Schooner is dishevled-pop-indie-psych-soul from Durham, NC that began as a 4-track project by Reid Johnson & features Joshua Carpenter (Floating Action), Nick Jaeger (Filthybird) + a rotating cast of characters.
Schooner Neighborhood Veins was released on September 24 2013. Here's a video of the 2nd track "Trap," directed by Matt Hedt:
Here is some early press...
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Our releases (click on artwork to purchase):
Schooner "Neighborhood Veins" LP - ORDER BELOW
PREORDER NOW - LIMITED EDITION BLUE VINYL
"Schooner || Wesley Wolfe 12"" (SOLD OUT)
"Duck Kee Sessions"
When people talk about us :
Independent Weekly (NC)
Schooner's delightfully experimental pop-rock earns the intimidating e-word not by going off on wild tangents but by augmenting perfectly intuitive song structures with unexpected, though balanced textures.
Reid Johnson's voice can be as wintry and challenging as Mark Kozelek's distant tone and as confiding and intimate as Sam Beam's breathy whisper. Johnson's songs follow suit, pushed-to-the-edge statements about taking comfort in the small things, especially if they're all that's left. Pretty great.
Ear Farm (NYC)
Silver Jews meets Red House Painters by way of Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra, with a dash of The Hold Steady thrown in for good measure. Or, songs that might just break your heart while simultaneously putting the pieces back together with irresistible melody. OR, in turn, party songs fit for barroom singalongs that still manage a certain distant intimacy. Is all of that even possible? Yep. And that's truly only a hint of what Schooner does so well. From their most recent songs to their always impressive live shows, this is a band you need in your life. Rewind that over and over, and memorize it.
Schooner are harder to describe: their first impression is of kinda-croony pop music, but that quickly gives way to an undercurrent of weirdness that's always threatening to well up & overwhelm the pop with something far freakier.
The Wilmington Star (NC)
If you don't already know Schooner's music, you're missing out on not only a great N.C. band, but a poetically inclined buffet of pop perfection. Reid Johnson's lyrical quality is transporting...
ChromeWaves.net (Toronto, CA)
Blending sweet boy-girl vocals, some '50s doo-wop and '60s baroque pop influences (not heavy, but there) with the college rock skronk of their hometown in the '90s and some timeless power-pop hookery, the five-piece didn't disappoint...
-Frank Yang's take on our Pop Montreal show
Bees Knees Zine (Athens, GA)
...I witnessed a live show of a man possessed as the lead singer / guitarist Reid Johnson commanded that not only you listen, but that you watch in amazement as his band went from gazing out with effects to spastic acoustic guitar based folk numbers...
Schooner || Wesley Wolfe 12"
It makes sense that Schooner and Wesley Wolfe found each other for a split 7-inch on Record Store Day. After all, the two Triangle rock outfits share a deft touch for hooks. Schooner's jams bubble up through slapbacked reverb, imbuing the melodic sensibilities of '50s and '60s pop with the fevered intensity of '90s indie rock. Reid Johnson's luxurious croon pairs well with squalling feedback, somehow accentuating the band's incredible catchiness. Wesley Wolfe's precise pop-rock taps Mac McCaughan-inspired momentum and rides it to nervy, riff-fueled conclusions.
The connection is more than geographic, on this four song split twelve incher, it is an inch towards an anti-social antipathy towards society: in its own way it is an nolle prosequai of sound: dirgy but slowly accessible sound sonics not a million mils away from Real estate. Wolfe and Schooner come across as journeyman who can't seem to twist away from the journey...what you get is one new song each and then Wes covers Schooner and Schooner covers Wes. And it is a thing of immense beauty.
"Terrorized Mind" is Schooner's grand unveiling, a complement to Wolfe's equally new track, "Crying/Laughing." The former is, despite the absence of three early band members and the downscaling from a four- to a three-piece, quintessential Schooner: doo-wop vocal harmonies, bittersweet lyrics ("until there is peace on your terrorized mind / ...let there be moments of light that you can't help but find,"), and halcyon-age rock with flourishes of distortion and feedback.
Duck Kee Sessions
...this is the best, most balanced material by Schooner yet, a fantastic pop collection that's catchier than the rest of their discography and more expansive, too. There's a ukulele tune that builds into a toughened bubblegum gem and a xylophone jingle that springs over growling field recordings. And, out of the gates, there's "Feel Better," the edgiest and most memorable rock tune Schooner has put to tape since "My Friend's Band," the first song on its first record, back in 2004. That's a lot to accomplish in 17 minutes. Sonically, lyrically and structurally, Schooner supplies a perfect mix of apathy and anguish to these songs, and there's no better conduit for such than the voice of Reid Johnson.
The Daily Tar Heel
"Feel Better" opens with the clamber of what sounds like a washboard paired with plaintive hoots, quickly merging with Reid Johnson’s raucous chorus. This blend of quirkiness and catchiness characterizes most of the EP. Just when it all starts to feel as casual and chaotic as a backyard jam, the band rallies the listener with a rousing chorus.
Ink 19 (FL
If the EP consisted of nothing more than six tracks of "In All Probability," the download would still be worth whatever price tag they decided to put on it. It's a gloriously unholy mess, every instrument vying for the auditory fore: a delicious riff that sounds like a muffled vibraphone encircled by syrup-thick fuzz and feedback, Albani's bass lurching and stomping ahead while Johnson broods (backed, as always, by airy oohs and aahs), "I tell you you can turn me down/ And I'll be all right / Maybe you will pass me by / And stay on your side / ... I'll be all right" with as much chin-up resolution as he can muster, drummer Billy Alphin propelling things forward with just the right excess of thud and thwack. This song stands above all others here as a testament to the band's impeccable pop sensibility...
This is a band with brains: they are lyrically smart without being smartass, and when it comes to instrumentation the songs don’t rest on a couple guitars and drums and bass; piano comes and goes, “Duck Kee Nights” is an instrumental tack piano (I think) piece with the sounds of the crickets and the highway as a rhythm section, some ukulele helps you “Lose Yourself”, and across these songs there are various percussion and other instruments lending subtle and effective underpinning to the fabric. There’s also much to be said for the vocal arrangements: harmonies and backing vocals are consistently beautiful and/or dynamic (witness the woo-oo-oos on the opener, or the ba-ba-ahs that course through the final track, “In All Probability”).
Hold on Too Tight
Think Fear and loathing in Las Vegas meets the kitsch of Back to the Future mixed in with some Mazzy Star and a whole load of Hammond and you'll be somewhere near to describing this album. What a fucking marvellous band.
Rating: 10 out of 10
"Carrboro" is like a modern, lo-fi Beach Boys gem sung by Stephin Merritt if he'd grown up below the Mason-Dixon Line. Reid Johnson's deep, deadpan baritone induces a narcotic effect as it pours over his sister Kathryn's antithetically cheery vintage organ line like cough syrup. And when the two siblings sing together in deliciously piquant harmony, the languorous humidity of Reid's jaded croon is made all the more evident as it rubs up against Kathryn's sweet, airy voice. Together they sound like the doomed writer and the southern belle, Tennessee Williams singing with Scarlett O'Hara. Even though the keyboards crash into a sunny, sing-along chorus, this tune is actually a deceptively depressing tale of a lonely girl in a new town who loves often and badly ("You said, 'I love you,' without thinking twice/ I knew I didn't, but thought it was nice.") But by cloaking her bruised story in woozy loveliness, Reid and his band take lemons and make lemonade. And really, what's more Southern than that?
Schooner's disheveled pop is a tricky thing, detouring into bleary-eyed rock and worried country over Hold On Too Tight's 16 tracks. Like fellow North Carolina natives the Comas, the band is glad to follow the erratic moods of its frontman, but Schooner's Reid Johnson exudes angst and charisma with a strangely gentle touch. His sleepy mumble fits his songs' aching sadness and warm coats of reverb. "Hospital Floor" creeps along like Low, "Strange Alibis" jerks and twists as if powered by rubber bands, "Tears in Your Ears" chimes its way steadily to a groggy atmosphere, and "Pray for You to Die" mines black comedy as few pop songs dare. The only complaint would be the listlessness here, but asking Schooner to travel in one direction would diminish the intimate joys to be found as they amble through their best record yet.
Never heard of Schooner? Then, boy, have you been missing out! This Chapel Hill-based five-piece is lead by the brother-sister team of Reid and Kathryn Johnson, but rarely has a sibling relationship created something this harmonious.
On their excellent sophomore effort, they blow through 16 tracks of swooning vintage pop, fuzzy Guided By Voices-ish rock and woozy Sinatra/Hazlewood-like country for an overall effect that's equal parts dreamy, deadpan and doomed. All of the wistful lap steel, crystalline harmonies and mournful organ parts are anchored by Reid's disenchanted croon, which is reminiscent at once of Morrissey's and Stephin Merritt's. And on the country-ish ballads, like "Married," when he's joined by his sister's spectral soprano, their interplay is akin to that on the recent Arthur And Yu debut; it's intimate, narcotic and addictive. Despite song titles like "Pray For You To Die" and the equally dark lyricism of tracks like "Leaving Your Room" and "Hospital Floor," not all of this haunting record is doomy and aching.
There are uptempo numbers as well "Carrboro" and "They Always Do!" wrap stories of bruised women and cynical men around chugging, '60s-inspired hooks and melodies so beautiful that they are incongruous with the stark sadness of their lyrics. "I Would Tell You That I'm Stuck" is the one track that's out of place, but that's actually a good thing. With its lo-fi, almost punk throttle and ease with the f-word, it is the black eye this pristine collection was asking for. It keeps things just scruffy enough to remind listeners that, though the rest of the sedate love songs on the disc may sound lovely, underneath their layers of mellow reverb lurks a dark and unflinching heart.
When it comes down to it, Schooner sound like Schooner. Their songs are beautiful. "Married" is three minutes of country heartbreak and it moves straight into a Pet Soundsy number called "They Always Do!", which builds to a beautiful chorus ending, and gives way to two-and-a-half minutes of fuzz-pop glory called "I Would Tell You That I'm Stuck". Everything they do well (and they do everything well) is put together to create an aching meditation, "Hospital Floor". Lest things get too morose, they follow up that number with a less than two-minute acoustic stomper. The album reprises the do-do-dos and tucks you into bed with a warm blanket called "Ladybug".
Aiding & Abetting
Albums this cutting come along seldom. Albums that make you smile while eviscerating the human race are absolutely devastating.
The arrangements feature a trunk full of well placed instruments (case in point, the beautiful sounds on one of my favorite tracks Leaving Your Room) and rely more on gradual builds than instant hooks. I think the mix works, and Reid and Kathryn's double vocals still stand out work well, but on songs like Married, it's the extra touches (like the distant lap steel) that add the emotion to the song. The record is well thought out and it's obvious they took the time to get the sound they wanted on each song. The choral backing of The Pox Family Singers on They Always Do! or the nicely placed chimes on Ladybug add that little push needed to help these songs really pop, despite the slow pace.This record won't grab you with a heart thumping kick drum or crunched guitars, but with all the acts trying to use the same routine, it's refreshing to hear a band looking past the draw of a quick hit and move more towards the lovely, brooding, heart warming depression I prefer to hear.
Encore Magazine (NC)
Schooner is currently one of NC's catchiest, melding an effective compound of conscious pop writing with near-tangible grit. Their third and latest recording, Rocky P, is a work of which they can be truly proud. The backlash-proof sturdiness of Guided By Voices and the upbeat thrill of the Wedding Present are recalled but perhaps not depended upon. They hit all the right chords, sing with pure sincerity and produce the most agreeable ranges of energy.
Erasing Clouds (PA)
"As an Indian sun burns up the past / these ghosts become old hat". Schooner begins the album with the lovely "Indian Sunburn," with soft guitars and organ tones supporting a repeating melody, sung in a hushed but direct voice by singer Reid Johnson. The song circle backs around; when it's on I feel like it could go on forever and I wouldn't care. I get a similar effect from Schooner's more rollicking pop-rock song "Birds and Other Creatures", a looking-back song with nature imagery and rising and falling harmonies which ends on a vaguely lovelorn and bittersweet note: "Have you waited all along for me / well you're free," Johnson sings, accentuating his words with hammering guitars.
You Forget About Your Heart
Copper Press (MI)
... reminiscent of Guided by Voices, My Bloody Valentine, Archers of Loaf, The Smiths. The quality of frontman Reid Johnson's songwriting is consistently high. No lulls, no hints of attempting to cover a lack of inspiration, no filler, not a single welcome overstayed. Classic stuff, in other words, and that more than compensates for the brevity. And the sequencing is a model of its kind: every song is exactly where it belongs. This is why the Schooner debut entered my stereo two weeks ago and hasn't come out since. I truly relish every listen...
-Eric J. Ianelli.
The Philidelphia Weekly
It's been more than a decade since the North Carolina triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill yielded the nationally known scene that included Superchunk, Polvo and Archers of Loaf, and spawned Merge Records. Lately, though, I've sensed a second coming. Exhibit A) the Raleigh band Schooner, whose You Forget About Your Heart (Pox World Empire) hit me like a ton of bricks and was voted one of 2004's unknown pleasures by GQ. Just eight songs long, it's steeped in the same stumbling, organ-drenched fuzz-pop of the Walkmen and the Rock*A*Teens....
North Carolina's Schooner plays classic indie-pop on its debut disc, You Forget About Your Heart (Pox World), with obscurely confessional lyrics, sparkling melodies, and a strong sense of atmosphere drawn mainly from the record collection of bandleader Reid Johnson. Johnson's Beach Boys/Red House Painters fusion works best on ethereal tracks like 'Long Long Time' and 'Trains And Parades.'
I love the organ on this song, which blips dippily and nonchalantly along, even as the vocals make an unexpectedly emotional, Arcade Fire-y burst into the chorus -- and a very fine chorus it is too...
Left off The Dial
The breadth of variety that Schooner offers is mighty impressive....Schooner manages to reinvent its sound over and over again....
Schooner has mastered an effortlessly catchy, structurally impeccable brand of indie rock that marries mid-'90s angst with updated Shins-ish accessibility...
Impressive debut, heavy on the lo-fi melody and bratty thrash...
Early 4track recordings:
If you ever wished that The Smiths had a Willie Nelson proclivity and that Harry Smith's folk collections--had inspired them to record an album in a Kentucky log cabin, Schooner may be your bag of hooks. Reid Johnson writes simply chorded, plainly-stated songs that sound like they may be lost love letters to some forgotten paramour. The tunes come complete with a girder of faint guitar noise and simple but essential keys courtesy of the bard's sister, Kathryn.