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Musos’ Guide Interviews Natives

After reviewing Natives’ debut record – 2014’s Indoor War – and live show almost four years, it was a pleasure to speak with the band’s Jack Fairbrother to discuss what 2017 and beyond holds for the quartet. Hailing for The New Forest, England their enticing and tropical sound is in tune with Busted’s restyled vibes as showcased on Night Driver, and it therefore makes perfect sense why they were selected as sole support for the band’s recent UK tour.

The Natives own live show is equally brimming with energy, and if the songs were equally known, the party atmosphere would likely be equalled without a problem. Looking to broaden that reach and expand on their popularity, the part will release their two-part second album this year, proclaiming the beauty of “tribal pop” to the masses.

You can read the brief conversation we had with Fairbrother below, slightly edited for easier reading, conducted in a fire escape (don’t tell Health & Safety) due to the strict nature of security at a Busted headline show. It starts and ends abruptly, but hopefully it convinces you of the band’s impressive craft:

Musos’ Guide: Firstly, how’s the tour been?

Natives’ Jack Fairbrother: It’s been great.

MG: Coming to an end soon, three dates left?

JF: Three dates left for us, yeah. It’s been amazing, we get to play in beautiful theatre venues, which is quite rare, very regional. We get to play in places that most tours this size don’t come, like Southend, Folkestone, Aberdeen, which is really cool. Busted have treated us amazingly well, played to loads of people, no complaints at all.

MG: You’ve been keeping a tour diary on Facebook, looking through those videos the music isn’t your music, which a lot of people would do, how did you pick the songs?

JF: It’s pretty simple actually, you’re not allowed to put music on videos online without permission. So, we had the choice of either just making it all about us or struggling, but our manager runs a record label [LAB Records], and so we can get clearance to use those songs. We just picked songs from that label that we liked, we’re supporting a record label that we like, bands that we like, it makes sense to us to do it like that rather than it just be like a Natives song every time. People on our page probably know what our songs sound like already, so why not spread some of the music we like and a record label we like?

MG: You’re quite active on social media as a band, do you think that’s important?

JF: Yeah, I think so, it would be weird if we weren’t like that because we preach quite a lot about the power of community, and because our band is all about community it would seem very wrong to talk about how everyone should come together and how every should build a community, but then not lead by example. So, you know, we want to chat to everyone, it’s like a no brainer for us, it’s just like part of the day, we make sure we’ve got enough hours in the day to make sure we spend time replying to all the messages and to say hello to everyone, because we’re very grateful that people are into our band.

MG: You recently, officially, announced an upcoming headline tour, do you have any comments on that?

JF: Yeah, excited. We’ve done three support tours now in this cycle, and we kinda do our thing where we’re trying to persuade people who don’t know who we are, like get them into our band, and there’s something very cool being like that when you’re supporting, it’s a different thing. We’re looking forward to the challenge of when someone’s bought a ticket to our tour, they want to see us, so it’s a whole thing of playing a longer set and how can we give them the most value of our band without having to sell the band as a new thing to them. When we play tonight, 90% of the room probably doesn’t know who we are, so it’s like giving them a snapshot in half an hour of what Natives is about, but when we go out on the headline tour those people have paid money because they wanna see us perform live, so you’ve got to make sure that’s the most value and not the most Natives it can be.

MG: The upcoming album, is that finished, or is it still in the works?

JF: Yeah, that’s coming out, it’s so long that it’s coming out in two halves. Because it’s a twenty-track album, and no-one wants twenty tracks in one go, that’s too much. So the first half, the first ten tracks, are being released on May 19th, and the second half will follow later in the year. The novel that accompanies it will come with the second half at the end of the year.

MG: The novel encompasses both halves?

JF: Yes, so it is one thing, it’s not like we wrote it in two halves, we wrote the whole thing as one big twenty-chapter narrative, and then because we had twenty chapters we wrote twenty songs. But then when we came to listen to it, 95 minutes, or whatever it is, is a lot of music in one go so we felt like it made more sense to split them in half. So that’s why the novel comes with the second half, because it tells the story of the whole album, and we don’t want to reveal the second half in the novel before the second half is out. When the second half comes out, it’ll be twenty track piece.

MG: Is it going to have two names, or just one name, part one and two?

JF: No, it’s got one name, part one and part two, but we haven’t announced the name. Just one name, which is the name of the book, we had the book and the story before we had any music.

MG: Are there any visuals to go with that, you have the music and the words, are there illustrations?

JF: We would love to, the dream would be for it to be a theatre musical, and we’d really strive for it, it’d be a rock opera type thing. We haven’t got plans at the moment, that’s obviously a big thing to organise, but we talked about doing some animation and stuff, but at the moment it’s just the book and the music. But the artwork is very linked as well, we’ve been like creating these symbols and stuff, it’s all part of this. We’ve created such a vast world for it, and there’s so much intricate detail in the lyrics and in the book, that there’s so much room for expansion that we’d love to do like a film and all these things, it’s just figuring it all out.

MG: Are the symbols on the single covers part of that world, that imagery?

JF: Yeah, exactly, it’s kinda our own take on ancient glyphs or runes, and so with each single cover the texture and the colour represents something to do with the track, and then the symbol itself, the glyph, we designed each one ourselves and they sum up either what’s happening in the narrative or some theme in that song. For example, in ‘Warpaint’, which is the latest single we released, the glyph is our take on this maybe like abstract brickwork because that song’s talking about foundations and building a city, and our symbol, the point at the bottom of that because it’s about the foundations of this tribe and this community. So, everything has a message which is embodied in the art, and it’s all part of this one big story.

MG: How did the story come together, did you build it up in parts, or did you have a complete saga which was then divided into parts?

JF: Yeah, pretty much, yeah, it wasn’t written in twenty parts, it was just like we had this timeline, this story that we wanted to tell and then when we split it up into songs it fell into twenty chapters. Well not when we split it into songs, when we split it into chapters, it went into twenty, and then it made sense to just write a song for each chapter. That’s just kinda how it fell, it’s wasn’t like we were aiming for a nice round number, it just ended up like that.

MG: How did the songwriting fall with that, was it always as a group, or did certain people take parts they felt more affinity with?

JF: It’s very communal, generally the process would be that Andy [White] would have a basic track that he’d built up himself as a producer, bring that to us and talk about it. We treated it like soundtracking films rather than writing pop songs, so we would be like “What’s happening at this part of the story?”, we’d talk about it, and then we would all sit down in the studio. It definitely wasn’t a live thing, it wasn’t like we were all on instruments jamming, it was very much a studio thing, like composers or whatever. We just wanted to soundtrack this story, it was a very studio thing, there was no intention of the live show being the same as the CD.

MG: How would future live shows go then if this is supposed to be one full entity, and if you’re touring between parts, do you miss out tracks from the second part?

JF: In May and June, we’re intentionally playing songs from the first half, bar one, which we already play in the set which is on the second half. But eventually we would love to do the full thing live, it’s just a lot of work actually to figure out how to play the songs live, because they’ve never been performed that way. We really need to sit in our studio and like deconstruct them, and be like “How can we make this song work in the live environment?”

MG: Listening to the new and old singles, the new music really encapsulates that “tribal pop” vibe a lot more, was that intentional?

JF: I think that’s what happens, I think that very much on this album we made it for ourselves not anyone else, so with the first album I think subconsciously we were trying to please people. That’s not to say it was forced, we really love that album, but it definitely feels that we were worrying about what people would think, under the radar. Whereas this time, it was a conscious effort to just make music that we enjoyed, and it just happened to come out that we’re quite inspired by world music, and that seemed to bleed into our love of pop, and when you mix the two together it ended up at this “tribal pop” thing.

Now that you’re suitably acquainted with the band, after that whirlwind tour, you can listen and watch their single ‘Chasing Lions’ below to get a taste of the appealing sound, which is sure to put a smile on your face, even on the bleakest of days. Additionally, you can find a list of those headline tours dates on the See Tickets website, should you be looking for a party later this year.

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