Making waves recently after emerging from the New Forest in 2014 with their debut album Indoor War, Natives embody a huge alternative sound, with an abundance of colourful vibes, positivity and world music influences in tow. Backseat Mafia caught up with Jack Fairbrother, guitarist for the band, before their show in Leeds supporting Busted!
BM: Hey! So how’s the tour going with Busted so far? You guys are the only support aren’t you?
Jack: Yeah, which is a blessing… Not that we wouldn’t want to go on tour with other lovely bands, but just the nature of our show- we have a lot of stuff; a lot of instruments and things. So for a start it’s a lot easier not having to do a million change-overs in the gig. It means we get to play to a room full of people because we’re the only support so we’re on about an hour after doors. It means there is more space backstage and stuff- so that’s all nice! The tour is great, it’s a bit of an unknown thing going on tour and supporting someone like Busted, just because they’re obviously so famous and so big, so obviously everyone is here to see them and so we weren’t sure if people would be interested in watching another band. But as far as we can see, the response has been really great and people have been very kind and said some really nice things about us! We think it’s going well.
BM: I did want to ask about the response you’ve been getting, in terms of Busted having such a solid fan base, because of how long they’ve been around- people have liked Busted since they were kids. It’s cool that you’ve been getting a really good reception.
Jack: Yeah it is. We didn’t know what to make of it; we weren’t really sure of what the audience is at a Busted show in 2017. We don’t really know who the average person is who likes our band either because we have a bit of an unusual sound. But it seems to work really well, we’ve had nothing but nice things said, with people coming up to us at the end and saying they like it and stuff. So yeah it’s been really good!BM: So you have your second album coming out this year, do you have a release date for that yet?
Jack: Yeah, it’s coming out in two halves, because it’s too long.
BM: Isn’t it twenty tracks?
Jack: Yeah, and we were thinking, that’s too long for anyone to listen to in one go. SO we split it in half and the first half- part one- comes out in May on the 19th. Part two will come out towards the end of the year, but I don’t know if there’s an official date for that yet.
BM: And it follows a narrative doesn’t it?
Jack: Yeah, so there’s a book. We wrote the story first before we wrote the music, and it’s a bit like… We saw it like sound tracking a film, or scoring a musical or something. So the story came first and then we wrote twenty songs for it. The first half will come out as ten songs, and then when the second half comes out, it will be the complete thing with the accompanying book as well so you can read the book and listen to the songs. There’s twenty chapters in the story, which is why there’s twenty songs.
BM: Is there anything you can say about the story?
Jack: Yeah! It’s about community… It’s something that we feel passionate about. The idea the people from different backgrounds- people who don’t fit in- I think it comes from the fact that we have never been sure of our band’s place; I think we maybe sound a little different and are quite sort of reserved, and have always kept ourselves to ourselves. And we’ve always felt like we wanted to write something about making people feel like there’s a place where people can go where everyone is accepted.
It all started when we were in Manchester on the last tour of our last album cycle, and I was outside chatting to two really, really supportive fans who come to loads of our shows called Chloe and Alice. I was just chatting and I assumed that they were friends since school, and I asked them if they grew up together, and they said ‘oh we didn’t know each other before we started coming to your gigs, and we’ve just become friends’. I thought it was the coolest thing on earth, so I went back and told the boys about it and then when we went in the studio after that tour, this really inspired us to think about this whole thing. Then it turns out that loads of people who come to our gigs are just friends through our band! That’s something that we think should be embraced, and we want people to feel like they can come to our gigs on their own. I know I would always worry about going to gigs on my own, and we get tweets from people saying ‘I really want to come but my friends won’t!’ That shouldn’t stop people from coming, and meeting someone else who is like-minded. It’s all about community and coming together.
BM: So it’s almost like you created a community
Jack: Yeah! So that’s the aim, that’s what we’re really like passionate about. We want people to feel like our gigs are somewhere where everyone is welcome.
BM: You do tend to forget over time, who are the people you’ve met at shows and the people you knew before. Because you just get to meet so many people.
Jack: Yeah! It’s a powerful thing music, and it’s not like we want everyone to think Natives are great and that’s why they get together. It’s totally not about our band, it’s just about…I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t fit in or that you feel like you’re a bit different. Nobody should feel like that’s a bad thing. So yeah, that inspired the whole story- it’s quite a fantastical narrative, its somewhere between the Lion King and On The Road or something- it’s a bit of an odd story. But the idea behind it is about acceptance and community and coming together and stuff.
BM: It’s a really awesome concept!
Jack: It’s really important to us! It’s also easier to write that way; we all write together as a group of us. So if we’re writing about people as a group of people, then that’s a lot easier than me just being like ‘oh I’m really annoyed at my Mum today’ or whatever, where people can’t relate to that.
BM: Is that how you’ve always written songs then, where you come up with the concept first and then write the songs based around that, rather than writing the songs and then deciding what the story is?
Jack: Well, all of this album was written like that. The last album was a bit of both- the line was a bit more blurred. There was a concept, but it didn’t always go in that order, whereas this was literally like we had a big board up in the studio, with the main points of the story written up on a big timeline. Then when someone would come up with some music, we would decide where it would fit and what it would sound like and how we could describe the scene. It feels like we kind of sound tracked our own film.BM: Your first album was Indoor War, based around a character named Alvima, my first question would be is the character in the second album the same as the character in the first?
Jack: Yes! So this album starts after the last album finished, narratively, with the same character.
BM: The last album what about the character suffering a loss, and so deciding to make decisions based on science and logic rather than feelings and emotion- what was the idea behind that, is it based on experience?
Jack: I didn’t realise it at the time… I’ve never thought about this before. But I guess hearing you say it, maybe it’s to do with the way our band is. Like there was definitely a point where we changed our outlook on things. It’s really hard in a band to know how to make decisions; it feels like there’s never a right or wrong answer. There’s always just so many considerations, and we have to debate everything until the cows come home to make sure we make the right choices. So maybe it was something to do with that… I feel like we on our first album, if I was honest, we were trying subconsciously to write what we though people wanted to hear, and then at some point after that it became us just wanting to please ourselves. I suppose, maybe now you mention it, that’s kind of what we were talking about.
BM: Kind of that it’s easier to just go for things rather than debate it so much?
Jack: Yeah! And we just figured out while we were making the new album, that we’re at our best and at our happiest when we just do things for ourselves. We would rather make ourselves happy and please ourselves… I guess that’s why people might think our band sounds a little odd. It’s just the music we want to make- we just thought at the start of the process, let’s just make an album that we’ll be happy with, whether it has any success or not. I’d rather that than try and tick some boxes or try and write something the radio stations would like, and it doesn’t happen. Or it does happen but then it feels hollow.
BM: Do you not feel like it appeals to people more though when you try and do things for yourself, so it just feels completely honest?
Jack: Yeah, we certainly seem to be experiencing a wave at the moment, we definitely seem to be picking up momentum…things seem to be happening for us. And that definitely seems to have changed when we made that decision. But I feel like if I go down the road of trying to analyse it too much then I’ll go back to worrying and thinking about it too much! Our merch is a prime example now: we don’t think about whether or not someone would wear it or whether it would look cool. It’s just simply like we design a t-shirt and we’re all like ‘well would we wear this?’ and if the answer is no then we do not sell it. If the answer is yes then we print it regardless of how much it costs. It’s just easier that way. We’re definitely more comfortable being us than we ever have been at the moment, and I like to think that’s to do with why things seem to be going well.BM: Are you stoked for the reception for the newer tracks? Stop The Rain got 30,000 in 24 hours, that’s incredible…
Jack: Well I try and not get wrapped up in stats and stuff too much, but the reaction to that was really cool- the video itself was just an amazing experience to make, the time we spent there [Morocco], for us it really helped define us and we learnt a lot. So when that video came out, it was cool. I think you can see when you watch it how great a time we’re having experiencing that place, I think that’s maybe why people like it, because it seems genuine. One thing I do like about that is I feel it maybe explains a little bit of our influences. I can understand why you would think it’s a bit odd for three white guys from the New Forest to play music which is very African in places and stuff. I think when you watch that, you understand that we went to these places and have taken inspiration from them and appreciate these different sorts of music. Maybe it all clicks a bit more.
BM: What other bands are you all in to; both as a band and separately?
Jack: As a band, we all like Michael Jackson. A lot! We all like Vacationer, we definitely like new Fall Out Boy, because we’ve listened to that in the studio a lot. As far as things that I like; I like John Mayer, Coldplay, Oasis, really like Bombay Bicycle Club. But I don’t want to speak for the others because… well everyone listens to everything these days don’t they!
BM: That’s cool though because then all your influences become a culmination.
Jack: Before we go on, Greg usually DJs in here to get us in the mood, and that’s usually like hip-hop or cheesy pop.
BM: So what other things influence you? Obviously you’ve got a world music kind of vibe. Being from the New Forest, do those kinds of surroundings have anything to do with your sound?
Jack: Yeah, in that almost the lack of influence helps us. We’re not from Manchester surrounded by a scene of Manchester-y, guitar-y indie bands. The New Forest doesn’t have a music scene. So that helps because you’re kind of forced into your natural state of what you enjoy. There’s nothing else; it’s just you and trees and a load of ponies. We’re definitely a band that likes the outdoors and nice landscapes and stuff, and that’s all there. So yeah the lack of influence, influences. Helps you stay true to what you like.
BM: What about the world music thing? Have you been to loads of places?
Jack: We have quite a lot. We do particularly like South African music. The way we first started seeing it was, when you first go into the studio, no one would think it was weird if you used a different guitar or a different amp on a song, because that’s part of being in the studio. So what’s the difference in using a drum that’s made of something slightly different, what’s the difference in singing in a different language? I guess it’s just expanding our library of sounds we can use, and I think when you’re trying to tell a story, we just didn’t want to have any limits. And as well world music just makes us happy, we’re just fascinated by things across the globe. We’re really lucky with the band that we’ve been to quite a lot of places. We’ve just picked things up as we go.
BM: What sort of stuff do you get up to in your down time then? Is there cities that are your favourite? I know you guys have been recording tour diaries in every place you’ve been to.
Jack: Mmm… Yeah that’s been tiring! Some days, like today, all I’ve seen of Leeds is this dressing room. It just depends on the day. But places we like: love Edinburgh, love Brighton, Manchester- we spend a lot of time in Manchester because our management is based there. This has been cool because when are we ever going to play Folkestone again, or Southend? That’s kind of cool to go to these towns. Andy and Greg go out and see the town a bit more than me, I sort of tend to see my laptop screen a lot, I’m ashamed to say.
BM: I know you’ve been announced for a few festivals, and you’ve got your own tour planned. Do you have any other plans for the rest of the year? Obviously you’ve got your album coming out as well.
Jack: Yeah! So festivals, and then we have the headline tour, which is ALMOST all announced; we’re sort of staggering the dates as we go to different places. It’s basically just tour, tour, tour. I don’t know what we’re going to do at the end of summer. We’re basically just going to do a tonne more of playing shows. But the thing now after this is the headline tour, it’s a completely different thing for us. On this we’re playing to people who don’t know us trying to win them over and go ‘here’s a snapshot of what our band is about’, but on the headline tour, everyone has bought a ticket to see us. So it’s like how deep we can get into things, and how much can we show of the album. We’re really looking forward to the change because we’ve done three support tours in a row now. Then the album will be out and people will know more songs… So it’s kind of just about the album this year.
BM: So we’ve seen you’ve been announced for a festival where Sean Paul is playing as well…
Photography by Erin Moore at Forte Photography UK