Monday 17th March was a big day for local pop-rock five piece Natives, as they made an in-store appearance at HMV Southampton to celebrate the release of their debut album, Indoor War. Hailing from the New Forest, Jim, Andy, Jack, Greg and Ash promoted their new release and upcoming headline tour by playing an acoustic set.
I caught up with frontman Jim, bassist Jack and drummer Andy earlier in the day to chat about writing tracks, touring and structural engineering.
You’ve just officially released your debut album and are about to kick off your headline UK tour this March and April, but first you’re playing for us at this special in-store gig. You guys must be pretty excited.
Andy: Very excited, the first time we’ve ever played in an HMV so looking forward to it. We haven’t actually seen the shop yet, but I hear there’s a stand with our CDs which is obviously a really cool feeling.
You’re going to be in-store doing some signings. The album has officially gone on sale today [17th March]; how has the reaction been from fans so far?
Jack: Really good. Obviously the last couple of weeks we’ve been receiving all the reviews which is always interesting. It’s impossible not to care what people think, but we’ve been really lucky and have had an amazing response, lots of nine out of tens and five out of fives from people who have really grasped our concept and got on board with the album. From a publicity point of view it’s been fantastic. The last couple of days people have got their pre-orders and it’s gone on iTunes and the response from our fan base has been amazing as well.
Jim: It’s in the top ten rock albums already on iTunes. It went on sale at midnight, so that’s pretty cool.
That’s a big step from putting out your last EP for free.
Jack: It’s completely different; you have this product that identifies your band, an actual physical thing. Whereas before, it was a free download – which is great, lots of people could hear it – this time it’s an actual tangible thing that you can hold and that’s a cool feeling.
Your debut album is titled Indoor War. Do you have any inspiring stories about sofa forts, cardboard box castles, or just general indoor conflict?
Andy: I guess I wasn’t adverse to the odd den when I was younger. So normally I just took the duvet off the bed over to the desk, put books on the desk…
Andy: To weigh it down, so it didn’t collapse.
Jim: My dens always used to collapse.
Jack: You’re a bad structural engineer. It’s all about basing it on chairs and sofas, with a light roof.
Andy: You’re not a structural engineer!
Jack: You haven’t seen my dens mate, if we had an indoor war I’d clearly win by the sounds of it.
Andy: I never had a war. It was never a castle, more of a den.
Jack: Maybe that can be our activity for Travelodges and hotels on this tour. We’ll get in from the gig – ‘ah good gig guys, let’s build a den and have a little war’.
Andy: I think it was conscious in a way. We recorded a lot before, mainly guitar. You end up double tracking with what looks like a big fat sausage of wave. It ends up more like a wall of noise than the person play the guitar. So we consciously made it so that you can hear the person play.
Jack: It gives you more room to hear everyone play. If you don’t fill it up with guitars, you can hear all the little intricacies that everyone’s playing. It’s poppy at the same time. All of it was recorded in the same room at the same time. It seemed like doing things stripped back and not overproducing it allowed the songs to shine through.
You’ve also talked about how Paul Simon’s Graceland was particularly influential in developing your use of percussion. What are your favourite musical tricks that you’ve picked up, and who else has been a big influence on your sound?
Jack: Me and Andy discovered Paul Simon literally just before we started recording. That album is amazing. Paul Simon recorded it in South Africa with African tribes playing instruments and it sounds great.
Andy: It’s got more grooves than anything.
Jack: We’ve always thought that our band is quite melodic, but what we’ve learnt from this album is that it’s got more of a groove and is more percussive than before.
Andy: Influences is one of those questions where it’s probably never ending.
Jack: When people ask us about the single ‘Can’t Say No’, we always talk about how Dr. Luke – the producer that works with Katy Perry and Rihanna – uses the 808 electric drums in verses. We really wanted to do that and make the song really poppy. His production was an influence on us; we’re always listening to new things. The latest Fall Out Boy album came out and we were impressed by how a pop-rock band could do something that was so much bigger than pop-rock. I suppose that idea of being bigger than your pigeonholed genre is something that we’ve always wanted.
It’s interesting that you say that, because I thought that ‘Can’t Say No’ is great as a song that you’d listen to day-to-day, but it’d also hold up quite well in a club as well with its sing-along chorus. If you could choose any artist to remix it, who would it be?
Jack: Avicii or the French guy, Guetta – David Guetta, he just churns out hits doesn’t he.
Andy: Armin Van Buren, Skrillex, all the biggest DJs in the world.
The first track of your album is titled ‘This Island’; do you have a favourite island?
Jack: We just went to the Philipines and before we played our shows we went to Borocay, as friends, and that is literally the best island.
Jim: It’s literally paradise.
Jack: …and obviously the UK.
Now I’ve got to ask the classic question; if you were left on a desert island, what would you not be able to live without?
Jack: Water… food. I’m trying to think of something that isn’t cheesy. I quite like being in the band, I could definitely live without it but I wouldn’t be particularly happy being on an island without my mates.
Andy: Shall we umbrella that as music? Music, friends and…
Jack: Your essentials like food, water, heat, warmth.
Jim: I’d probably say sun cream because I hate sunburn.
What is it that you ‘can’t say no’ to?
Jim: I’d never say no to money.
Jack: We have an uncontrollable addiction. This sounds like a really obvious thing for a band, and really deep as well; we love writing and recording songs. We’re constantly creating. We love playing live, but writing songs is our thing.
Your headline tour was originally scheduled for November, but you decided to reschedule it to this March. Could you talk us through the reasons for that decision and its effect?
Jack: We were just getting our ducks in a row with the album. We are very lucky that we have a following, but it seemed unfair to ask people to fork out for a ticket to a headline show when they only know three songs. If people were going to spend money on a headline ticket to us rather than as a support band, they should have an album first because a gig is so much better when you can sing along. It was a simple as that, we wanted the tour to coincide with the album. It’s been a slight inconvenience, but there weren’t many people who returned their tickets. A lot more has been going on now that the album has come out, so there’s a lot more excitement around the tour. As far as we can see, it’s been a positive. We haven’t played the shows yet but the ticket sales kept going up. It just makes more sense to coincide it with the album rather than just have a random headline tour from a band who’s given away a free EP.
Was it agonising having to wait longer to play the tour?
Andy: You’re used to waiting when you’re in a band. You spend most of your life waiting so it wasn’t too bad.
Jack: We’ve been quite busy; when you’re doing things time goes quite quickly. We really wanted people to have a body of our music so that they could get involved. We were waiting for people to give the fans the music we’d had recorded for quite a while. That’s the bit that has been painstaking.
You guys like to get interactive with your fans, and have developed a sign called ‘The Point‘, what’s the idea behind that?
Jack: We love the idea of a community rather than there being a barrier between the band and the audience. When there are people that appreciate our music, and it resonates with them, it makes us want to have more of a community with them rather than them just being someone who comes to our gigs and buys our CDs. It’s an extension of that. We knew we wanted to take a picture at every gig we played and rather than having people just looking up wondering what’s going on, we thought ‘let’s make a symbol that sums up our band’. What’s really cool is that we get tweets from people from all over the place, all over the world doing it in random places. It was a way of identifying the audience.
It’s really cool how those photos chart the places you’ve been, and it’ll be interesting to see it develops. I know you’ve got a lot ahead of you with the upcoming tour, but looking to the future, have you got any plans for afterwards?
Andy: Another tour.
Jack: The rest of the year we just want to play this album to as many people as we can and advertise it all over the world.
Later, Jim, Jack and Andy took to the shop floor with fellow band mates Ash and Greg to play a short acoustic set. The front of HMV was packed out as a large crowd of enthusiastic fans gathered to witness Natives play acoustic versions of five of their most popular tracks, including ‘This Island’, ‘Can’t Say No’, and ‘Stand For Something‘. It was also entertaining to see the five-piece take advantage of the laid back company of devoted fans by playing a special mariachi-influenced variant. After performing, Natives took the opportunity to talk to their fans and have their photos taken, as well as sign copies of their album that were on-sale.