When The Novel Ideas were still just a novel idea, and not yet a band, there were two musicians involved: longtime friends, guitarists and Newton natives Daniel Radin and Danny Hoshino.
“Danny and I recorded an album in 2012,” said Radin, 28, from his home in Watertown. “We didn’t even have any intention of starting a band at that time. But we figured we could play our songs live, and a band formed around that.”
The folk-country quintet that they became, and that’s playing at Café 939 in Boston on Thursday, Sept. 7, began taking shape when bass player James Parkington joined, followed soon after by vocalist Sarah Grella, then the first in a succession of drummers – the current one is Patrick Dalton.
All members but Dalton sing, and there are some stunning harmonies to be heard in the band’s often melancholic repertoire of songs written by Radin (who also plays piano), Hoshino (who doubles on pedal steel), and Grella.
“I’ve been playing in bands since high school,” said Radin, “and I’ve always admired people who could hear harmony and sing harmony. Danny and James both had experience in choir and doing a cappella, so they had a grasp on harmony that I didn’t have, and I learned just from watching them write harmonies. Sarah, who was initially just singing harmonies with us, but now sings a lot of leads, studied voice in college, so she has a mastery over harmony.”
Though Radin’s main instrument is guitar, that’s not the way he found his way into playing music.
“Danny started playing guitar when we were both in middle school,” he recalled. “I told my parents I thought that was really cool, so for Christmas they bought me a bass guitar.” He paused, then added, with emphasis, “I did not want to play bass, but I said thank you, anyway, took lessons for about 15 years, and eventually fell in love with it. But when I was a sophomore in high school, I started playing guitar, right around the time I started writing music.”
Before The Novel Ideas, Radin played bass and sang in the synth-pop band Magic Man, which gave him his first taste of touring. And even with the advent of The Novel Ideas, he’s currently active in a second band, singing and playing bass with Future Teens.
“I’ve found that there’s two halves of my brain,” he said, laughing. “One half is sad folk-country music [with The Novel Ideas] and the other half is sad rock music. So each of those bands is one half of my brain.”
But Radin, Hoshino, Parkington, Grella, and Dalton are putting more and more energy into The Novel Ideas. When each of the three songwriters comes up with lyrics and chord structures for a new tune, they present it to everyone else, then the whole band works on arrangements together.
“Sometimes it’s just as simple as at the beginning of a practice, when all five of us are there, someone will say, ‘I’ve got a new song, it’s in the key of G’,” said Radin. “We’ll workshop it a bit, all start playing and singing, and begin giving it a try. It’s really a collaborative effort. That’s a nice way to do it.”
Their self-titled new album, which has an official release date of Sept. 8, will be featured at the Café 939 gig. Radin is especially pleased with the harmony-drenched, heartbreaking, but ultimately hopefully “I’ll Try.”
“We’ll try to play almost all the songs from it,” he said. “But whenever we play in Boston we also like to have a mix of the older songs. People here have been seeing us longer than people in any other city we’ll be playing in on this tour, so if they request something over Twitter, we’ll try to fit it in.”
Actually, touring has been on the back burner for a bit, and now it’s back in full force.
“We did some national touring a couple of years ago,” said Radin. “It was successful in the sense that we learned what it meant to be on the road, and we go closer as a band. But as far as making a living as a band, it was not successful. We took a couple of years off to regroup and finish this album, and now we’re working with a booking agency, so the plan is to be on the road a heck of a lot more than we have been in the last two years. We’ve been wanting this for a long time, so we’re all very excited.”
The Novel Ideas perform at Café 939 in Boston on Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. Pianist Pat Carr will be joining their lineup. The DuPont Brothers open. Tickets: $12. Info: 617-747-2261.
Upcoming Concerts and Club Dates:
Singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt, mashing up some folk-rock, Brit-pop, and New York punk on her newest album “Royal Blue,” plays Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge. (10 p.m.)
All-round great guitarist Duke Levine hooks up with the experimental Boston band Club d’Elf at Lizard Lounge in Cambridge. (9 p.m.)
The classic Southern rock band Little Feat is at the Wilbur in Boston. (8 p.m.)
The female art rock band Warpaint, featuring songs from last year’s “Heads Up,” comes to Brighton Music Hall. (8 p.m.)
It’s an evening of Latin American jazzy pop with Grammy Award-winner Julieta Venegas when her Parte Mia Tour makes a stop at Berklee Performance Center in Boston. (8 p.m.)
Prolific songwriter (and painter and music journalist) Tom Russell sings songs from his new CD “Folk Hotel” over two evenings at Club Passim in Cambridge. (Also Sept. 8, 8 p.m. both nights)
Bridging the sounds of folk-pop, rock, soul, blues, and country, Crystal Bowersox presents songs from her new album “Alive” at The Center for Arts in Natick. (8 p.m.)
Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows join forces on their “A Brief History of Everything Tour” at Xfinity Center in Mansfield. (6:45 p.m.)
Internationally renowned composer and jazz pianist Donal Fox plays a solo gig at the Regattabar in Cambridge. (7:30 p.m.)
It’s the 7th annual JP Music Festival, featuring (in alphabetical order) American Echoes, The Bella Lunatics, Rick Berlin w/ The Nickel & Dime Band, Bird Language, Nicolás Castaneda Group, “Sonny” Jim Clifford, Diablogato, Drug Dogs, The Footlight Club, Goddamn Draculas, LOVE LOVE, Mamadou, Monty’s Lobster, The Motivated Sequence, Nick and the Adversaries, None of the Above, Nick and the Adversaries, The Party Band, Só Sol, and Stevie Weinstein-Foner at Pinebank Field in Jamaica Plain. (noon-7 p.m.)
Ed Symkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.