The New Earth Farmers duo Nicole Storto and Paul Knowles offered up some pensive narratives of the 2020s dreamscape on the 2021 EP "Into The Great Unknown". They got help from James Deprato, Kevin T White (Chuck Prophet Mission Express), and Nigel Twist (The Alarm) to round out the sound. The band recorded a new extended record during the Spring of 2022 in Napa, CA (Boxer Lodge) and Berkeley, CA. The band released "The Good Ones Got Away" in March of 2023 to enthusiastic review in the U.S. and Europe.
On their 2023 release, New Earth Farmers continue to celebrate the contradictions and complexities of the American experience, always focusing their attention on the truth. The Good Ones Got Away, is their first outing as the New Earth Farmers. The music is as honest and compelling as everything that’s come before, both as Mars, AZ and New American Farmers. Knowles says the chaos of the Covid epidemic and the current political landscape led them to reinvent the band’s name. “We wanted something less nationalistic. Right now, ‘American’ is overused and a bit jingoistic in nature. We wanted something inclusive, that had nothing to do with that frame of mind. It’s all one planet, one earth, no imaginary borders. We’re also expanding musically and starting to burn out on the whole ‘Americana’ vibe.”
Their outlook is summed up in the album’s title, a phrase taken from one of the songs on the album, “The Universe Is Hiding.” Lyrically, the song views the problems of our planet through a cosmic lens. “There may be intelligent, enlightened forms of life out there in the universe that are hiding from us, because they know what we’re up to. They don’t want to have a toxic relationship with us earthlings. A lot of people on earth feel the same way about the menacing side of our human nature. They want to get away as well. It’s a personal thing too, looking back on the years I wasn’t sober and the wasted nights spent chasing artificial joy.”
The album came together slowly during the lockdown. The duo was working on new songs, emailing ideas to the other band members, but feeling a bit stuck. When Peter Craft offered them a block of time at his Boxer Lodge studio, they headed up to Napa to record with the rest of the group - drummer Nigel Twist, formerly with The Alarm; guitarist and lap steel player James Deprato and bass player Kevin T. While, both from Chuck Prophet’s band.
“We got up early, tracked for six hours, then sat down to dinner with Peter and his wife Laura,” Knowles says. “We were all vaxxed and it was a nice antidote to the chaos to be eating, recording music and socializing. We wrote two additional songs after that session and cut them at 1332 Recording with David Luke, in Berkeley.”
As promised, the music on the album leans into rock and roll more than previous collections. “My Dog God” starts quietly, with strummed acoustic guitar chords and Knowles’ vocal describing some people who use religion as an excuse for their authoritarian behavior. Storto joins on the uplifting chorus, as Deprato drops a guitar solo that’s equal parts metal and blues. The band takes off on “The Garden,” a dystopian vision recorded live at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Originally on The Farmacology Sessions, this version features shredding electric guitar solos from Deprato and guest artist Dave Zirbel.
Knowles pays tribute to his self-taught piano playing grandfather on ”Judgement Day,” an upbeat rocker that equates salvation with music making. Storto and Knowles belt out the lyric, with Twist’s backbeat and Deprato’s howling guitars lifting the tune to the heavens. The band cut World Party’s “Waiting Such A Long, Long Time” in 2015 after Nigel introduced the duo to his long-time friend, and writer of the song, Karl Wallinger. It’s a flat-out rocker with White’s rumbling bass, Deprato’s distorted guitar and the duo’s rowdy vocals giving the track an anthemic quality.
“I think our writing and our vocal style have become more focused as we move away from the ‘Americana’ pigeon hole,” Knowles says. “We’re more honest about who we are, more aware of our age and more aware of our culture and how divided it’s become. Hopefully, we’re erasing some imaginary borders with our thinking and our music.”
As the pandemic winds down, the band is cautiously getting ready to head back to the clubs. “It’s risky to play live. We’re still hearing about bands getting Covid and canceling shows. Times are tough for artists these days. The money’s vanished and we aren’t getting any younger, but it all gets back to what we wrote in ‘Judgement Day’ – ‘Go ahead and play the song and some of them will sing along’. We have a lot of empathy for people going through rough times. We’re here to help, if you want to get away for a bit.”