Interview with NAUT by Tzina Dovve

NAUT – A new postpunk goth band from Bristol… An insight on what these four musicians are all about… by Tzina Dovve…

Tzina: As I understand NAUT are a fresh band on the dark /goth scene. How and when  were you formed and who are the members?

NAUT is currently a 4-piece based in Bristol, UK. We’ve been going as a group for a little over 2 years now, although the guitarist and I have been writing on and off together for a year or two before we did anything with it as a band. 

It started out as an evening sharing riffs in my flat in Bristol, the first tracks for NAUT had their genesis in 2016. The first riffs our guitarist and I wrote on a bit of a whim which grew to become something much more compelling and after that initial moment, the idea of a band was born. 

We shared our demo tracks with some friend musicians from Bristol’s small but active Post-Punk scene and luckily they shared our enthusiasm for what we had put together.  Armed with our rough recordings we started working on the tracks as a full band in June 2017.

Our guitarist Jack and I both went to the same university to study fine art, so we met on the course. It was in a small seaside town so there weren’t many people interested in rock, metal, post-punk etc. so you pretty quickly got to know the few that were. We then both moved to Bristol for one reason or another. Through gigs and mutual friends we then met our bass player Andi and Laura (keys/synths). Our first drummer has been a long time friend so when the drum throne was vacant, he answered the call. 

In the 2 years we’ve been a band we somehow have had three different drummers. It’s set us back a few times, but currently we are carrying on as a 4 piece with a drum machine taking over the percussion duties. Our initial demos are all written with a drum machine before being recorded with ‘real’ drums in the studio so we are very familiar with working with one, it’s now just a case of tuning our live act to fit, but recent practices have felt better than ever. 

The name NAUT is quite a unique name for a band, not ordinary. What is the story behind this? What inspired you to give yourselves such a name? Was it something spontaneous?

Choosing the right name was a very conscious process in some ways, there is a lot riding on a name you know? People definitely come with certain ideas about the music before they’ve heard a note based on it. Having said that, the end result was actually pretty spontaneous, it just popped up in a conversation, not really related to band names. 

The name was our guitarist’s creation, as a name holds a lot, we’d been searching for something that was the right fit and didn’t have too much of a preconceived idea about the music attached to it, something that wasn’t obviously genred. It’s a good fit as we all feel that any creative endeavour is an exploration of ideas and the self. ‘Naut’ is a suffix in English used to form nouns meaning a voyager, farer, or tripper, the notion of travel and exploration of the self seemed a natural fit as a result. We also have a preference for one-word band names, so that was that. 

You manage to re-create a very eighties sound and feel in your music. Who is the main songwriter in the band. What inspires you most to write music and what are your musical influences?

Myself and our guitarist are are the main songwriters, often I’ll have the bones of a track, a few basslines and a riff or two with a solid beat that forms the basis of a verse/chorus or something, then he’ll come in and add a riff or two that suddenly makes it all fall into place. Or perhaps he’ll have a riff and come over to mine to record it down, then by the time we meet up next I’ve pulled it into a song. It seems one of us has the core idea then the other fleshes it out into a track. 

As for our influences, we draw from a variety of different sources, different bands have influenced different parts, some of them were influences on the original wave of Goth and Post-Punk artists too I suspect. The big, driving basslines of Motörhead, for example, were clearly as much of an influence on The Sisters of Mercy as they are on us.

Another band that is a key influence for us, as well as more than a few other groups out there, is The Doors, especially the approaches to song structure and the vocals, as well as, perhaps most importantly, the way the guitar and keyboards work together. The use of the synths/keyboards as an integral part of the songs rather than just filler or aural window dressing is something that is very important to us. We treat it more like a second guitar when it comes to writing, which opens up a whole new set of options. The way bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy write harmonies across all the instruments at their disposal was another source of inspiration for us here. Deep Purple would also be another one to mention in that regard with the keys and organ being a major part of their songs and distinctive sound. An album that is a firm favourite with several of us is ‘Secret Treaties’ by Blue Oyster Cult, not exactly a Post-Punk classic, but the songwriting and the way the album as a whole fits together is fantastic. The way BÖC approach writing is something that definitely influences us as a band.

We recently wrote a piece on the three albums that have had the biggest influence on us and I think it is quite telling that only one of them was in the goth/post-punk genre. I think that is important, as we want to let whatever inspires us and allows us to create what we feel is good come through, not a curated style to tick a box.

Letting all of those influences have their place has given us a sound that is informed by the past, but is not a pastiche of it and is uniquely ‘us’. Following who we are sonically and making songs that are informed by all our shared interests and playing them with a raw passion, that is missing from so much modern music, gives us an inherently unique element. 

As for why we write music, that’s a big question – our inspiration and fuel is very much the same as our story. There is a compulsion to create that resides in most people, it manifests in different ways and for us it comes through in music. The music we make is then influenced by the experiences we accumulate whilst journeying through life. There is no fixed destination for life, except the very final stop of course, and it is the nature of the journey that is the crucial part, that leads to a myriad choices and feelings that can inspire and trigger that need to create. 

The uncertain nature of our journey makes every step exciting, in some ways it would be a great comfort to know which way that path would take us. Knowing that the branch we are on leads to where we hope it does, with all these uncertain rules to the game we play. But at the same time, the thrill and danger would be gone and the very thrill of travelling would no longer exist. So it is not where we travel, but how we do it that is crucial, and by extension, the fact that we travel at all! Our own journey is an inspiration and the music we make adds to our journey, allowing us to move further with each creation. Far too many out there live static lives, with no change or challenge and few resulting experiences.

After the release of the E.P ‘Raise the Lights’ in June 2018  you just released your new E.P ‘Semele’. What feedback have you received so far? Are there any plans for a full length album?

Semele has had a very positive reception, in a lot of ways it builds on what we did with our first EP and I think people have recognised that. We’ve been included in an array of playlists, blogs, websites, all sorts and people have been very positive. One of the things we are most pleased with is that people have been digging into the meaning of the tracks and unpicking the details of the lyrics, that’s really awesome to see and makes the effort we put in worth while. It was also reassuring that the drum machine track was well received as this was something that we wanted to explore further and people’s reception of the track was great. 

We are working on an album currently, although what format it takes is currently a bit up in the air. There is a lot of transformation taking place, finding the path we want to take, before committing it to tape. We have a pair of singles recorded and ready to release plus we are working on some new drum machine driven material, so there will probably be a song or two which we will release later in the year, which may or may not be from the album. It all revolves around how we feel about these new tracks really, a large chunk of the material is there, but what it evolves into remains to be seen.

‘Semele ‘ has also been released on limited edition cassette, something not common in our digital downloading world. How did this idea come about?

I like the interactions you have with a physical object, I think sensations of holding an item, the ritual of selecting it, putting it into a machine to reproduce the soundwaves, it all has a little more depth to it. Of course digital music has its advantages, the convenience is one of them and the ability for that music to reach people is certainly another, but I feel that owning an item and having it in one’s collection makes it mean more and be more memorable.

It also gives you more options in terms of artwork and presentation, our first EP was on vinyl for that reason. When it came to releasing Semele, vinyl wasn’t really an option, we’d have had to charge an unreasonable amount for the three tracks for one thing, so we explored other formats. Tape shares its analogue nature with vinyl, there is a direct mechanical interaction between the medium and the device that plays them, which I always find interesting. The digital option is there for those who want it, streaming, downloads and all that, but the tape gives people an option for something tangible. 

Hendrik Palm, the multi talented musician from Sweden , has participated on ‘Semele’. How was this experience for NAUT? How did this collaboration come about for the band?

The whole thing was down to serendipity really, our guitarist has been friends with him for a while and he also knows the person who we record with Jamie Elton (who is excellent by the way!) so there was already a connection. However it was only when we were in the studio working on Semele that we really felt that there was something missing, that middle section felt a little flat. It had been a niggling thought for a while, but hearing it there on the studio monitors really made it apparent. 

The session was over and Jamie was returning to Sweden the next day so there was no time to fix it then, but as luck would have it he was doing some studio work with Hendrik shortly after his return home. Jamie showed the tracks in their rough state to him and we floated the idea of him adding some magic and that was that. What he came up with was instantly a piece of him, but also finished the track off perfectly. 

NAUT have done some live shows this year in the U.K. including London. What feelings are you left with from the London crowd? What feedback did you receive? Are there any plans for gigs in the near future around the U.K or abroad?

Since becoming a gigging band, we feel that our live performances are an incredibly important part of our appeal, we’d certainly like to play more this year and there are plans to make that happen. 

Our London shows have all been great fun for us, even the one where we were up against it with 4 competing shows on the same night. There is a certain magic that happens when a connection between performer and audience is forged and when it is done with conviction and energy, it makes it unforgettable. Playing impactful shows brings the music to life, wins fans and it is also a proving ground for new material and ideas. I like to think that at all our shows we’ve had an impact and we will stick with those people in the future. The feedback we’ve received after all our shows, from talking to people there and some reviews that have surfaced certainly suggests that this is the case. 

So far this year we have a few more London dates lined up supporting some really cool bands as well as a few shows elsewhere in the UK. We are also looking at a few European dates, some in Scandinavia and we have a few options in Germany as well, but there is nothing concrete there yet.

Many goth rock / post punk bands have emerged on the dark/alternative scene during the last few years. Do you believe there is some sort of revival for more guitar oriented bands at the moment?

I feel that the whole world of dark/alternative/goth/whatever you want to call it music world is becoming more popular. There are certainly more guitar orientated post-punk bands out there now than there were 5-10 years ago, but equally there are a wealth of synth driven acts out there as well. It’s great to see the scene thriving however and it is certainly something we are pleased to be a part of.

As musicians how do you view the dark/alternative scene in the U.K. today? Do you believe it’s very different to the rest of Europe?

I think the biggest difference is that in the UK, the number of people who go out to gigs is smaller, at least for smaller bands anyway. Things are pretty expensive in the UK for one thing and a lot of people are pretty broke a lot of the time so it really seems to limit numbers. However, those who do are really passionate about the scene, but I guess you get people like that all over the world.

Either way, we’d love to play Europe more, connect with people out there on the stage and off and just see more of the world and the music scene out there.

What are your ambitions for NAUT? What can your fans expect from the band in the near future? Anything you would like to share with them..

We are at a bit of a crossroads at present so what fans can expect from us in the near future is very much a question I wish I knew the answer to myself! We are on a journey as a band I feel that there is no fixed destination for us, we aren’t a band that set out to have a certain sound or fit into a certain category so we go wherever our creations take us. That being said, some of what went before and what we were and where we ‘fit’ as a band is now up for being re-examined, so I guess this is a year where there will be a lot of new things from us, new live performances and new ways to do it, new material built on new ideas and hopefully new opportunities for us.

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