There's something brewing in the Midwest. Basements are being flooded, and new bands are beginning to take the road, bringing back a sense of D.I.Y. that we first start seeing hit house shows and small clubs before everything sort of blew up. Native have been touring a year and a half on their first EP, but with the release of Wrestling Moves, they're poised to continue in stride and the guys took time to sit and talk about the debut release from Sargent House and their touring on the positive buzz of their first full length.
What do you guys think of being the new, young talent on a label like Sargent House?
Ed O'Neil: It's kind of a mix feeling, at least in my perspective. It awards us a lot of opportunity because we are so young. We haven't really been worn out by extensive touring, and all the other stuff in the music industry - kind of fresh. At the same time, we kind of have to prove ourselves more, so it's going to automatically be used against us, as well as for us.
Bobby Markos: People might not take us as seriously at first, because we're younger...
O'Neil: Yeah, they always have that bias, "Yeah, they're kind of young," you know?
Do you find you hear that a lot so far?
Markos: It's never outright. No one has ever said that to us, but you can tell that some people think that way. It's just common sense, like I would think of a band that way maybe, negatively, not giving them a chance, not even thinking about it. A lot of times I'll be surprised, like, "That band is really good. That's really impressive," from a 15-16 year old. So, I think people might think of us that way, "Oh, wow, they're like 19 and 20. This is way different than I thought it would be."
O'Neil: Instead of judging us strictly on music, "They write songs I really enjoy," it's like, "That band writes good music for being 19 and 20," where we have to overcome that, because it doesn't matter how old we are, it's good music. Age isn't really a question. At the same time, it's also a very positive thing, because we're fresh still.
Markos: We might not get excluded from some things, but be included because of some things.
What do you think of the response to Wrestling Moves so far?
O'Neil: I'm pretty overwhelmed by it. I've always dreamed of our first album not flopping. It was good that it didn't flop. The good reviews just blew me away. We thought, maybe, moderate reviews at best. Even though we're really proud of the record, doesn't mean other people are going to be way stoked on it. It's really good to see that people have been so kind so far.
I saw you guys a few months ago at The Parlour, and I was pretty blown away by that show. There seems to be this gradual climb of a fan base going now. Are you all pretty stoked on that?
O'Neil: Yeah, our turnouts are better every tour.
Markos: The ball has been really rolling with online press. Every once and a while, we get a feature on a very small website. Now, every day Cathy [Pellow], our manager, is sending us a new e-mail, "You guys were featured on this website," or "This blog reviewed you." It's weird to see our music in that many places.
O'Neil: I think the blogs and the smaller sites are what capture more and more than the bigger ones, because that's totally unprovoked most of the time. We know that Sargent House isn't going around, like, "Hey, did you hear about our new band?" They genuinely like the album, and they want to write about it. Another thing is torrents. It kind of sucks, but people give enough shit to leak the album.
At the same time, Sargent House is incorporating Bandcamp, which is a strive forward in fixing that problem. What about the response of having a digital copy and not having a physical package for a few months? How well has that release helped?
O'Neil: It is cool, because I think digital releases build hype. Kids are downloading it. It beats waiting almost four months to have a physical copy. CD's are almost a dead technology anyway. Vinyl is coming back. More kids actually ask us about vinyl.
Markos: It's cool that people are connecting with the music. We haven't played in Texas - we played Fort Worth last night - but we haven't played here since August, and our CD's been out since then. We haven't brought a physical copy down here yet, but people knew the lyrics, and were able to buy a physical copy. That's just an example. I like touring with fresh material. If we have a physical format that hasn't been released, yet people know the material, it's really nice.
What about people paying over the amount listed on Bandcamp?
Markos: People definitely payed $10 or $12 for it. Some girl, I remember we played in Lake Station, she came up, "Oh, I saw it was $10 and I gave you guys $12," and I was like, "What do you mean?" I wasn't even aware that it was pay what you want for it. It seems like a lot of people are giving more. It's like donating at a show, when there's no door charge. It's really nice that people do that.
What are the plans for 2010 with this coming out at the end of 2009 with a physical 2010 release?
O'Neil: It's kind of a big question mark at this point.
Markos: We have things that we want to do. At this point, we'll probably do things the way we always do. "You want to go on tour? Yeah? Okay, let's book it." Then we'll book it, and then be ready to go. If any thing comes up, then...
O'Neil: Yeah, it's definitely an open-ended question. What we've done now, is book our own tours with whoever we want to go with. If we get a chance to go on another tour, we'll go on that. It's kind of nice, because we can do whatever we want to do.
Is there anyone in particular you want to go on tour with?
O'Neil: I have no idea right now. It's been an interesting year. I'm kind of excited to see who is motivated to go out. If anyone does ask us to go, I'm just excited to go back out again.
Markos: A lot of the time we get way more hooked on bands that we just meet. For example, we just met this band in Iowa called Former Thieves, who were incredible. They were seriously the best band I've seen all year. They're just getting started in Iowa, and haven't done a lot of touring. I get a lot more stoked on bands like that than I do bigger bands.
O'Neil: It's more like if you can have a good time with that band and enjoy watching them every night. It's just sort of nice that you can hang out and watch each other. It's not so much "who will give us the best opportunity" but who are we going to have the best possible time with.
Do you think that positive energy among the bands on the bill helps carry along into the shows and the crowds?
Markos: Also, being with friends, watching them every night, the crowd picks up on that, and they get more into it. If we're having fun with each other, they'll have fun too.
Do you feel that's missing from the touring scene now?
O'Neil: There's a lot of different scenes now. It all depends. There are bigger club shows. With some bands, it's more of a business; it's an opportunity; we are opening for this band, we're probably doing this for ourselves. We're more into touring with our friends and checking out new bands. The entire experience, rather than playing a show and packing up and hitting the next town. The experience itself is kind of rewarding.
Do you prefer the atmosphere of the basement shows and house shows and smaller venues?
Dan Evans: Absolutely. We just feel more right, playing shows on the ground with everybody. It doesn't necessarily have to be a basement, but just a small place, like The Parlour is great. It was too small for us to fit our amps. Perfect. We just felt on the same level as everyone else. We just sort of feed off the crowd.
O'Neil: Rather than being a show, it's more of making a connection. That sounds cheesy and cliche. I don't feel it as much standing on stage being stared at with this barricade. To have a connection that close is really important. Playing clubs is cool. Tonight's club is cool.
Markos: We might have played good shows [at clubs], because we're still getting started and no one knows us. Naturally we're not going to fill a club. I don't mind clubs, I just don't want to be solely a club band. We wanted to be able to play basements and art spaces and not just clubs. I think it's a shame that bands do that, that they get to that point and grow out of it. You can't forget [those roots].
Don't you think there's a level where that's hard to control?
[An astounding "absolutely" falls across the band]
Markos: We just played a city where it was uncomfortable, almost miserable. But still, it was flattering.
O'Neil: I hate to use them, because everyone uses the example, but Fugazi used to play public houses and basement shows and it was packed. At the same time, they played clubs as well. It's not like we just totally idolize Fugazi, you have to respect a band that conducts themselves like that.
When does it get to the point where you're not allowed to share in that intimacy anymore?
O'Neil: We haven't even thought about that.
Markos: I guess a lot of people standing outside would be a bummer. If a lot of people complained about it, we'd probably have to do something about it. If they came to house show and had to split because they couldn't see us play, that would really bother us, because we want people to see us play. "Oh yeah, they can't get in? Fuck it!" [Laughs] It's not like that at all. We haven't really experienced that. We just played two shows in Chicago that were really insane. Way too many people crammed into a basement. The time to even consider moving on is when enough people are like, "Look, I've come to see you X number of times, and I haven't been able to see you, because it's been way too crowded."
Evans: When we recorded with Chris [Common] of These Arms Are Snakes, we just chatted with him about basement shows. He was saying they stopped doing those shows because their shit was getting destroyed every night. Like Ryan's [Frederickson] pedals were fucked. If that happens, then that's a bummer.
O'Neil: I can't imagine that coming. I know that sounds like full modesty, I honestly can't imagine that.
Evans: If you watch us live, on stage, or on the floor...you can kind of tell...there's just something about that band that doesn't belong on stage. You just see us being a little bit uncomfortable. Just a little bit...our actions are a little bit...
O'Neil: If you go back, we've probably played less than 20 shows on stage...We'll see, because that's a hard question to answer. I haven't even thought about that.
What do you think of the direct comparisons? When I first heard Wrestling Moves, I felt it rocked like Minus the Bear but Bobby, your vocals are very much like These Arms Are Snakes, and I've been finding that comparison a lot. Is it direct or natural?
O'Neil: I can't really speak for [Bobby's] vocals. As far as music, and correct me if I'm wrong, everyone says they listen to a lot of music, it's funny that everyone always compares us to Minus the Bear because of the finger tapping stuff...
Evans: I think that's why we are compared to Minus the Bear...
O'Neil: I listen to bands like Piglet. I listen to Kaki King, which is probably our biggest influence on guitar. She's unbelievable. It's more of the mood she writes that influences us more. When we first started out, it was more like "Let's do this," because we heard it in a Minus the Bear song, that's what kind of changed with Wrestling Moves, forget the technique, let's write something that's more of the mood we're going for - the feeling in it. We listen to a lot of hardcore like Converge, with a lot more aggression in it. As far as Minus the Bear, I haven't listen to that in years...The whole Minus the Bear thing, they're a really great band, but I'm more of a Botch fan.
Markos: I never really listen to any bands that sing like me. I prefer a lot of more thrash bands. I remember getting Comdre's CD, Burn Your Bones, and being like, "These vocals are just so thrash." So unbelievable. It fits the music so perfectly. I've never been influenced by bands, like "I really like that guys melody when he sings." I do like bands that can sing. I like Fleet Foxes and Minus the Bear. Dave Davison [of Maps and Atlases/Cast Spells] has an awesome voice. I just never liked it for me. Our first EP was more of that direction, dance-rock, where the vocals weren't necessarily screaming. We listen to a lot more hardcore, those influences, we might be a little bit more thrash sounding to compliment it.
I think it's interesting that you say they you're influenced by hardcore, but it's not hardcore sounding. There's this funk that rides through that isn't seen on something like American Nervoso or Axe to Fall.
Evans: When we started the band, it was us four, and then there was nobody else close within this group, so we were like, "Bobby sing," because we didn't like anyone else.
O'Neil: He was not happy. We're really glad [he] did.
Evans: It's funny, because on our reviews for everything, the vocals score the lowest. I like how they're not accessible. It sets us apart from a lot of things too. To answer the question, "will it be more hardcore?" I don't think so.
O'Neil: I didn't think this album came out so aggressive. At the same time, it was a lot of frustration with We Delete; Erase and touring on it for a year and a half...
Evans: I think it was a lot of finding ourselves too. Which is very very cliche to say, but I think it was that we hated We Delete; Erase, and still do. Then it was like, well fine, if that's not us, then what is.
O'Neil: As far as saying, "Well, is it more hardcore?" hardcore is a broad term, especially now. As far as hardcore, there's a certain aggression to it, but I don't think we're going to start doing chug parts in drop A. If anything, I kind of picture the direction we're going, but that's natural..
Evans: It's really hard to say...
Markos: We would try to write [mellow songs for the album], but it just wouldn't come naturally. Everything aggressive came naturally. That's how this album came out aggressive. The story of the songs, and the meaning of the songs came out aggressive. That's just how it came out. The mood overtakes what you are listening to, as far as influence goes. How you feel...
O'Neil: There's no better feeling than writing a song and writing the perfect part that fits.
Evans: I think what kind of helped writing was we all knew what the songs were about before writing the music.
Markos: Exactly. We set out to write songs about certain things. That was good, because we're all on the same page. The lyrics tell a story, and the music itself tells a story. Even if the song is instrumental, but you knew what the song meant, you kind of get that picture from it. That's what we set out to do.
The album just flows really well.
Evans: We had it all laid out before we left. Then there were a few things we had to turn around a little bit. We tried really. I don't think it was a fluke at all.
O'Neil: It wasn't that we wrote the whole album in an entirety to flow, I think we wrote songs where "Oh, we can do this!"
Evans: Chris was almost like a fifth member. Not so much as writing the album. but kind of getting our thoughts. It was really awesome.