Do John and Michelle Nolan think too much? Straylight Run's sibling front people - both sing, write, and play guitar and piano, ably enabled in their musical ruminations by Shaun Cooper and drummer Will Noon - don't seem like eggheads; but there's no doubting the intelligent design of their gloriously adventurous off-kilter pop and the existential underpinnings of their lyrics.
And yet there's nothing pretentious here; despite their emergence as songwriters to watch, John and Michelle are just a couple of kids from suburban Baldwin, Long Island. John did not take guitar lessons for a time, but neither has received any real formal training. And though she sang some backup for John's previous outfit, Taking Back Sunday - of which Shaun was also a member - Michelle had never been in a band before Straylight Run.
John and Shaun's reputation from Taking Back Sunday, coupled with considerable buzz generated by demos Straylight had posted online, resulted in a sold-out hometown crowd of 600 for their first performance - Michelle's first show ever. In 2004, the band released Straylight Run. First single "Existentialism on Prom Night" made inroads at Modern Rock radio, and the following year SR issued the EP Prepare to Be Wrong. Word of mouth, frequent touring and glowing reviews pushed combined sales to more than 200,000.
More and more, Straylight Run is defined not only by its creative fearlessness, but by the interplay of John and Michelle's voices; Michelle's counter melodies lend The Needles The Space considerable depth and texture (gorgeous string arrangements, among other instrumental flourishes, don't hurt either).