When Good Night, States released its first full-length, Short Films on Self-Control, four years ago, it was a guitar record with some synths — evocative of albums like Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The ensuing years have seen a change in the band's output: It's still Steve Gretz's soft-and-steady pop songwriting at its core, but the band's latest, Country/Static, is often more synth than guitar. In part, it's because of the departure last year of second guitarist Joe Tanner, but also due to some members' growing fascination with electronics.
"I feel like the footprint of electronics and synthesizers in our recorded music has tended to lag behind our individual interest, and proficiency with those things," Gretz explains. "I think it's kind of a natural outgrowth from the fact that we've all gotten much more heavily involved with those instruments."
Unconventional instruments and sounds often lend themselves to players who are tinkerers, and the folks in Good Night, States like to tinker. Bassist Trevor Baker builds and repairs tube amps and effects pedals (St. Vincent's Annie Clark uses one of his TRVR Handwired amps) and Gretz toys with all manner of gear repairs and modifications. But that tendency has its limits.
"Building is an awesome hobby, but at the same time, it's really easy to get more involved in the instruments than the music," Gretz says, noting that he and Baker stop short of building their own synths.
Country/Static is the band's third release, but only its second as a full band; In the Impossible Tension, released in 2009, was composed and recorded by Gretz and Tanner, who were both living in New Jersey. (The songs were fleshed out later for the whole band to play live.) After Tanner left the band, the others (including keyboardist Megan Lindsey and drummer Dan Harding) carried on as a four-piece, then recently picked up Matt Grajcar as a guitarist for the live band.
The new release was recorded partly in Manhattan and partly in Pittsburgh, at the New Hazlett Theater's studio. That's also where the band is having its release party — which, in keeping with the Good Night, States' tradition of doing things just a little differently, is somewhat more elaborate than your average show-at-a-bar situation.
The "Grand Release Gala," as it's called, will pull out all the stops: The band is working with a professional lighting company for stage effects, and beyond the general-admission ticket, there's a two-tier VIP package that includes a meet-and-greet, food from Franktuary (where keyboardist Lindsey is co-owner) and some interactive miniature-synth party favors that will allow VIPs to take part in the performance. There will also be a display of photos of the band taken by local artist Tom Persinger, who uses what's called a wet-plate collodion process — a complex 19th-century practice — to create images (including the Country/Static album cover).
Being a VIP isn't cheap: The top tier runs $70 per ticket. But Harding says those who are interested enough to support the band as VIPs get a special experience — and some swag — to show for it.
"It's not like we're making a killing on this show," he says with a laugh. "From our end, it's more of a thank-you to those people who have supported us through the years."