For the Love of Punk Exclusive by Ross Hostage
One of my favorite things about this whole FtLP gig is getting introduced to bands I may not have otherwise found on my own. In this case, Nate, of Oregon’s pre-eminent sing-a-long folk punk band, Destroy Nate Allen, sought me out to chat about their SEVENTH album, With Our Powers Combined. Holy hell, do I hate bands that are so much more prolific than me but I was won over by Nate’s friendliness and the duo’s goofy and contagious energy, which they describe as “kids songs for adults”. We talked about, amongst other things, the new album (out June 5th) and their collaboration with Gnarboots, one of the latest signings to that epitome of D.I.Y., Asian Man Records.
(Ross): You describe yourself as an interactive band. What’s a Destroy Nate Allen show like?
(Nate): Just about anything can happen at one of our shows but, typically, they always involve a lot of sing-a-longs and heavy audience involvement. We play on the floor and in the middle of a big circle so things get very personal to say the least. Our sets are pretty much non-stop movement and as high energy as we can possibly make them. We place a super high value on fun and making people smile. I never know what will happen on any given night and I try to do something new at every show… which at times has made for some very fun and also extremely awkward moments. On Saturday, we played a little 21st birthday party. The set ended with the 6 people in attendance all standing on a short stack of pallets behind a grocery store belting out our song “Jesus Keep Us Safe From The Cops.” I’d never ended a set on a pallet before and it was pretty fun.
Up until now, you’ve been strictly a duo. Had the idea to involve larger instrumentation been brewing for a while?
I think I’ve always heard a full band in my head but it’s often easier to just record vocals and acoustic guitar. We actually made an acoustic version of our new record and it was the best we had ever recorded up until we re-tracked it all with Gnarboots.
How did you connect with Gnarboots to make your latest album, With Our Powers Combined?
We’ve played a few shows and collaborated on various levels since we met a few years back. I was emailing with Aaron (who plays drums in Gnarboots), and getting his feedback on our acoustic tracks. He described what he would do with our songs… and it was pretty much exactly what I wanted to do for the album. Then he made a comment along the lines of “if you lived down here we’d record with you”. I asked him if he was serious, then we did a Kickstarter to be able to afford studio time and travel expenses.
It seems that your previous recording and touring endeavors had been very self-produced. When did Kickstarter come into the picture? What kind of feedback did you receive about the process?
We’ve always been DIY by necessity, not by choice, and that definitely has limitations. We’ve also been very careful about how we spend the money we do have. When we started to talk about recording with Gnarboots, it was pretty obvious we didn’t have the cash on hand to pull the project off. We know many people who have been doing Kickstarters so we, naturally, thought of it. Over the course of the last 5 years, we’ve played about 700 shows and all our albums have been available for free or by donation. We had never really asked our audiences for much, so I figured we’d built up some equity. Fortunately, we were right and the Kickstarter process was a complete joy. I really loved having a reason to reconnect with a lot of people. The feedback we’ve received has been all positive which is super cool because we spent a solid week just perfecting the wording and brainstorming about the prizes. We can’t wait to show everyone what they helped us create!
You’ve released quite a few albums in only five years. In what way does being married to your collaborative partner affect the songwriting process?
Collaborating on songwriting is pretty hard for us. Tessa and I approach songwriting very differently. I’d say I write from a more mystical perspective where songs just seem to come to me. She has to be very intentional and focused when she writes.
I always say I’m more of a song “catcher” and she is a better song “writer.” In June we’ll be releasing the 7th and probably 8th Destroy Nate Allen full length. (The second album will contain all acoustic versions of the tracks on With Our Powers Combined). Out of the Destroy Nate Allen albums, only 2 have been complete collaborations and that is mostly due to the intentionality and patience it takes for us to collaborate on songwriting. We’ve often said being in a band is harder than being married and that is probably due to the songwriting aspect. It’s hard to give up creative control and not be selfish but we’re getting better at it all the time.
Will you be touring with Gnarboots as a backing band or are you hitting the road, once again, as a two piece?
We’ll be hitting the road with a full band for most of June but it will be with a band from up here called Gamblers Die Broke backing us up. Tessa and I plan to be on the road on and off from June – December. The majority of the shows we will be playing as a two piece. Gnarboots won’t be available to rock some shows until the fall and we’ll probably play some shows around California then.
You guys seem to be constantly playing shows. What’s your favorite part of being out on tour so often?
I have a hard time turning down shows when we are home and a hard time taking days off when we are on the road. I actually am jealous of bands that take a few days off each week on tour. That’s something we’ve been working toward for a while and I haven’t yet been able to figure out. Hopefully this will be the year. I’m driving to play a lot of shows because I really enjoy performing and I think our music is super fun to play. A day might be crappy but once we start all sort of fun things can happen.
At this point being in a van is more of a home to us than anywhere we’ve lived in the past 5 years. Tessa and I really love just getting to hang out and see the country and see our friends and family which are spread out all over the country.
Thanks for the questions, Ross. I really enjoyed them!
You can download all past albums for free at destroynatellen.com and be sure to check the tour dates.