Growing up on the outskirts of Columbia, The Blue Note was the venue for most of Boreal Hills' guitarist Karl Frank's teenage entertainment. Watching his favorite bands with envy from the crowd, Frank longed to take their place. Last Friday night, Frank and his band Boreal Hills did just that, taking the The Blue Note stage for New Music Night.
Formed in 2008, Boreal Hills is comprised of Frank on guitar and vocals and Tom O'Connor on drums. The duo got its start at Mojo's open mic nights, branching out to other Columbia venues from there.
"For being such a small downtown area, there are a lot of different places to play and a large demographic," Frank said. "Plus being in a small town helps get your word around."
Frank classifies Boreal Hills as blues-rock, but the most distinctive aspect of the band's sound is its dynamic. Choosing to remain a duo since forming in 2008, the band lacks a bass player, meaning Frank produces all the melodies himself with his guitar and vocals. For him, that is ideal because it allows him to retain his independence as a musician, controlling the songwriting and most of the overall sound, while still collaborating with another musician and playing in a band.
"I don't think we're limited in sound, because I play through a bass and a guitar amp," Frank said. "I think we can still achieve the same goals with just one guitar."
Although often approached after shows with inquiries about the missing bassist, Boreal Hills has no intention of adding another member. With influences, such as The Black Keys and The White Stripes, the duo looks up to other two pieces that provide the same power and drive as larger set-ups.
"I love the energy that is required for a two piece to really pull it off," Frank said. "This is what we started as, and this is all I've ever really wanted it to be."
The only downside, Frank said, is the transparency a two-piece set-up provides for hearing mistakes.
"When you have a multiple person band there can be parts that slip and it will still sound good," Frank said. "If I fuck up on the songs, you will know something went wrong."
The band recently made its first demo, recorded at home on cassette tapes and burned onto Memorex CDs. Frank hopes the demo will help get the band out there, but he said they're working on producing more material, so they can record their first full length album in a studio.
In the meantime, the members plan to keep doing what they do best and touring the Columbia music scene. They will be playing a show March 23 in the same venue they debuted in two years ago: Mojo's. Eventually, Frank hopes to expand their reach and tour outside Columbia, but for now he's happy playing the stages of his hometown and putting Boreal Hills' music out there.