"We didn't want to do a Pink Floyd with the album, these are pop songs" – hmv.com talks to Natives
After a string of excellent singles, pop rockers Natives are finally getting around to releasing their debut album Indoor War. We caught up with frontman Jim Thomas to find out the album's making, working with legendary producer John Feldmann and why Paul Simon changed the way they wrote songs.
Your debut album's out on Monday (March 17th). Are you excited or nervous? Or past the point of both?
"Excited. I'm not nervous really. All know is we've made the album we wanted to make, we're really proud of it, we hope people like it. It’s very cool to have a physical product that represents our band, that's the most exciting bit."
How long have you been waiting to put this out?
"We finished recording in April and then it was two months of mixing and mastering. It's been a while, I've got no idea if that kind of timescale is normal, but it's our first album so we wanted to make sure it got the release it deserved, that took a little while to sort out. We took a lot of time writing and recording it, we wanted the release to be as good as it could be."
You went out to Los Angeles to record with John Feldmann (who has produced and co-written songs accounting for sales of more than 34 million albums worldwide), what was he like to work with?
"Amazing. When we were younger we always thought he'd be our dream producer, he worked with The Used, who are a band we all loved when we were younger, we loved his production. It was nice to meet a childhood hero and find out he’s awesome."
"More importantly, I think he's really made us a better band. It was difficult at first; he was the first producer we worked with, we're a close-knit band, we write as a band, as a five, and someone coming in from outside and having their own opinion on your songs, it's difficult at first. But after we got over that it was great, he was great at trimming the fat off the tracks."
Did he have a dramatic effect on the way the songs are? Or was it more polishing up?
"More polishing, the good thing about John is as well as having a brilliant work ethic, he knows how to drill down to the core of a song, he stripped our demos back to the bare bones and helped us build them back up. Actually, as an album, it's quite raw, which we wanted, it's why we called the band Natives, we wanted things to be stripped back and native."
He's known for working bands hard, did he work like that with you?
"Definitely. But that's what we wanted. We love writing songs, it's what we love, we wanted to work with someone who'd push us. Much as we loved being in California, we were there to work. We needed someone who'd made us work until we nailed them, and we did."
Is there a common theme that unites the album? Lyrically speaking?
"There is yeah. It's a story. Much as it's a story, we didn't want to alienate people by calling it a concept record, we wanted people to apply their own meanings to the songs."
So what's the story?
"There's a character called Alvima who suffers this huge loss in their life and has to go through this grieving process, basing their decisions on logic and science. The album starts with 'This Island' when the event happens and we go from there."
"The character goes through stages, he shuts everybody out, then he has this epiphany and starts to embrace emotion once again. It's a big journey. We didn't want to do a Pink Floyd in how we’re presenting it, these are pop songs."
Are there any musical reference points?
"Nothing that was conscious in the writing, but one album that did have an effect was Paul Simon's Graceland. We always wrote these big pop melodies, but without much percussion. That album taught us how to add drums in subtly and how to use them to drive songs."
"Also Dr. Luke's production, we love tracks by Katy Perry and Rihanna and how they use those big 808 drums, you can hear that on the record."
So what's the plan after the record comes out?
"It's basically tour Planet Earth and tell them all about Indoor War. Lots of festivals, lots of shows, hopefully a lot more international shows. Also, as soon as we get time, we're going to get started on album number two, we love writing songs, so we want to get back to that. We've been throwing ideas about already."
Natives will be performing a live set and signing copies of their debut album 'Indoor War' at hmv Southampton on Monday 17th March at 5.00pm. You can find more information about this here.