first bands that come to mind typically fill some sort of indie niche. Bands like Bright Light Social Hour and Octopus Project have blown up in this town and even generated large, national level buzz. This makes sense, I suppose, given the Austin Mystique. There are a lot of great local bands that ooze quirk and have come to represent all that is great and glorious about this city. Still, as a result it’s sometimes the case that great bands that, for lack of a better term, play it straight, get pushed to sidelines and become marginalized within their scene.

That’s a shame, really. Because no matter how you look at it, and no matter what your musical proclivities may be, you cannot deny that talent is still talent.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case with The Nightowls. Though the town may be known for its love of quirk, The Nightowls play it straight with their modern take on the classic Motown sound. Between their raucous live show and killer debut record, Good as Gold, this nine-piece throwback group has made some waves in the past few months.

I recently had the chance to catch up with Nightowls frontman and bandleader, Ryan Harkrider, as he scoured the racks and shelves of the South Congress costume store Lucy in Disguise to find the perfect outfit for his 60’s and 70’s themed show this Friday at Stubb’s.

James Roberts: The Nightowls are generating quite a bit of buzz around Austin. How does that feel as a working band?

Ryan Harkrider: It feels great. We’ve worked our ass off for the last two or three years and we continue to do so. It’s nice to see the fruits of our labor. I’ve been in Austin my whole life and I know the music industry here in town and the community, so I’m aware of the music climate and I’ve watched bands succeed and do well, so it means a lot to me for my own project to, like you said, start to generate some buzz. It’s a very special thing.

What was the process of putting the band together like? Were you all friends and it just sort of happened, or did you actively seek the best people for the roles?

We had all been in other projects together before the Nightowls and had kind of all cut our teeth playing Motown, soul, and funk covers. My background is as a songwriter, I’ve got a couple records out as a solo artist, and I had all these great players at my disposal. I decided I was going to write some songs and, you know, here we are.

In terms of the songwriting process is the music a collaborative effort or is it more of the old fashioned “bandleader and his band” dynamic?

It’s definitely kind of a hybrid. I am definitely the bandleader and main songwriter. For our last album, Good as Gold, I was the main songwriter for every song. Now the process of going from the song in my head to the record definitely involves some bringing the band in as arrangers. So I’d bring the songs to them and then collaboratively we’d arrange the tunes. Most of the time I’m writing all the vocal arrangements for the background and all of the horn arrangements are done by myself as well. But as we move forwards this continues to be a very fluid process. All of the band members are very talented and very creative in their own right. So for the last six months we’ve been expanding on how we write and how we want to improve our sound.

Over the last 50 years there’s been a definite sea change in what people think when they think R&B. Your sound kind of harkens back to that good old fashioned, meat and potatoes soul sound. Do you think this is the right time for a return to that form?

I do. As music becomes more digital and more electronic, you start hearing more canned instruments and more electronic music. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That’s the evolution of music and I think that’s a beautiful thing. But I think that it’s a natural response for music lovers to kind of want to connect immediately with the emotion. That’s something we tried to do with this album. The way that everything was played live, I think people can hear that and I think people can relate to that. The thing that I love about those old recordings, those old Motown and Stax records, obviously it doesn’t necessarily have anything to with sonics. I mean the recordings are not necessarily good; they were for the time but for our time they’re not. But what I think translates is the emotion, the raw talent, and being able to connect immediately with that song and that artist and the emotion behind it. I think that’s what has transcended and what makes it so timeless.

The show Friday benefits the Austin School of Music. How did you get involved with them?

Some of the guys in my band have taught music lessons over there. My guitar player, one of our drummers, the guy that tracked Good as Gold, and our keys player. That’s kind of the connection there. I think that when we can, I want to support the music community that has supported me my whole life. So me and the band we think that the best and most direct way is through music education. If we support our kids and music education in ten years, fifteen years, or twenty years we will continue to have a music scene worthy of the legacy of Austin being the “Live Music Capital of the World” and having a strong global music presence. Austin is changing every day, but as it’s changing and growing and expanding and evolving, that’s something that we want to continue to have.

So I guess finally, let’s talk to the person that’s never seen you guys before. Their friend drags them to Stubb’s Friday night, what can they expect to see?

You’re going to get an hour and a half of solid music. It’s a choreographed show, there’s going to be dancing, the band is going to dance, we’ve got a three piece horn section. The songs are tight, the band is tight. Not only that but we work really hard on the show, to entertain. That’s a huge part [of the genre]. You look back at the 60’s and 70’s, say James Brown or The Temptations, we really try to model what we’re doing off that entertainment value. Expect dancing, costumes, lights, cameras, all of the above. It’ll be just a great night and everybody’s going to have a blast. - The Horn

"Road to ACL 2014: Interview with The NIghtowls"

The Nightowls, a local ten-piece soul band, are on fire. They just released their second CD, recorded a third, have been playing big events around town and are now gearing up to play ACL for the first time.
I had the pleasure to sit down with bandleader Ryan Harkrider and vocalist Tara Williamson for lunch at Kerbey Lane to chat about their accomplishments over the past year.
You just performed at Tribeza’s fashion show, earlier this year you did the Austin Under 40 awards and Blues on the Green, and you just had your CD release party. You’ve been busy! Now you’re about to perform at ACL. How did that come about?
Tara: ACL is really a huge, huge high point. It’s been something that was going to be slated for the next couple of years trajectory, and it’s two years early. We contacted Stubb’s – we were just aiming for an after party this year – and they [C3] just said why don’t you play the festival. So that was kind of big.
Ryan: When you sell out Stubb’s, people take notice. And the album was doing well and selling well. So between all those things, C3 noticed and asked us to play the festival.
The Nightowls Perform at Stubb's
The Nightowls’ CD release at Stubb’s, September 2014 (Credit: Nicola Gell)
Going from smaller venues to a bigger venue like ACL, are you worried about everything transferring from one kind of stage to another?
Ryan: The Nightowls is a big band to begin with, so I think we have that working for us. Because most of the time we’re going into smaller venues blowing the roof off the place. We played Blues on the Green this past summer and that felt perfect. We felt home on the big stage in front of a lot of people….
We’re playing anywhere from 50 to 8,000 people, so we’re always trying to speak globally, but at the same time make very personal, intimate connections with people….
We play so much that there’s really not a whole lot of nerves or anything. We know what we’re going to do, we know how we’re going to do it and I think that when we get to the stage, people see that. It’s a very fluid transaction between us and the audience.
Tara: Yeah, I think the band is built for a big stage. We really take to it well. It’s exciting.
The Nightowls at Blues on the Green
The Nightowls performing at Blues on the Green, July 2014 (Credit: Nicola Gell)
So how often do you all practice together?
Ryan: Like rehearse? Really, never.
Ryan: We play every Sunday, every Monday and we travel on Fridays – we’re in San Antonio tonight – and Saturdays. We’re playing essentially at least four times a week. So we never rehearse unless we have something big coming up.
Tara: If we have a new song, we’ll get together. But most of the time we’re pretty tight because we’re playing all the time.
Ryan: That’s the beauty of it at this point. Everybody is so talented we can say, “Okay, here’s the song we’re playing, here’s how it goes” and everybody shows up prepared and we just do it. Don’t tell anybody, but that’s kind of what we use Monday’s for at The Highball. We try new stuff, we play new songs, we adjust the set, we take risks and it’s been a great place to do that.
Tell me more about your weekly appearances at The Highball.
Ryan: Well, Motown Monday, as it is called, was started four years ago. It started with the Matchmaker Band at the old Highball….Then Highball closed and Matchmaker Band moved Motown Monday to One-2-One Bar and at that point added The Nightowls to the brand.
Tara: Yeah, so for the last, little over a year and a half, we played every Monday after Matchmaker Band. And the plan was that after Highball reopened to follow Matchmaker back over there.
Ryan: The new brand was both bands. Essentially Matchmaker Band and then the Late Show [with The Nightowls].
What do you think of the new diggs at The Highball?
Ryan: It’s great. They did a great job of keeping all the things that were great about The Highball. You know, all the red leather couches are back. The bowling alley is not back, but the old lanes are now the dance floor. Which is great for dancing and all the dance people love that….But for us it’s the vibe in there. It’s really suited to what we’re doing. The Motown, the soul, the kind of vintage classic retro thing that we got going. So I think it’s a good fit.
The Nightowls Perform at Blues on the Green in 2014
Feeling at home on the big stage at Blues on the Green (Credit: Nicola Gell)
Are you going to try a new set for ACL and test it out at The Highball beforehand? Give your fans a little sneak peak?
Ryan: That is definitely the training ground, so…
What is something that our readers might not know about The Nightowls?
Ryan: Some of our songs like “Break My Heart Tonight” started out with me strumming on an acoustic guitar six years ago and are all country songs. I’ve taken them over the last three years and put them with a soul band. Rearranged and completely thrown out the old model.
That’s really impressive that you can take songs that you wrote 6 years ago and then add all the different levels.
Tara: You’d be amazed. The first time I heard one of those songs I had no idea that’s how it started. I thought they were all written for this soul/Motown type of sound. Then to hear it this one time on an acoustic guitar…I was like, “That’s how that song started?” It was awesome to begin with and now it’s something great.
Do you have songs where everybody collaborates together?
Tara Williamson The Nightowls Vocalist
Tara Williamson (Credit: Nicola Gell)
Ryan: Yeah, in fact that happened with one of the newest songs that we tracked….I came with this song and thought, it’s going to be great. Brought it to the group and they said that song’s not going to work. We essentially threw it out the window, but we kept the key the song was in as the only remnant of the old song, and then wrote one of the best songs on the album as a group ["The Highline"].
With another song, we were going to Alabama and we had all this time in the van, 14 hrs there and back. So the song ended up being written in the van as we’re driving all the way out there [Untitled, but will be on the upcoming album].
Tara: It’s hard to find people who work as well together as The Nightowls do….It’s just hard to find a group that will commit and be excited about a project, and all be able to work so well together and have a great time on stage, as well as just making a family together. That makes for a lot more longevity than just any old band.
It sounds like the whole family aspect is the key to keeping the essence of The Nightowls alive.
Ryan: Exactly. There is something very special about, not just the music and performing and the shows, but 10 people that work together. We spend more time together than we do as husbands and wives and kids, but somehow we all get along.
Somehow when we all get together, we have a hysterical time. It’s stupid. We act like idiots. It’s always fun. That is something that comes through the music, and comes through when we collaborate and perform. And that is something that we, as a band, really try to extend to our fans.
We don’t have fans, we have Nightowls family….We say “Thank you, Nightowls family” because we feel something special when we’re all together and we want other people to experience that as well. Obviously to have a good time and enjoy the music, but to make personal, intimate connections with people like I said earlier.
Blues on the Green (Credit: Nicola Gell)
Blues on the Green 2014 (Credit: Nicola Gell)
So now that you’re about to reach your ACL goal two years early, what are your new goals?
Ryan: We’re going to release this new album, that is definitely part of it. We just shot a documentary film while we were recording, so SXSW is a big goal for us, making a big impact here in Austin.
The next piece of the puzzle for us is to get in front of as many people as possible. I think that anybody that sees the band, anybody that comes to the show, they’re going to love it. And so that’s really the goal for us…But putting together a more proper tour or finding a band to open for would be a goal. And then after that, a specific goal would be to just make our network TV debut. We wanna play The Late Show.
Tara: I think that’s realistic. I didn’t think that a year ago, but it’s definitely a reality of possibilities.
Is there any last thing you want your fans to know?
Tara: See us on Sundays [Icenhauer’s on Rainey St.], Mondays [Motown Monday at The Highball] and ACL [2nd weekend, Saturday at noon]. - The Austinot

"Good As Gold Review"

Good As Gold the debut album from Austin soul band The Nightowls, is a smooth addictive blend of pop, R&B and funk that will delight the band's dance-happy fans. "We all cut our teeth playing Motown tunes," lead singer and songwriter Ryan Harkrider says. "We wanted to pay tribute to our influences but with our own twist." From the sexy soulful dance track "Break My Heart Tonight" to the horn-heavy sweetness of "You Don't Have to Worry (I'll Be There)" to the bluesy attitude of "I Don't Mess With That," this nine-piece group offers a near symphony of voices, brass, guitar, bass, keys and drums. To lay down the tracks, they sought out Austin producer and guitarist Jake Langley, who's worked with Bobby "Blue" Bland and Roberta Flack. The sound is contemporary-vintage, resembling music of a bygone era yet somehow feeling fresh and exciting. - Texas Music Magazine

"The Nightowls Soulful Gift"

Upon walking into Icenhauer’s last Sunday evening, I found myself taken aback by the energy being emitted from the back patio. It passed through my ear canal, igniting an insatiable desire to jump, shout, and dance. The Nightowls’ front man, Ryan Harkrider, calls their sound a marriage of Soul with Motown, encompassing jazz, blues, R&B, and pop. Covering greats such as Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Otis Redding, these guys and gal are filling shoes and well.

Covers are not the extent of their nine piece repertoire, they also have an impressive list of originals such as their title track "Good as Gold", and "You Don’t Have to Worry (I’ll be There)". Good as Gold, the Nightowls debut 2014 album, is a must listen. Catch these guys live every Sunday at Icenhaur’s on Rainey Street. And if you're here for SXSW, be sure to check out their first SXSW “Soulcase” March 14 at Icenhaur’s. - Deli Magazine Austin

"Top 5 Must See Acts At The 2014 Austin City Limits Music Festival Who Aren’t At The Top Of The Bill"

Eminem, Lorde, Pearl Jam all booked to grace this year’s ACL fest, but these 5 acts are where it’s really at.

#1- The Nightowls This 10 piece soul band does exactly what the music of the 1960′s was able to do: resonate with the people. Their lead single “Good As Gold” which bursts the lyric “I’ve been working hard just to get to the top, but I’m still on the bottom”, is a little bit like the sound of the men working on the chain… gang. Lead singer, Ryan Harkrider is the wizard in front of the curtain, having done a genius job of creating a brand around The Nightowls – complete with two doo-wop beauties, and smooth choreographed dance moves. Currently headlining Motown Mondays at One-2-One in South Austin, these guys are a local hit who are a must see act for any out-of-towners. -

"Good As Gold Review"

They don’t look like a soul band. Not many soul band come out of Austin, Texas. Very few soul bands have a member who was trained at The Berklee College Of Music. But so it is with the Nightowls who were formed in 2011 by lead singer Ryan Harkrider. They have now released their debut album Good As Gold.

They are a sprawling nine piece aggregation that features three vocalists, Harkrider, Tara Williamson, and Ellie Carroll, trumpet player Justin Smith, saxophonist Jonathan McNutt, guitarist Amos Traystman, bassist Rob Alton, drummer Ben Petree, and keyboardist Oscar Interiano.

They are a soul band rooted in the Motown sound but able to move in new directions. The voices can soar and the instruments lay down some funky grooves. They provide a nice ride through many of the styles that make up American soul music.

“Break My Heart Tonight” is an infectious dance track. “You Don’t Have To Worry (I’ll Be There)” is a harmonic salute to Michael Jackson with a blast of horns thrown in for good measure. “I Don’t Mess With That” has a sax solo to die for. The passionate ballad “I’m Sorry Baby” would be right at home in the 1960s Motown songbook.

The Nightowls have released an album of smooth and sophisticated soul music. It is music for the mind, heart, and feet. A wonderful debut from a band that deserves some commercial attention and success. - Cashbox Music Reviews

"Good As Gold Review"

GOOD AS GOLD is a consistently enjoyable soul/pop collection of nine songs that sound a bit like the "golden oldies" without becoming lost in the retro. Underneath that upbeat sound, there's a sort of, without trying to overstate it existential angst, making this something to dance to or to wallow in. Depending on your mood and your perception, perhaps.

The danceable part wins out, for sure, despite the opening plea to "Break My Heart Tonight," the next-to-last plea of "I'm Sorry Baby, " and the closing "Blood Run Cold" where he hopes the ghosts don't creep out of the shadows, because he knows he's been bad and a fool.

The young Austin-based group- formed in October 2011- gets into the old Motown sound on its full-length debut album that's produced by Jake Langley (who's worked with Roberta Flack and Bobby Blue Bland) - Buddy Magazine

""One Of Those Days"- Top Ten Songs"

“One of Those Days” (from the album Good As Gold) - It has been a long, long night and the morning after has risen on “One of Those Days”. There are times when the best you can do is to stay out of your own way. The Nightowls take a moment to let soullead the way through bass lines, grooves and horns laid out over a tale of trying to do your best, intuitively understanding that “I know it’s going to be one of those days”. - See more at: - Alternate Root

"Wise Words from The Nightowls' Ryan Harkrider"

Last month I was looking for some fresh soul or funk when I ran across a new album from The Nightowls and before I knew it, I was boogying across the room to Good as Gold and wrote up a review. Not long after that, I headed to One-2-One bar for Motown Monday where The Nightowls were headlining. Motown Monday is a weekly event that you have to see to believe, you will be shaking parts you forgot you had.

After the show, Ryan Harkrider, the frontman and lead singer of The Nightowls took a minute to say hello and discuss a bit about the band and their music. Ryan is a charismatic frontman with a vision and I felt quite fortunate when Ryan agreed to do an interview.

Before we move on, I want to say that as good as the band is on their album they are even better live, make a point to see them soon. They will be playing at the world famous Stubbs BBQ on February 7th, a must see event.

Now, without further delay, Ryan Harkrider -

Ryan, tell us about The Nightowls and your new album, Good as Gold.
“The Nightowls is a 9-piece soul/Motown band from Austin, Texas. Formed in the fall of 2011, the band has been writing, touring and performing ever since. With influences ranging from classic Motown to modern soul, our music is a fresh blend of vintage and modern soul. Good As Gold is our first album. Last August, we spent about 3 weeks in the studio and tracked 12 songs. 9 songs went on our LP Good As Gold and the remaining 3 will end up being on a “B-Sides” EP scheduled for release sometime in 2014.”

How do you maintain your creative vision with so many possible opinions in the room? Who is your right hand man or woman?
“I do a lot of preparation before the band ever hears the song. This translates into endless home recordings and many different scratch versions of songs. But usually, I will have the entire song mapped out and very specific ideas for certain instrumentation, tones and style that I am aiming for. So, when I finally present the music to the band, there is very clear direction on where to take the music.
So, being prepared and clear with my own vision definitely helps maintain it. But additionally, our band is also full of both very talented and positive musicians. This helps to create an open environment in which we can all create and experiment together.
I do consider my bass player, Rob, to be my right-hand man and the Musical Director of the band. Where I have the overall musical vision, he has the ability to execute that vision and articulate it to the rest of the band in a more technical and musical way.”

Good as Gold is very well recorded. What decisions did you make to ensure the best possible sound quality for this album?
“To try and capture the rawness and authenticity of the band, we tracked live in the studio through vintage amps and microphones. Then to achieve the retro sound, we mixed the album on a 1969 Neve Analogue Console and dumped it to tape before mastering.”

Right now, Good as Gold is available on CD and MP3, are you planning to release it on any other formats?
“Yes, we are planning to release it both on vinyl and on 8-Track Tape sometime in 2014.”

8-track is an interesting choice, what made you move in that direction?
“I think that the style of music we play lends itself well to both the vinyl and 8 track mediums. Both of these tend to have a warming effect on the sound of the record that digital media doesn’t allow. And, we made a lot of recording choices knowing that eventually they would be enhanced by 8 track and vinyl. I also like the 8 track tapes because the way that the tracks have to be formatted often ends up creating a very unique and challenging approach to making and sequencing an album.”

If you could play with some of the classic soul artists, who would it be and why?
“Al Green because of his ability to take a simple musical idea and make it profound.
Bill Withers because of his honest approach to songwriting.
And, Stevie Wonder to learn how to break all the rules.”

The internet and social media have changed the music industry for everyone, how does it affect the band, your music and your relationship with your fans?
“Social media has been a great tool for us. Not only has it allowed us to have immediate and direct access to our fans but has also helped bridge the gap between new fans and us. Also, in an age when a huge amount of human interaction occurs via the internet, the ability to share our music and information in a unique, personalized way is priceless.
It hasn’t had an effect on the music that we create but it has in the way that we release our music. With the Internet, you can easily distribute your music via Amazon, iTunes and other streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. And at this point in the music business, these mainstream avenues are necessary for any artist because they allow you to distribute your music to a much wider audience. However, we try to take this a step further by offering our album directly for sale through our own website. Not only does cutting out the middleman allow us to reap the financial benefits but more importantly it allows us to connect directly to our fans in a very personal way.”

Many music labels have failed miserably at monetizing music in this new era, what can the music industry do to right the ship?
“To me, music is an art form that flourishes best when it is cultivated through honest patronage and true appreciation of that art form. And, this is where independent artists are beginning to gain an advantage. The ability of an artist to connect to its patrons (fans) and share relatable experiences is truly the lifeblood of the music industry. And, I think that record labels are failing because they have grown too impatient to cultivate music and artists. They’ve become another symbol of the mass-appeal, instant gratification culture that artists and music don’t always fit into.”

I was impressed with One-2-One bar and their patrons when I saw The Nightowls live one Motown Monday. How did this weekly gig get started?
“Motown Monday has been a Monday night tradition in Austin for over 3 years now. It started out at The Highball with The Matchmaker Band (a soul/Motown cover band that I and a couple Nightowls members are also a part of). Then, when The Highball closed down in 2012, we moved the residency over to The One-2-One Bar and added The Nightowls to the bill. Both bands have been at the One-2-One Bar for about a year and a half.”

I want to thank Ryan for the interview and say that Good as Gold has continued to grow on me every time I listen to it, which has been pretty regularly the last month. It is modern soul gold and I can’t wait to get my hands on a vinyl copy, hell I might even have to hunt down an 8-track player.
Watch the Nightowls Facebook page for updates on when they will be in your area and if at all possible, step away from your turntable on Friday, February 7th and head down to Stubbs BBQ for Friday Night Fever and catch the Nightowls in their native habitat. -

"Good As Gold Review"

"Good As Gold the debut album from Austin soul band The Nightowls, is a smooth addictive blend of pop, R&B and funk that will delight the band's dance-happy fans. "We all cut our teeth playing Motown tunes," lead singer and songwriter Ryan Harkrider says. "We wanted to pay tribute to our influences but with our own twist." From the sexy soulful dance track "Break My Heart Tonight" to the horn-heavy sweetness of "You Don't Have to Worry (I'll Be There)" to the bluesy attitude of "I Don't Mess With That," this nine-piece group offers a near symphony of voices, brass, guitar, bass, keys and drums. To lay down the tracks, they sought out Austin producer and guitarist Jake Langley, who's worked with Bobby "Blue" Bland and Roberta Flack. The sound is contemporary-vintage, resembling music of a bygone era yet somehow feelig fresh and exciting." - Texas Music Magazine

"The Nightowls are Keeping Me Up"

If you hang around Mojolists at all, you know that soul and funk are enjoying a huge revival. You also know that we support every last one of the folks who bring that horny goodness into our lives. Austin band, The Nightowls began their soul journey around 2011 and recently released their first album, Good as Gold, a catchy series of funk infused soul syrup too sweet to resist.

NIghtowls Good As Gold Album CoverLead singer and frontman Ryan Harkrider takes nostalgic walks through sacred styles of soul and Motown and makes it his own. It certainly helps to have eight talented musicians pumping out some of the funkiest beats found outside Detroit. Soul doesn’t exactly have a geographic home right now, with bands like The Bamboos jiving out of Australia and the likes of Wily Bo Walker shaking things up in England. I can only dream we see a migration of musicians carrying their horns to Austin.

Good as Gold begins with the bands well-crafted take on soul, a modernization that leaves the raw emotion of the genre intact. You Don’t have to worry has a serious Jackson 5 vibe as the album takes to cruising the streets of Motown for a few songs. Good as Gold flows into a grinding, grooving, heartfelt and all together mesmerizing conclusion with Blood Run Cold, an eight minute piece that I could loop all day.

From a recording standpoint, this album is almost too clean. The songs scream raw but the recording screams digital. I did purchase the MP3 version rather than the available CD, which might – might reduce this slightly. The talent associated with the recording and mastering of this album is clear, I found no digital compression and it would be considered perfect by many, the music just begs for the warmth of analog to my ears. I think a vinyl release would help and is almost required considering the rebirth of vinyl and the crate diggers are largely responsible for the resurgence soul is enjoying right now. (See Daptone and RecordKicks)

The Nightowls Good as Gold is a must own despite my nit picking, so click the link now and start enjoying it. Please purchase the album directly from the Nightowls website to ensure the band gets the maximum revenue. It is nearly impossible for musicians to earn a living from their work in this day and age so please go out of your way to support them when you care enough to listen to their music.

Now, I gotta see where The Nightowls are playing because I think this band may be even better live! - Mojo Lists

"The Horn Reviews "Good As Gold""

Austin soul band The Nightowls’ new record Good as Gold is a smooth, addictive blend of pop, R&B and funk that’s practically dripping with mass appeal. From the sexy soulful dance track “Break My Heart Tonight,” to the horn-heavy sweetness of “You Don’t Have to Worry (I’ll Be There),” to the bluesy attitude of “I Don’t Mess with That” (that sax solo!), this 9-piece group plays so well together, with all of the moving parts working together tightly. If this record is any indication, it must be pretty tough to stand still during their live shows. Their sound is contemporary-vintage, resembling music of a bygone era, yet also feeling fresh and exciting. Check out title track “Good as Gold” and “Blood Run Cold” for a little of everything. - The Horn

"ACL Music Fest 2014 Saturday Listings"

"The Nightowls swagger just as effectively in the afternoon sun, with the sprawling, up-to-10 piece Motown-inspired grooves behind Ryan Harkrider's smooth trilling vox. Last year's debut LP Good As Gold copped a Jackson 5 rhythm laced with a blue-eyed Memphis soul blast of horns and keys. A recent Gold B-Sides EP digs even deeper into a vintage vibe." - The Austin Chronicle

"Mayor Lee Leffingwell declares November 21, 2013 as "The NIghtowls Day" in Austin, Tx"

Mayor Lee Leffingwell declares November 21, 2013 as "The NIghtowls Day" in Austin, Tx -

"Austin is Truly Weird and Blessed with The Nightowls"

I've been listening to several bands lately with a might horns section and another one falls in my lap courtesy of Austin based The Nightowls. In early December they are releasing Good As Gold and if you enjoy a mix of Motown and Memphis - this CD is for you. In fact, listening transports one back to the 60's and 70's where The Nightowls could easily assimilate into the great Soul and R&B bands of that time. Frontman Ryan Harkride provides that classic era's vocals along with harmonies from Tara Williamson and Ellie Carroll. But it's the band's vibe that entraps me- the encompassing of keyboards, guitar, bass, and horns that get ya bouncing in your seat - at least in the car. At a club would be much more preferable and the band will celebrate their CD release show December 7th at Stubb's BBQ. Pair with Austin's music friendly Thirsty Planet Brewing. Cheers. -

"Good as Gold Featured in Texas Music Extra "New Releases""

Featured in "New Releases" November Edition - Texas Music Extra

""Break My Heart" by The Nightowls makes Alternate Root Top Ten Songs"

“Break My Heart Tonight” – The Nightowls (from the album Good As Gold) - The Nightowls can tell something is up. The band know that life is short and if the cards they are reading play out, they would rather get to the end sooner than later. The Nightowls make a reasonable request over some sweet soul music so that even if the answer is the goodbye they expect, there are plenty of horns and handclaps to cushion the blow. - The Alternate Root

"Good As Gold B-Sides Review"

The last EP is not exactly Twangville material. The only twang you’re going to hear out of The Nightowls is if someone breaks a string in a live show. An Austin band by way of 60’s Detroit, with some Bootsy Collins thrown in for good measure, The Nightowls have dropped an EP of “B-sides” from their album last year, Good As Gold. If you’re old enough to know what a B-side is, you’ll remember that it was no reflection on the material, more just a commentary on what the label liked, and this set reflects that. The Feel Good gives you a taste of Funkadelic-style soul. Nobody Ever Wants To Leave was chosen as the official song of the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. After All has some old school Stevie Wonder sounds to go with the Motown vibe. Either Way finishes the EP on a high note with the horns asserting themselves in all the right places. -


Single- Good As Gold- 2013
Good As Gold- 2014
Good As Gold B-Sides- 2014



It’s 1,390 miles from Austin, Texas to Detroit, but when Austin band The Nightowls rev their musical engines, that distance disappears with the speed of sound. But The Nightowls not only channel the Motor City’s classic dancin’-in-the-street beats; they build on them to create an irresistible neo-soul sound that’s all their own.

Founded by lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Harkrider, the Nightowls—all ten of them—have been spreading their sound all over Texas ever since August 2013, releasing a critically acclaimed debut album, Good as Gold,and the toetapping, four-song EP Good as Gold B-Sides – which includes Austin’s official theme song, “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave” – in September of 2014. Good As Gold (The A-Sides) will be released on vinyl, giving fans an opportunity to hear The Nightowls’ jukebox-ready music the way it was meant to be heard, with the vinyl’s warm tones filling their ears and hearts.

Hailing from all over the map geographically and musically, the Nightowls claim terrain from New England to Arizona and influences from Americana to funk. Bassist Rob Alton was trained at Berklee College of Music; other bandmates honed their skills in dive bars and intimate listening rooms. Together, they push R&B’s boundaries while staying true to its horn- and harmony-laden heart, from the catchy hooks and soulful vocals to the crisp suits and dazzling dresses they wear onstage.

Fresh from performances at KGSR-FM’s “Blues on the Green” concert series and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where they wowed a capacity crowd, The Nightowls are currently putting the finishing touches on their sophomore album, which is slated for release in 2015. Recorded at legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (where legends like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Joe Tex recorded some of the best soul music the world has ever known), the eight-song album is bursting with the modern-day Motown sound and smart, catchy, original songs that the band is known for. Members of the original Fame backing band, “The Swampers,” including Spooner Oldham on keys, bassist David Hood, and vocalists The Shoal Sisters, who played on nearly every album recorded during the golden age of Fame Studios, appear on Fame alongside The Nightowls, bridging the gap between soul music’s legendary past and its vibrant future.

 Footage is being compiled for a short documentary on The Nightowls’ Famesessions, and the band is also preparing to shoot a music video for the album’s infectious lead single, “Get Up!”

Alongside acts like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Nightowls are leading the soul revival that’s been brewing for years. There’s no use trying to resist. Just crank up the volume and sing along.

Band Members