Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Five: 5 questions with Nathan White of Nathan Oliver

Nathan Oliver is the larger cumulative project of North Carolina's Nathan White, whose new album released this year, Cloud Animals, has been a pleasant surprise. White agreed to answer a few questions about his album and the scene in the Triangle area.

Nathan Oliver: "Icicles For Fingers"

Nathan Oliver: "French Press"
Nathan Oliver: "State LInes, Pt. 3"

1) What's your perception of what's going on with all the different bands in the Triangle area?
Nathan White: I completely agree--there is such a vibrant music scene in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill today. Honestly, there are so many new bands and side projects popping up, it's hard to keep track of everyone. You can go out almost any night to venues like Local 506, The Cave, or Pinhook and catch local talent. A lot is happening and people (especially area students) are really receptive. There's a great community feeling--from showgoers and musicians alike.

I am not from the Triangle area originally. I'm grew up in Greenville, NC which is an hour and a half east of the Triangle. There's a very different (absent) music scene there. My favorite record store and venue were shut down long ago. I moved to Chapel Hill in 2000 to attend UNC, and I have only recently left. I drive back to Chapel Hill almost every weekend. I have a feeling I'll move back soon enough.

2) I know on Cloud Animals you use a lot of different musicans from various bands and projects. Do you have a steady "band" now that you practice with or develop songs with? Or do you still pretty much do it on your own, then throw the band together before shows?

My songwriting still mimics a solo artist perspective (probably why I kept the Nathan Oliver moniker, instead of changing it to a band name). I tend to write the bulk of each song before bringing it to anyone else. I do ask different musicians to write bass parts or drum parts and bring them to what I already have--which is what I did with Cloud Animals. I think it made for a pretty diverse and unpredictable record. So from the sense of developing new songs, I don't have a full band that I write with.

3)My favorite song off Cloud Animals is probably "Red Panda." It just seems kind of a departure from the rest of the folk-ish songs on the album, that it took me off guard at first, but then it was the one song I kept coming back too.

That and "Alone in a Fog" and I guess the two are related by their more electronic & distorted elements. Any thoughts on those songs? Were they a conscious choice to experiment or did they just pop out? Or do you think those songs are pretty much a continuation of the rest of the album and I'm just out of my head?

Haha, those are the rock songs of the record, and better reflect me as a guitarist and what we try to do as a live band. We are definitely heavier and noisier live, so that's where these songs came from. "Red Panda" was supposed to be this quirky, demented rock song with surf guitar in it. It also has this random tirade during the second breakdown that Mark Lebetkin (our viola player) came up with on the spot. It got a little deconstructed but I was really happy with the way it turned out. "Alone In A Fog" was the last song that I wrote and recorded for the album. It's about leaving someone to their own self-loathing devices. I was really happy with the way the ending of that song turned out.

The songs are heavier than most of the album, but I still think they fit us pretty well. We had some heavier moments on our first album too ("Greys & Blacks").

4) I really like the tone and feel of "Icicles for Fingers." It has this crazy carnie feel to it that I think appeals the sadistic type. What was the inspiration and direction for that one?

"Icicles for Fingers" is kind of this demented rollicking Johnny Cash song to me. I always hear a Pixies influence in this song. The bassline and trumpet kind of give it a carnival feel. The song is about a friend of mine who moved cross-country by himself and tried to reach out to new people who eventually turned cold toward him. It's about knowing where home is and who you can trust.

5) Lastly, here's kind of a stupid generic question--but what's the one album that you couldn't go without?

Right now probably something by Radiohead. They're huge and still phenomenal. Today let's say
In Rainbows. Tomorrow it'll be completely different. The Microphones? Unwound? Nirvana?

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