New math rock

One guitarist + two guitars = Narrow/Arrow at Bob’s

By Matt Clevenger

It was a random YouTube video that originally led Narrow/Arrow guitarist Cody Nicolas to start experimenting with his own new playing style.

“My freshman year, I watched a YouTube video of this player named Erik Mongrain,” Nicolas says. “The song is called ‘Air Tap,’ and he played it on a Spanish television show.

“I had never seen anything like it,” he continues. “Before that I thought that guitar playing was just rock and roll, like Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page, and that’s how you play the guitar. Then I see this guy like totally open up a whole new world of sound on the instrument.”

Inspired by that video, Nicolas began to work out a whole new way of playing the guitar, laying the instrument down and tapping on the strings rather than strumming them. Eventually, those experiments led to the creation of his own utterly original two-guitar sound, using two instruments played like a piano with the left and the right hand.

The result is catchy but creepy independent rock, melodic and dark but not too heavy for mainstream audiences.

“I call it indie-rock, honestly, or maybe technical indie-rock,” Nicolas says. “We’ve been put in the category of math rock, which is interesting. I think it’s mostly because of the finger-tapping style that I do. But really, I thought math rock was like different time signatures and things like that. We don’t really play outside of 4/4, but the songs are technical on everybody’s end.”

Based in Mansfield, Ohio, Narrow/Arrow features drummer Jonathan Hape and bassist Mark Canole. Nicolas sings lead vocals, while also playing customized six and eight-string guitars simultaneously.

“Mark and I also play in another group called Mahoney and the Pliers,” Nicolas says. “It’s a punk outfit, four-piece. That’s a lot of fun—it’s a different songwriting format, which is cool.

“Jonathan is in a couple really awesome projects as well,” he adds. “He’s got his solo stuff, and then he’s got a three-piece dark surf indie-rock outfit called Room & Board.”

Narrow/Arrow’s first album, Middle Children, is available on CD or vinyl through Los Angeles-based Other People Records.

“We released Middle Children independently in summer of 2013,” Nicolas says. “That’s the first thing we ever recorded. We were in the midst of working on another release, and then we got a couple offers to put out Middle Children and do it all on vinyl and CD, so that kind of pushed our new release back.

Middle Children is our only album right now, which is sad because to me it’s like super old,” Nicolas continues. “But I’ve got to think of it in a broader scheme of other people being introduced to it, and it being brand new for them, anyway.”

Band members currently live in different parts of the state, but that hasn’t stopped them from working on material for the new album.

“We’re still kind of laying the foundation for everything,” Nicolas says. “We’ve been working on it since the beginning of March, and we’ve got a couple more sessions planned in April. I really don’t know when it’s going to be released, but we’re hoping to be done recording and at least have a single out by summer.

“It’s kind of weird,” he continues. “I live in Mansfield, Jonathan lives in Columbus and our bass player Mark lives in Sandusky. I’ll have like a four-measure riff or whatever, I record it as a voice memo, send it to both of them and they’ll put parts with it.

“With technology and stuff it’s not impossible,” he adds. “I would definitely like to get together more often than we do, but we’re all busy too. This is still independent, for the most part. We’re all still working boys.”

Narrow/Arrow is also busy with a full schedule of live shows. No strangers to the road, the band is currently in the midst of an early summer tour that finishes off with their stop at Blind Bob’s Tavern on Sunday, May 29.

“I think this will be our sixth or seventh tour as a band,” Nicolas says. “We’ve got a lot of different shows in Ohio, and then we’re going to hit the road for 15 days and head out east. We kick off in Mansfield. Then we’re hitting Pittsburgh, Lancaster, New York City, Portsmouth, Philadelphia, Toledo and Grand Rapids. We have two days off, then it’s Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, South Bend, and we’re ending the tour at Blind Bob’s on the 29.

“Our drummer booked that show,” Nicolas says. “We’ve been there—I think this will be our fifth time in May. Blind Bob’s is like our favorite spot in Dayton.”

Narrow/Arrow will perform Sunday, May 29 at Blind Bob’s Tavern, 430 E. Fifth Street in Dayton. For more information, please visit or
Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at

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