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Byrgeau Noil, the newly formed solo project of Max Popoff, has come out with a new EP demo collection called “Weakly From Below.” For a debut, the EP is surprisingly well put together, and with a strong, clear sound which I can only guess stems from Popoff’s musical past. While the band name under which he is playing is new to the Denver music scene, Popoff certainly is not.
His first performance was at his high school talent show, alone with his guitar, his voice, and his amp. The night ended with his father saying that there was no reason to pursue a career with his voice; there might be something in the guitar but not in the singing.
Popoff persevered anyway with a sort of “screw it” attitude. After a rocky and eclectic six or seven years of bouncing around from band to band and genre to genre (everywhere from metal to ska to pop-punk, he even played in the school’s marching band), Popoff has come full circle and is once again playing alone with his guitar. His most recently abandoned project, grunge pop-punk outfit Strings Like the Sun, left him with a wealth of knowledge and a budding sound now found in the new Byrgeau Noil.
The name Byrgeau Noil (pronounced Bergo Noile) was born of a night of alcohol-induced confusion.
“I was drunk and I kept trying to read my t-shirt which said Pedro the Lion and I kept reading it as ‘burgoe noulle,’” Popoff said. “It doesn’t really make much sense, now though, thinking about it.”
A friend who was also participating in the drunken debauchery volunteered to design an EP cover, where he spelled the name Byergeau Noulle. Now this was definitely not punk enough. Plus, nobody could read it. So they decided on Byrgeau Noil. The name still provides difficulty to its fans though, and most people still find new ways to pronounce it.
It’s difficult to nail down exactly what Byrgeau Noil sounds like. Popoff attributes bands such as Dear and the Headlights, Elliot Smith, and old school Modest Mouse, specifically their album “The Lonesome Crowded West” as influences. Personally, I would describe his music as a cross between Bon Iver and Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains.
Denver is an expansive music scene but, especially for college students, it can be difficult to find fellow musicians who are keeping up with their music or even keeping their equipment intact, whether for money reasons or out just plain apathy.
“The first drummer who came to play with me had three broken symbols, no high-hat, and his floor tom was held up by his mom’s library books,” Popoff said.
But it’s this kind of atmosphere that is oftentimes the most conducive to the creation of good music and good times. Everyone is broke, maybe a little angry and the alcohol flows well. Popoff stuck with the drummer as a friend even if he never made it onto the record.
“We’d just drink until like 2 a.m. and then play music in the basement until the neighbors came by and yelled at us,” Popoff said.
Even if he could find another musician (or two, or three) with their lives together enough to create a traditional band, it wouldn’t be the same. His music, and the intimate lyrics embedded within, seem to necessitate that it is just him behind it all.
When asked what specifically inspires him outside of other music, he answered: “It’s times that I feel really down about things and the easiest way to cope with that is to write.”
He acknowledges that this seems cliché but clichés are overused for a reason. Great art is rarely derived from comfortable experiences. He used the song “Tax It,” found on the new EP, as an example. It comes from a time when his parents were threatening to sue him because he refused to register as an independent on their tax forms. However, dark days like this have more than paid off for him musically.
Popoff is looking forward to big things in the future. The first is the upcoming release of two new EPs. One will be a split with the band Johnny Edwards, and the other a personal project he’s receiving help with from a recording studio who owes him a favor. The split- EP will have seven songs from Byrgeau Noil, seven from Johnny Edwards and one featuring them playing together.
The second major objective on the horizon is the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival. Well known as a launching point for some pretty major acts (John Mayer and James Blunt, for example). SXSW attracts underground musicians from all over the world.
“If I can pull it [getting into SXSW] off it would be incredible,” Popoff said. “It would be a serious feat.”
So the point is this: the new EP is a superb starting point, and definitely worth checking out for anyone with a taste for well composed indie, punk rock.
Download Byrgeau Noil’s “Weakly From Below” here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jacob Spetzler at Jacob.email@example.com.