Goodnight Goodnight’s new morning

“We’ve known Larry for years,” says Gary Thornton of Goodnight Goodnight. He’s talking about the newest addition to their lineup, Larry Evans, formerly bassist with The Smug Brothers. “It feels like he’s a good fit.” Word is that Larry’s looking forward to it as well. The band is booking a tour for the summer, probably […]

Expanded lineup brings new energy to Hannah’s

Larry Evans, Amanda Thornton, Todd Herbert, Gary Thornton (L-R). Photo: Gary McBride.

By John Puckett

“We’ve known Larry for years,” says Gary Thornton of Goodnight Goodnight. He’s talking about the newest addition to their lineup, Larry Evans, formerly bassist with The Smug Brothers. “It feels like he’s a good fit.” Word is that Larry’s looking forward to it as well.

The band is booking a tour for the summer, probably east coast again, since they got such a great reception in a few spots the first time around. At a memorable gig in Norfolk, a big man shopping for merch asked if the band had any t-shirts in extra large. They didn’t, and the man was crestfallen but bounced back immediately and said “You know what, you guys are so good I’m gonna lose weight!” He bought a large. It was, according to Thornton, “inspirational.” Control, their latest album, released in February 2018, is a clear move toward…something else.

“The music is constantly changing,” says vocalist Amanda Thornton, “depending on our mood when we’re writing and practicing. We get together twice a week and just let things happen and whatever comes out comes out. Our music has gotten progressively better.” They took their time with the production, and when it was finished and ready to drop, they all noticed something about it different from their first two albums. “It’s hard to put our finger on exactly what’s changing, but the consensus is that Control seems more hopeful,” Amanda says. “We’re happy doing what we’re doing and that’s starting to show.”

“I get excited creating new sounds on the computers,” Thornton says, “hearing Amanda’s harmonies. We’re working on a lot of up-tempo stuff, lots of sequencers and samplers. The songs keep getting better and better.”

The band was formed in the wake of several personal tragedies. In 2010 the band’s old friend, local drummer and artist Jason Dryden, died of a heroin overdose. In 2013 Nick Aycock, childhood friend of singer Amanda Thornton, died of complications from a four-wheeler accident. In 2014, keyboard player Todd Herbert lost his son Nigel to suicide. “There was so much pain. People we loved were dying from it,” says guitarist Gary Thornton.

Six months later, while celebrating Todd’s birthday at the Trolley Stop, still inconsolable over the loss of his son, Thornton asked him “…what he’d been doing with himself and he said ‘Nothing. Nothing at all.’ So I asked him if he wanted to get together and play some music, take his mind off things.” Todd said yes. The following month they were in the same room with their instruments.

Amanda made grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone while Todd, Gary, and former bassist Duane Dow made sounds. “Todd showed us what he’d been writing. We goofed off. It was pretty chill. We decided it was kind of fun, so we got together again the following week, and so far every week since then.” Soon after, Herbert pushed Amanda to sing. “I’d always loved her vocals. Maybe Gary thought he was going to be the singer? I always wanted Amanda to do it and I said so. She was sitting in the living room or wandering around while we played. She gave up singing right before their first daughter was born and I could tell she wanted to sing.”

What began as a distraction from sorrow grew into a minor obsession. The practices became a kind of group therapy, which everyone found so enjoyable they started doing two, sometimes three per week, a vigorous pace for already-seasoned musicians.

“Our first show was a house party, Nigel’s memorial in July of 2015,” Herbert says. “Our second show was at Oregon Express, on the same ticket with The Story Changes, one of our favorite Dayton bands.” Thereafter came shows at a slew of Dayton venues, a tour, a second tour, and three studio albums.

Their first album, Don’t Fade Out, is hypnotic and droning and every song is written in a minor key, suggesting an emotional content coming from somewhere mournful. This Place, their second release, delves deeper into sadness and melancholy and there, it seems, they found a bottom. People identified with how they were expressing their grief and they earned fans as far away as Australia, getting airplay in several markets foreign and domestic.

Goodnight Goodnight’s story began in tragedy, but by all accounts it’s moving in an upward direction. “Some days you take a couple steps back,” Thornton says, “but more often than not we make large strides toward healing, and happiness.”

Todd has the last word. “I love the dynamic we have. The chemistry works. Gary and I have been working together musically on and off for twenty years. There’s not a lot of talking anymore, there’s lots of production. We can produce something beautiful and polish it up in a matter of days. The professionalism, the energy, the cohesiveness between the three of us…It’s just magnificent.”

Goodnight Goodnight will appear at Hannah’s, 121 N. Ludlow St., Dayton on June 15. For more information, visit goodnightgoodnightmusic.com or hannahsonludlow.business.site.

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John Puckett is a former philosophy professor who ran away to join the circus. He’s now a writer, waiter, and curator of bathroom stall graffiti. Reach DCP freelance writer John Puckett at JohnPuckett@DaytonCityPaper.com

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