With over four decades having passed since the heyday of bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, the return of punk music and its anti-establishment message is long overdue. Enter Northern Gloom, an emerging Pennsylvanian post-punk band with the ambitious goal of revolutionizing punk music while inspiring social change.
Guitarist and vocalist Micheal James Stipe, drummer Brian Doherty, and bassist Cory Paternoster make up the self-described power trio that is Northern Gloom. While the three only began to play together in 2018, Stipe and Doherty have collaborated on various musical projects on and off for the past 10 years. With the addition of Paternoster on bass, the band finally solidified and began to create music with the common goal of transforming punk and creating social commentary through their music.
The name ‘Northern Gloom’ is a reference to two 1980s rock bands, Killing Joke and Joy Division, from which the trio draws inspiration for their sound.
“Killing Joke is from Nottingham, which is more southern, and Joy division is from Manchester, which is in the North,” Stipe said. “When [the two] would tour together they would say ‘southern stomp and northern gloom’.”
The band relates this sense of gloom to their roots in the heavily industrialized areas of the northeastern US.
“We’re from Harrisburg, a huge industrial pass-through,” Stipe said. “So […] every green space there’s been [in the city] as I’ve grown up, they’ve filled it with apartments or some shit like that, or a new factory.”
This spirit of defiance towards big industry or government is a theme prevalent throughout the three songs Northen Gloom released this January. The EP, This isn’t a Revival, It’s a Revolution!, is a preview of the band’s upcoming album titled Watch … There it Goes set for release in full on July 3. With simple guitar riffs and Doherty’s drums-only rhythm section, Northern Gloom’s first album is unquestionably reminiscent of more classic punk.
“Post-punk had a kind of a second movement in the early 2000s, bands like Interpol or the Killers, we like that stuff but I don’t really want to associate with that type of music,” Stipe said. “It’s more on the [pop] side and less on the social-commentary side, which is more what we’re about.”
For Northern Gloom, the anarchist connection to punk music is a central theme the band hopes to convey in this preliminary collection of songs.
“I had this [“This isn’t a Revival, It’s a Revolution”] in my head […] because I think the original post-punkers were revolutionaries because they were speaking truth to power back in the late seventies,” Stipe said. “I want us to be here to carry on that message.”
With songs such as “Onward,” Northern Gloom undoubtedly calls for anti-establishment action in times of political turmoil.
“The lyrical content is about how the few can screw things up for the many […] I’m very anti-politician because I think they’re all, for lack of better terms, full of shit,” Stipe said. “You know [in] America, we’re forced to deal with two political parties […] and the people are what’s most important and I think we get completely ignored. So basically the music is a call to people to question [what they are told], and not to just swallow what they’re being fed.”
While upcoming tour dates may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Gloom is scheduled to perform with McGill’s Nervous Nancy at Barfly on April 4.