Navytrain: A Soulful Sound of Burlington, VT

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Navytrain is an incredible and very new trio comprised of Cole Davidson (lead guitar/vocals), Zebulon Carney (bass), and Ray Belanger (percussion & vocals). Their sound is quite unique, consisting of soulful rhythms and powerful melodies. They formed and are based out of Burlington, Vermont.

Chelsea Erin Wright: I had the chance to see Navytrain’s first live show, by luck of being in the right place at the right time. I was struck by the deep & soulful sound, and couldn’t wait to hear more. I’m excited to learn about Navytrain’s story – when did Navytrain form, and how did you come together?

Zebulon Carney: We started in early September. We came together because Cole had a solo show and was ready to take his sound to the next level. He decided he wanted some percussion and bass behind it, so we started – we practiced for about a week, then had a radio show before our first live show at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington. It was received really well, so we decided it was time to figure out more…we just kept practicing and now we have a 15 song arsenal. It’s worked really well for us so far, so we’re just going to keep going.

Cole Davidson: Freshman year we all lived on the same floor of UVM in the Marsh hall…me and Zeb were random roomates, Duncan and Ray lived with other people but we all became friends. Me and Ray were into the same music back then…I was trying to record my own stuff as a solo act, thats how I started out. Me and Ray would just jam in our dorm rooms together…Zeb played guitar too. Sophomore year Zeb and I ended up living together again, so we would play together. It wasn’t really until this year that we moved into the same house, that we started playing together frequently. I bought Zeb a bass not really thinking I would pay for it, I was just thinking I would buy it and return it…I just wanted to hear him play, because he said he would be interested in playing bass. Now it’s what he plays primarily. Ray already had the cohone, so we just went and setup in our basement…immediately it just worked.

CEW: It seems like you guys are multi-instrumentalists, from what I’ve seen.

CD: Yeah – Zeb plays 6 string electric guitar and bass, I play guitar, piano and sax as well as percussion on some of Rays songs. Ray plays piano and guitar, and sings.

CEW: Having just started out, you guys are building momentum quick. You’ve already played 16 shows, including last night in Montreal – how did that show go, and do you forsee having a tour schedule soon?

ZC: That show went very well – we pulled a bigger crowd than we had expected to, in a foreign country which was an exciting surprise. It sounded really good too, which helps. When you’re just starting out it’s a risk you have to take because some places just don’t have good sound setups…we played at a really good venue.

CD: It was really nice to see some people from Burlington made the drive up…a few groups of people came. It’s about a two hour drive, which is pretty crazy…I didn’t really expect them to do that. Honestly we’re just trying to pretend like we’re touring while were still in school, and see what happens.

ZC: It’s tough lining them up, but we’ve already played 16 shows in the past month and a half. We’re just going to keep doing that…making as many connections as possible.

CEW: Yes…dedicated fans already! Cole, you have an incredible solo collection. When did you begin singing and playing guitar? (See Solo collection here: Cole Davidson)

CD: I was 16, and I had just a chord. My sister had a poster with all of the guitar chords on it in standard tuning so I just started teaching myself. I started listening to soe musicians who play in open tunings, and I realized that I like the sound of that a lot more. So I started learning that by ear…I started writing songs the summer before I came to UVM, and during my freshman year of college I started writing more. I don’t know why I started…it was kind of out of character for me. I don’t think people who know me would’ve expected me to start singing and playing guitar. I just started doing it, and I liked it. I like writing, always have. It was just a matter of learning how to sing. For a long time I didn’t really nail down, and I don’t think I have yet really…i’ve never been trained.

ZC: The whole time that Cole was going through the process of teaching himself and learning, we lived together so I got to watch all of the growth…it was cool to see that happen. I would just be doing homework in our dorm room, and he would be messing around on the guitar…he would tune it differently, and it just kept turning into something new…that continuously got better and better. I saw the transformation.

CEW: It seems like you’re naturally meant to play music.

CD: I was very shy about it at first, I used to sing pretty quietly…but now it’s something that I couldn’t see myself not doing. I see myself doing other things besides music of course, but I just love it.

CEW: As the primary songwriter, how would you describe Navytrain’s sound? It’s so unique – there’s not a genre that it fits into easily.

CD: We’ve been trying to figure out what to call it, and it seems like there should be a simple answer…the other day I stumbled upon a genre called urban folk. I think that’s the closest name to what our sound is. Urban Folk is music rooted in the folk instrumentations, but we’re leaning more towards soul.

ZC: We all like the same kind of music, but each of us is also into very different types of music…and coming into Navytrain none of us sacrificed our styes, so I think our sound is a reflection of that. I used to listen to really hard rock…when I’m coming up for a bass line for something, that’s where it’s coming from. It’s a combination of the genre’s and styles that we’ve found ourselves liking in the past. And you wouldn’t expect that to be an influence on this sound, but it does…at least on a third of it.

CEW: Where do you find your inspiration for the songwriting that you do?

CD: They’re mostly written about people that I know, and relationships that you have with people. I grew up in a really cool place…I think back to my hometown a lot and that has a big influence. I’m starting to branch out from self oriented songwriting, and am starting to write more about the world, politics and social issues. It’s more abstract and encrypted than you would think…someone who hears it may not know what I’m talking about, but I feel that on a certain level they get it – even if it is just a song about one of my experiences.

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CEW: 
That’s one of the really beautiful things about music – you can mean one thing, and it can be perceived very differently by another but it’s the feeling within it that holds the thread of connection to what the song truly means. Although each individual may perceive a different story, from their own unique view, there is a certain level of connection through understanding the feelings that are created by the messages.

CD: Exactly, you’re never going to know exactly what the songwriter is trying to say because you can’t get in anyones head really. But back to your question, people who have effected me – good or bad – I think a lot about things, I’m a big daydreamer.

CEW: That’s a great thing to be…an important thing to keep doing in this world, especially now. In my mind, the most powerful music not only conveys deep emotions but creates the energy to move and inspire others. The vibe that you guys create seems to be done seamlessly, without effort – I know you guys put in a lot of effort, but it seems like you don’t have to try. It’s just naturally free-flowing as what you are putting out. How do you see this strength allowing you three to evolve as musicians individually and as a group?

CD: I think that the big thing about what makes us want to do it is that it’s so much fun…if we couldn’t tell that people were somewhat interested, we wouldn’t be doing it. That’s what live music is really, getting everyone in the room to agree to be in the same mood as you. And if you can do that, then you can grab the room and everyones on the same page. I think that’s what the best musicians do…as far as individually, we’re all growing musically at a pretty quick rate.

ZC: Cole has put in a lot of hours, working on the process and writing songs. And Ray too…two very different songwriters. It’s really beneficial to get those different perspectives. I feel like as individuals, we get in our own little worlds and see things in a more narrow way…but when you can see things from multiple perspectives, thats really important. That’s what I feel like I’m getting out of it…none of us have sacrificed what we want to bring to the table which is why it works so well. There’s a sound that happens when the three of us play together, which is what is really exciting about it.

CEW: I think that’s what allows for a lot of growth in bands, as well as people just relating to each other in general. Not confining one another, being able to expand and grow with what each of you has to offer. Zeb, do you think you’ll end up writing any songs at some point?

ZC: I love playing by myself, and we’re not always together…I’m always working on it. I’m not going to just do anything just to do it, I want to be ready. I’m a little further behind in that regard…being able to play an instrument and writer are two very different things. I feel like i’ve finally realized how hard it is, and I have a new respect for that.

CEW: Through seeing a lot of different bands at many venues, one thing that I discovered early on is how powerful the energy can be that’s created between the band and the crowd. As you mentioned before, you guys already have had people drive all the way to Montreal just to see you play, and having only started a month ago that is pretty incredible…I’ve also seen firsthand how well received you guys have been, and on a personal level am thoroughly impressed. Do you think that you’ll start expanding outside of Vermont and playing around New England anytime soon?

CD: We’ve already booked some shows in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island – we’re trying to book some shows in Boston, and would love to play anywhere that’s a reasonable drive…we have a full schedule of classes, but are dedicating our weekends and any free-time we have to either traveling to play shows or recording.

CEW: From what I understand, it seems like you guys just play together and you don’t really have band practices besides when you first formed? That says a lot about the chemistry that exists between the three of you.

ZC: Yeah right now, we’re not really practicing. Cole has a lot of material that we should work on together as a band that will require practicing to get there, but primarily we just play for fun and have been doing live shows as they become available. For the past month, one of us has just been feeling it and will go start playing…if there’s two people getting into it, it’s hard not to just join in. It certainly doesn’t feel like practice because it just flows so well. That’s how it started really.

CEW:Is there anything else that either of you would like to share with the world about Navytrain?

CD: We’re working on an E.P. which will be released soon, so stay tuned. Come to a live show if you like what you’ve heard.

Here’s one of their recently released videos:

To view more of Navytrain’s videos go to Navytrain Official. You can also follow them on Facebook, or find them at one of their next shows on their recently released upcoming tour:

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