A Resurrection of Forgotten Ideals: an interview with Nation Wild
Written by David Paicu.
Breathing new life into what appears to be an increasingly manufactured industry, Nation Wild is here to establish themselves as the true blue band we've been missing.
With a kickass line-up of tracks that ooze the spirit of rock 'n roll, the band is bringing back in a big way the realness that made the rockstars of the sixties and seventies. Unapologetically themselves with guitar riffs, drum beats and a voice that combines that of Nick Cave with Robert Plant, Nation Wild is quickly establishing an international following for their new wave of rock 'n roll.
Radio Monash sat down with Sean, Brad, and Rory of Nation Wild to see what they plan on unleashing to the Australian music scene as well as the world.
"If it doesn’t piss some people off, well it’s simply not rock 'n roll, is it?"
How have you guys been going during the pandemic?
S: We were rehearsing a lot at Richmond at Bakehouse Studios then they shut down recently because of this, definitely until COVID ends. After that, we will start to rehearse again. Until then it’s pretty much just shooting ideas back and forth waiting for our new release.
B: Yeah, we are just like everyone else at the moment, just killing time until we can get back to what we want to work on ... We’re like everyone else, we want to get over this but you can only take it one day at a time.
R: There’s a lot of time to kill, I’ve been listening to a lot of music, widening my inspirations and broadening my horizons. That’s been nice but it would be nice to get back to playing with the band.
How did all of you guys meet to form Nation Wild?
R: I met Sean at a party and we bonded over a similar music taste. We had an overlap in a couple of places, and then one night I filled in for drums on a new side project.
The formation of the band didn’t happen for a while. It just started as Sean’s solo project and got me to fill in on drums on the many tracks he was doing. It was a step up from the stuff I was used to but it was good, and we got into the groove after our first few rehearsals.
S: Nation Wild started as a free-form style project and then it grew into Nation Wild. We all met in school at Bendigo and now we ended up here. Rory and I were at the same year level and Brad and Pat, our keyboard player. The first gig we played was a talent show- wait, no- it was a battle of the bands, in Bendigo.
When it comes to your sound, you have that sort of 60s and 70s rock aesthetic - especially with Sean and Rory's looks. What were some of your inspirations in terms of creating your own unique sound? Was there any specific sound you guys were going for?
S: It started with the song that we picked to put out first, 'Violence of Our Time'. That song is probably our heaviest and rockiest. That was done purposefully. The first lyrics are “We are taking over” which made us think it would be a good statement to release first. The style was pretty much whatever came out of me head. Our release that is coming soon has a mix of country and pop and all sorts. The thing that gives it all a unity is probably just the attitude towards it. Of course, the aesthetic helps since we like looking cool.
Reading through your Triple J Unearthed bio, you guys seem to be quite keen on being honest and truthful with showing off yourselves and your characters as you are. Why were you guys so intent on creating that type of persona?
S: The honest thing came from a belief that one of the key things in rock 'n roll is that honesty and being true to yourself. There’s a lot of irony in bands now and their approach to their appearance.
B: I think we just want to connect with people; that’s what we want to do. If we hide behind a load of filters and imagery it becomes a lot harder. At the moment for this first album cycle, we are just being very much ourselves and focusing on what makes us, us, and trying to find something unique within that.
Are there any specific bands - or even literature - that you draw from?
S: The raw honesty of the sixties and seventies bands. There was no fucking around it was just straight to the point. There’s a lot of bullshit lyrical content that as Brad said people hide behind. I mean my favourite band is the Rolling Stones, I mean we probably don’t sound anything like them. It happened to come out that people said he [Brad] had the Doors vibes and Led Zeppelin vibes. It’s not something we aspired to sound like - the idea to put the keyboard in the songs was Doors inspired, so I can see where people get that from. At the moment I’m writing all the songs, but I know that with these guys they all have their styles and approaches when it comes to recording.
B: I tend to contrast with Sean’s influences, which are more what I bring to the band. I'm more of a pop music head, bands like The Beach Boys and ABBA that kind of thing, which Sean also likes but I tend to lean more into it. I’m a big fan of the whole singer-songwriter idea with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan being favourites of mine. I’m not as much into the heavy rock as Sean, he's the rock guy.
R: When I first started playing the drums I was into this whole angsty teen phase. I used to listen to a lot of nineties garage, like a lot of those bands based in Seattle like Pearl Jam. That sort of stuff got me going on the drums. Lately, I’ve been trying to spread more, like into jazz and I’ve been getting into pop too. It doesn’t do heaps for my drumming influence but it’s nice to have it there. I’m not trying to emulate a single person or drummers style, it’s sort of just following Sean’s lead and complimenting what his songwriting does in a way.
On your Instagram stories, you’ve been posting about your listeners in different countries, specifically with those South American countries and France. Were you guys surprised by that interaction? How did you guys feel knowing you were being listened to internationally?
S: To be honest, that was completely unexpected. I went to check some stuff and saw that people were writing down the lyrics to our songs. It’s just one of the best things or, actually, it is the best thing because people are interacting with the artwork. We can do this all we want but people aren’t reacting to it, what’s the point? That being said - France is picking up and Germany... I think France is our second biggest at the moment. It started primarily with Argentina and Brazil which was unexpected, but we had a lot of people telling us to come down to Brazil. There is also a 'Nation Wild Come to Brazil' Twitter page as well (laughs).
So I guess that raises the question, are you planning on going to Argentina or Brazil any time soon? Maybe after the coronavirus pandemic ends?
S: Heck yeah. I mean, I thought Australia would like us a bit more but they’re not reacting as much as France. France has just shot up in the last five months and it’s hard to understand. I thought it would be certain subcultures all over the world would like it but it seems to be certain countries at the moment and I don’t understand that. I’m pleased, to say the least. I’m extremely happy with how it’s going.
B: All these countries around the world are awesome but do present somewhat of a logistical issue in the future in terms of reaching them all. Australia does seem to be a bit slow, but I reckon we might just need to seek another route with live shows and everything.
S: Also, in Australia, it’s a massive country but the population is so small so it’s difficult for any bands to tour. So I’ve got massive respect for any bands who go out of their way to come down to Australia.
What exactly are you trying to create with your music? Is there any message or modus operandi you’re looking to exhibit? Or is it more you’re just creating music for the fun of it?
S: There’s a message. We stated in our bio that we take any approach with honesty and confidence head-on and that’s the same with the blatant in-your-face feel. The message - well there’s shit happening all over the world and we’re not trying to be someone who’s going to save the world or anything like that, we just want to say it how it is. There’s a lot of lyrical content such as with our next single - actually, here’s the cover for our next single (Sean lifts the beautifully painted cover to display it to the camera).
S: It’s pretty fuckin' mental. [The cover] was painted by Eve Quartermaine who lives in Footscray, she’s an insane artist. The song’s called 'Never Looked So Good' and, I mean, [the cover] is going to piss some people off. If it doesn’t piss some people off, well it’s simply not rock 'n roll, is it? We are hoping people get the tongue-in-cheek vibe to it, similar to the cover of 'Violence of Our Time'.
You’ve mentioned the new single coming out, what are your hopes for the future of National Wild?
S: The new single, well, I’m pretty scared about it. Brad’s pretty confident about the next single. It’s one of those things where we pushed the boundaries a bit far so we hope it gets the response we think it deserves. It’s polarising for sure. I mean with a title like 'Never Looked So Good' of course it’s going to be.
B: With any release, since I have housemates I’ll usually play it to them to get their opinion, to see a genuine first reaction to the song. Any time we release it, I make sure to get those reactions to understand how people might interact with it, and they seemed to enjoy this new single. That’s what makes me confident about it, like I’m confident about it myself.
S: It's always gonna be a bit of adrenaline hit releasing things. I’m not going to write the same song twice, since that’s incredibly boring. This next one is more of a disco-rock thing. We’ve got some country vibes in it but the rock 'n roll mentality gives it a sense of unity as a whole. If people get that then they get that, and if they don’t - who cares?
You said that rock unifies your sound - would you ever take a detour and experiment with the sound (like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard), or would you prefer to align yourself with that established aesthetic?
S: That’s the thing - and I don’t know about the other guys - but I can’t picture myself being one thing. I also don’t understand how people like metal musicians only listen to metal. If you listen to the music that’s been made in your genre solely, then of course you’re not going to create something new. If you go into it listening to all different genres you can synthesise something. Like even with this new disco song it does have reggae vibes to it. I just don’t think you should ever change yourself down to something.
B: You see, me and Sean and I think Rory, we are all Beatles fans. And when you listen to their records, every track was different, that’s the pleasure of listening to those records. We want to create something different each time. The thread throughout these songs is that it’s always us, like, we come out through the songs, we don’t have to worry about that. The same four guys are making this music so it’s going to sound like Nation Wild - it’s going to be Nation Wild does piano ballad or Nation Wild does prog rock or whatever. I’m not too concerned.
S: There’s a lot of bands with only musicians but with Nation Wild, it’s a band of artists. There’s a difference. It sounds kind of wanky but the difference is that musicians write what has already been done before, artists choose to push it a bit. A lot of the stuff we’ve released so far has been far more rock-based but for now, that’s all been deliberate.
R: It’s more about creating something rather than being chained to something or a particular subculture.
Sean asks: Rory, do you want to explain the art music that we’ve been working on?
R: Just fucking around, but at the same time when I hear it reminds me of Melbourne’s sound. Like, weird jazz sounds all being mashed together. It’s not something completely unheard of, but it’s nice to have a change and something a bit weirder to work with.
S: I reckon I’m going to have to disagree, because I was listening to it and I did hear Nick Cave vibes. I reckon it is innovative, like there are sounds I haven’t heard before. That could also be because there are certain technologies that those bands didn’t have.
What we’ve been doing is getting a word, and then reflecting on how it inspires you and then just improvise on the spot with it. We’ve got this awesome recording that we did live in a studio and there are some awesome bits in it so I reckon I’m going to chop it up and make it into something new and I reckon it’s going to be fucking sweet. I don’t know how people are going to react since I don’t know who to market it to; like maybe just pure Nick Cave fans?
Seeing as you've mentioned Nick Cave - are there any particular bands or artists you'd be keen on playing with or even collaborating with after COVID?
R: I think it would be safe to say Kingswood since we had the same producer as them, so we have a couple of contacts there. I reckon we also align ourselves in some aspects.
B: If I could open for any band I would probably go with Pond since they are my favourite Australian band at the moment. That’s all.
S: I like the Lemon Twigs, if they do come to Australia I’d love to open for them. I was looking at the statistics on Spotify as to who listen to you as well, so I was looking at that, and apparently, the people who listen to us also listen to Greta Van Fleet. So it’d be awesome to open for them.