The Plymouth-based indie band The Native are rising stars in the indie sphere with healthy airplay on British radio, spots on some of the UK’s biggest festivals and supporting slots for big names.
The band’s vocalist Charlie Noordewier and guitarist Ben Andrew spoke with XS Noize to discuss their new EP Looking Back and its themes, working with indie production legends John Cornfield and Adrian Bushby on the EP, getting to play Reading and Leeds this year, how crowds’ reactions to songs differ from their anticipation and fans asking to get their lyrics tattooed.
How did you guys meet and form to get the obvious question out of the way?
Charlie: So, Ben and I started jamming in GCSE Music when we were meant to be doing our coursework. I remember writing a load of tunes when we were sixteen. And then the other boys in the band went to school with us, and we wanted to do a proper band, make the live show a lot more full-on and, yeah, we formed the band a few years later.
Ben: Yeah, I think it was also, because as Charlie said, we were only a duo at the start, and we went to a studio and recorded some tracks and then wanted to put it in a live situation. So, yeah, we just got our other best mates in, and it went from there, really. It was a bit random that we got together and formed a band, but it’s hopefully still working.
When you guys formed, did you have a similar interest in music, or did you bring different things to the table?
Charlie: Yeah, I think everybody had different tastes and their different bands they all liked, but we are all quite similar, I think.
Charlie: We started doing kind of folky stuff with the first EP, and then it got a lot more rock-y and indie.
Ben: I think our sound has changed with the style of music we [play], because when me and Charlie were first doing it, just as a duo, we were quite into more acoustic-y sort of stuff. We still liked the indie rock bits and that, but, again, it was just the two of us; we couldn’t actually produce that sort of music. So, I think when we got the band and had the actual sort of drums, bass, and keys, it allowed us to create the stuff we wanted to do. And then having the other boys’ input on it was just another thing that really brought in the sound we have now.
Speaking of your sound, your new EP Looking Back is out this Friday. It was produced by John Cornfield and mixed by Adrian Bushby, who are big names in the indie sphere. I was wondering if there were any particular projects by them that made you want to work with them.
Charlie: I think, John, all the work he did with The Stone Roses, a lot of their singles, was really cool.
Charlie: And he worked with every band in that kind of ‘90s scene.
Ben: Pretty much anyone in the Britpop time, he’s managed to do something with.
Charlie: I think he’s got that sort of old-school production style, where he just manages the session, and he doesn’t really push his way on anything; he’s not like, trying to put in all these drum machines and synths. He lets us do what we want and manages the session well.
Ben: And it was great because before we recorded with him, when we did it, we just sort of got in and, individually, Track Stacked the parts up. Whereas with him, he was like, “Just get in the room and play,” sort of thing. He just wanted to capture the kind of raw, live sound, and I think ever since we’ve started doing that, the sort of overall sound and how the recordings come out have definitely been more to what we’ve been looking for, and I think it’s captured the raw, live sound a lot better.
Why do you think the idea of just having the band in the studio and recording raw has more, I guess, resonance than trying to add the latest production flair to your album?
Charlie: I think it strips it right down to the kind of bare bones of it. I think it also translates a lot better live because if you’re used to hearing your record as it is live, and then you go and watch a band, it sounds almost bigger because you’ve got that live buzz, and you’ve got it going through a big PA, then I think it’s really nice.
Ben: Yeah, and we also – with the recordings – we will sort of double-track guitars and add extra synth parts, but we try to keep it as close to live as possible so that it translates across when we are actually playing it live. Because, I think, just for me personally, when you hear such a great record and then you hear it live and it doesn’t actually sound as good, it’s almost a bit annoying. So, I think we always want to try and, for our listeners, sort of have it both live and for listening.
Speaking of live, you guys I know have played the Isle of Wight, and you will be playing Reading and Leeds soon. I was wondering, when you’re doing those big festival shows – which, I imagine, for a British band, getting to play those festivals is probably the biggest thing – do you guys change the show in any way that would be different from, say, the way you guys do a club show?
Charlie: Yeah. So, I think with a festival show; usually, it’s a shorter set. I think a lot of the time at a festival, especially coming up [acts], you have a lot of people in the audience who don’t necessarily know many of your songs. So I think it’s good to keep it as snappy as possible and keep the energy up as much as possible. So, we try to play all the ones with energy and the new singles. We try and ram as much as we can. So, really quick changeovers in-between songs. Just super slick.
Ben: Yeah, and I think, as Charlie said, because it’s new people, it’s an opportunity to show off your best work, so, if, say, we were going to do a headline show, we’d just be playing.
Charlie: Just like, everything, yeah.
Ben: Not necessarily what’s seen as our best tracks, but maybe fans like it or whatever. But then, as Charlie said, at a festival set, you’ve got like a half an hour, so you just want to play the best tunes.
Charlie: Yeah, and like push the new stuff, as well.
Ben: Push the new singles because it’s also a great promo tool.
You guys have mentioned before that the title track from your new EP Looking Back, to you guys…it didn’t stand out as a particular single track or anything, but when you were supporting Bastille, that was the song that resonated with audiences, so does that kind of influence what you do, when it comes to festivals or live shows in general?
Charlie: Yeah. I think, even if you didn’t want it to, when a load of people are going, “Oh, my God! You’ve got to release a song!” They’re already singing along to the lyrics. This girl who came to the Bastille show had seen the song twice live and was already asking us to write out lyrics for her to get tattooed for that track.
Ben: We’ve had like two or three people now, for a song that’s been unreleased, ask us to write our stuff to get tattooed, and we’re just like, “You’re mental, like.” [Laughs] It’s not even come out yet!
Charlie: Yeah, it’s mental. It’s mental. And I think just playing it live and seeing people’s reactions did breathe a new life into it. I think we thought it was great, but we never really understood the power of it, like I said, until we played it live.
Ben: It was actually, I think, one of the last tracks we finished up for the EP. And again, we were a bit unsure about it because it was one of the last, and we hadn’t fully worked it out the same as the others. But our management and the label just said they loved it, so we took the advice and [Laughs] fortunately it was a good thing to do because it seems to be…Because we played at Boardmasters earlier this weekend, and again straight away, on that song, everyone seemed to get their phone out and started recording it.
Charlie: And everyone was like, “Oh, my God. What was that song?”
Ben: They just seemed to like it.
Charlie: Yeah, it seemed really good. We did a secret set and stuck around for the weekend, which was really cool. We saw Kings of Leon last night, which is one of our all-time favourite bands, so that was fun.
I want to talk about your new EP Looking Back a little. I listened to it, and my interpretation of the EP - and you guys can tell me if I’m off-base here - but it seemed like an EP that was about childhood trauma and repressing the emotions of that trauma until it gets to a point where it comes up to the surface and starts affecting someone’s relationship with other people. Then they’re forced to change after having pissed away their 20s trying to keep those emotions at bay. Is that a fair interpretation of the EP?
Charlie: Definitely. I think the whole EP, other than “Looking Back,” the entire EP…there is a few happy moments in it, but….all the lyrics are quite dark, and it is quite, like you say, a few bits of trauma and the whole thing with “20 Something,” it’s all about pissing away your 20s and, like what we felt. We’re not preaching and being like, “Oh, you’re pissing away your 20s,” we’re almost just saying it from our experience; we’re kind of saying what we’re doing and what we’re going through.
Ben: I think as well because some of the tracks were on the tail end out of COVID, we were still in that kind of mentality of like…
Charlie: Yeah, we were all just kind of like dark and down.
Ben: Yeah [Laughs].
Charlie: I think that’s where a lot of that came from. And then, “Looking Back,” as it was at the end, I think we wanted a track that had a bit of hope to it, and I think that’s why we wanted to make that one the title track as well because it summarises the whole EP, it says, “All these things you’re feeling, all this shit that’s making….” Oh, sorry! “All this stuff….”
No, it’s okay. You can say whatever you want [Laughs].
Charlie: [Laughs] “All this stuff that’s making you kind of feel really down, it will get better”, and, yeah, it’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel, I guess, and that’s what we wanted to do with that track.
Yeah, so it has – even though the EP seems to be a kind of bitter coming-of-age story – it does seem to have a hopeful ending.
Was it intentional to make a theme to tie the songs together, or was that just my reading of it?
Charlie: No, I think it just happened. It just fell into place.
Ben: Yeah, it was just, at the time of writing, some of the songs were a little bit darker, say. And then some of them, like “Looking Back” and “Changes,” have both got the idea of, it’s starting off a little bit [hopeful].
Charlie: Yeah. Because I think we had the chords, we went straight in to write the chorus, and we wanted to write something hopeful. So, we got that chorus lyric first, and it’s all about just looking back and realising that things can get better, and then the verse came afterwards, and it kind of just fell out. It wasn’t like we planned to make it the title track and the title together. I think it was just what we were feeling.
Ben: It has all just kind of worked out quite nicely, to be honest [Laughs]. It wasn’t planned, but no, it’s nice that I think they all work collectively as an EP. I think that’s so nice.
Ben: I always like when an artist has that; when it feels like all the songs work together.
Well, that was my last question. I guess the final thing I’ll ask is, what are your plans for the future?
Ben: Obviously, we’ll definitely be looking at doing an album at some point, but it’s just getting it at the right time because I think, for us, an album’s such a big thing that we really want to make sure we release it [at the right time].
Ben: And, I don’t necessarily know how well it would do, but we want to make sure it’s…
Charlie: You’ve only got a debut album once.
Charlie: I think you can do as many EPs and singles as you like, but I think having that first album is really important. If you want to have a sustainable career, I prefer people remember your first album [fondly].
Ben: Yeah, so that, and then obviously festivals, we’ve still got a few left. Obviously, Reading and Leeds are massive for us. And then probably just more studio time, and support tours, headlining tours.
Charlie: I think we’re all excited to start writing more again. We’ve had a big touring stint, and we’ve had quite a few festivals, and I think everyone’s excited to get in a room and just write some tunes and test some new ones. A few tunes are coming through that we’re really happy with, and I can see the sound. Because I think Looking Back overtook our last EP, and it’s got a lot more of a mature sound, and I feel like the next one will surpass that.
Charlie: So, I’m really excited about that.
Great. Thanks very much.
Ben: No, thank you for having us.
Charlie: Thank you.
The Native’s latest EP Looking Back is available from Friday. To purchase the EP and to see the band’s tour dates, check out their website.