Small Time Napoleon to debut Doudna season


Submitted photo Small Time Napoleon will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Black Box Theatre in Doudna. Tickets are available at the Doudna box office.

Megan Ivey, Verge Editor

Some bands take years to develop a working relationship and collectively create an EP. Others, such as Small Time Napoleon, only take hours. Small Time Napoleon will perform 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Black Box Theatre in Doudna. Tickets are available at the Doudna box office and range from $7 to $15.

The four-man group started with Dan Hardin, lead vocalist and guitarist, and Jeff Thomas, lead guitarist and vocalist, when a mutual friend said the two artists’ sounds would complement each other. The search for drummer Ryan Fowler and bassist Dave Neil began when the original duo set out to record their latest self-titled EP.

“When Ryan came in to record with us, we had one rehearsal with him and then we went to the studio,” Thomas said. “With Dave, we had another bassist with us who canceled two nights before. The only rehearsal we had with Dave was we ran through all the tunes once the night before while we were in the studio getting live-checked.”

Thomas said after recording, Fowler and Neil liked the songs enough to continue “hanging out” with them.

Despite the short amount of prep time to record, Small Time Napoleon released a cohesive six-song EP, immersing listeners to sounds of subdued jazz and rock.

Thomas said the combinations of the band members’ music backgrounds create the combination of multiple genres.

Hardin began music while singing in church, and later found his interest in jazz, while Thomas began with rock roots.

Thomas said they describe their sound as trying to mesh into a three-part genre, calling it a “jazz pop-rock group.”

“We record almost everything live,” Thomas said. “A lot of bands track things out one instrument at a time, but we try to be a little bit jazzy in that respect.”

The songs can range from happy-go-lucky and induced toe-tapping, to soulful and meaningful melodies.

The first song on the EP, “In a Haze,” can be described as the first.a Thomas, who wrote the song, said that despite having nice phrases, does not have any meaning.

“‘In a Haze’ is a completely meaningless song,” Thomas said, “However, I do get a lot of people telling me they really like the lyrics, which is nice of them.”

Outside of the first track, Thomas said the songs “have some truth” to them. The EP ends with the more soulful song “Confidence Man,” written by Hardin. Thomas, while not wanting to give away his band member’s personal story to the song, said that “Confidence Man” is a self-analysis of Hardin, much like an autobiography.

“It’s a song about his past self, and maybe a little bit of his current self,” Thomas said.

Small Time Napoleon is a group who likes to experiment with their songs even after the final version is recorded.

The band recorded a live Youtube music video series called “The Living Room Sessions.”

Appropriately titled, Small Time Napoleon played through the songs on the EP in the small quarters of a living room.

The closeness brought them together in more ways than the obvious, because during the session they sped up the tempo of the original recordings.

“We went from a four to a six-eight with ‘In a Haze,’” Thomas said. “We are now also flirting with the idea of turning the song into a James Brown funk-tune, taking it to an even eight.”

During their visit to Charleston Friday, the band will visit a community school and talk to local students about the constant evolution of their music.

Thomas said there they will demonstrate their process for turning a “bare-bone” melody/lyric work and build it by putting cords under it.

“We’re going to try to explain where we come from with music and how the band functions,” Thomas said, “Even if you hear (a tune) one way the first time, it doesn’t have to stay like that.”

The following day, Small Time Napoleon will take its place on stage at Doudna.

They plan to perform songs from the EP, as well as covers and songs not known to the public.

Thomas said that their lack of formal preparation before a show allows the band to keep the music interesting.

“We never sit and hound a tune until it’s dead,” Thomas said. “If every night we played the exact same, then it wouldn’t have that explosive quality I enjoy.”

Megan Ivey can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].