interviews, music

Artist Interview: Destroy Nate Allen (Halloween Zombie Edition)

My Halloween show interview with Nate and Tessa from Destroy Nate Allen. Filmed and edited by Emily Hedlund.

JOSH: I’m here with Nate and Tessa from Destroy Nate Allen. It’s nice to be with you guys.

NATE AND TESSA: Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

JOSH: So how long have you been zombies?

TESSA: Oh, about a week or so. Last week was the prom. I think that was when we got bit.

NATE: I showered a few times and washed off some blood and it just kept coming back… It’s a bit awkward.

JOSH: Well, you just finished playing a show here in St. Louis on your fall tour. What kind of places have you been playing on this tour?

NATE: We’ve played a lot of houses and we’ve played a few bars and a few random DIY art spaces. Mostly it’s been houses on this tour.

JOSH: What kind of fun experiences have you had?

NATE: One of our friends we met in Elko, Nevada works at a museum, and he invited us into the museum a few hours before it opened, and we took pictures in the exhibits.

TESSA: Dead things! We got to play with dead things!

NATE: We got to play with dead kitties.

TESSA: Lions and polar bears! And monkeys!

JOSH: Are you enjoying the Midwest? Is it different from your home in Oregon?

NATE: Tonight was a lot of fun. It was a night kinda like it ends up being at home, which was kinda fun, and it’s really nice to see familiar faces which makes it feel like you’re not so far from home.

JOSH: Well, let’s talk about the new album. It came out in August?

NATE: Yeah, we put the pre-release up in August.

JOSH: Until My Ankle’s Better. Is something wrong with your ankle?

NATE: Yes, I am wearing ankle braces because I rolled my ankle in New Orleans on our tour last year, and it never healed fully, so I wear them now to protect them.

TESSA: And then I bit the other one.

JOSH: Anything interesting about the recording process? You’ve done a lot of albums, so anything new about this one?

NATE: I recorded the majority of the guitar tracks on an eight dollar guitar that I bought at a yard sale. I was working for the census and walked past this yard sale and was like, Oh, they’ve got a little guitar! If it’s eight dollars I’ll buy it! And I went back and it was eight dollars.

TESSA: Cheap!

NATE: So I bought it and I wrote about half the songs for the record on the guitar, and I was like, I want to use this because it sounds totally weird and crappy, and it made me really happy.

TESSA: Little guitar, he played it a lot!

NATE: Tyler from Insomniac Folklore recorded about half the record, and I recorded the rest in, I think, five or six locations around Portland. It’s fifteen songs, which, for some reason most of our records end up being around ten songs, and we put one out about every year, and I wanted to write something longer. So it’s pretty neat. It’s got a full band on a few tracks, and it’s kind of my first real solo record in quite a few years. We’ve been doing the band as kind of a two-piece duo since 2008, and because Tessa ruptured her appendix in May, and spent some time in the hospital and was recovering for a few months, she didn’t really have the time to write a record and I kept writing songs, so it’s mostly me working through the process of my wife getting really sick–

TESSA: Pain!

NATE: Just kinda coming to terms with some of the elements of how I grew up, and what I believe, and all sorts of different things. So for me it’s a pretty honest, vulnerable record that in quite a few ways excites me and scares me.

JOSH: Are there particular songs you like to play or songs that people connect with?

NATE: There’s a song called “I Wanna Let You Out of the Box” that’s fun, kinda works through growing up going to Christian school and the effects of that, and that is something that I guess needed to get off my chest.

TESSA: Your identity!

NATE: Yeah, there’s a song called “Shaken To My Feet” that’s named after a Jerry Lee Lewis song that is really about my faith in Christ, but more about me being afraid of people knowing that, and not really sure how to process that. I guess that’s one of my biggest fears was that people would judge me as a Christian, so the undercurrent on the record is working through what that means, and trying to compare and contrast being totally confident in something and also afraid at the same time.

JOSH: What’s it like being married and on the road together?

NATE: She gets a little–

TESSA: I get hungry sometimes! I get hungry! On the road in the car! Don’t eat at McDonald’s! Blehh!

NATE: It’s really fun being on the road.

TESSA: V8! V8 is good in the car!

NATE: It’s really fun being on the road and being married because we get to share all the adventures together, including being attacked by zombies.

JOSH: Well, it’s interesting because you have an obvious chemistry on stage together. Sometimes musicians get married and stop playing music but you brought her along with you.

NATE: I think there were a few specific instances that made that happen more directly. I spent a week in Michigan in 2007 playing with this guy Jason. His wife Lisa really wanted to play with him and he kept telling her “no” and not letting her play with him, and she kept stealing instruments. And over the course of the week he came to this realization that, I’m just having fun, why can’t my wife have fun with me? So he let her in the band and I think that–

TESSA: Have fun! Have fun!

NATE: I think that was a big catalyst for why, when we started being a couple, Tessa really wanted to go on tour and I said, just join the band, and so we say the first year on tour she learned how to play tambourine, and the second year she learned how to sing.

TESSA: Third year I will learn washboard!

NATE: We were best friends for three years before we got married so we’d already laid a pretty solid foundation of communicating about things we need to talk about, and that definitely happens even more when we’re married that we have to continually be working, continually working on things and working through stuff. And I think that makes it fun when you can work through things and have adventures with your best friend.

TESSA: Roles, I’ve learned! We have more roles! Not dinner rolls!

NATE: What are you talking about?

TESSA: Wife roles! Husband roles! I take care of some things! He takes care of other things! Work together! Different than being single!

JOSH: Smart zombie wife you have there.

NATE: Nice wife.

JOSH: I know you had some punk influences growing up.

TESSA: Punk rock punk rock! Punk rock! Punk rock! Punk rock!

JOSH: Both of you, perhaps. And I thought it was interesting, you have a line on your new album that says, “I’m married and I pay the rent, and that’s a life I’m committed to.” A lot of punk music has themes of freedom and rebellion. I was curious on your thoughts and perspective on the balance of punk rock freedom with responsibility and growing up and committing.

NATE: Well I think priorities have to be in line. I think punk rock is something we both enjoy a lot, and is definitely our musical first love. Punk bands are our favorite bands to play with and tour with and such, but I think our priorities have to be – our relationship with each other has to be more important than the band, which means, when we’re home Tessa does taxes and I’m in school for business, so that’s like building, not necessarily another life, but being responsible with things along the way.

TESSA: And we’re old! Less to prove!

NATE: I think for us, making sure we pay our bills and do things responsibly. We’re debt-free, fortunately.

TESSA: NO DEBT! No debt!

NATE: And that really allows us to tour a lot, and we’ve been able to put out all our records and pay for them upfront, even if that means we have $14 dollars when we start a tour.

JOSH: I’ve noticed you’re very active online and social networking. You commented on a blog post of mine two Cornerstones ago, just writing about Cornerstone, and I’ve seen you commenting on reviews online and different things. What’s your strategy, what kind of role do you see you have in marketing your band and your identity?

NATE: I have Google Alerts on my phone, so when somebody pops up and writes something about us, I can respond and follow up, and say that’s true or that’s not true and I can know what people are thinking. I find that online allows you to communicate and get to know people a lot better than you would in other ways. I think it’s fun.

JOSH: Well that about wraps up my questions.

TESSA: I learned how to screen print. I make a lot of merch! Screen printing T-shirts! Screen printing CDs! Making cassette tapes! Play! Record! Stop! Turn it over! Play! Record! Stop! Turn it over! Oh, it’s done! New one!

NATE: Hot pads?

TESSA: Potholders!

NATE: We have all sorts of other little projects in the works. We’re on tour until Christmas, so once we finish this I get to go home and do two more terms of community college, and then I get my associate’s degree, and then we’ll be on tour again. That’s pretty much our adventure.

TESSA: Death and taxes!

NATE: Thank you for the interview. My wife is going to eat me later, and I hope that I don’t break another chair.

JOSH: Well, that’s Destroy Nate Allen on this Halloween at Chuck’s House. They’ve still got a few more dates on their fall tour – east coast stuff. Check it out. Otherwise maybe we’ll catch you at Cornerstone 2011?

NATE: Yeah!

[Tessa attacks camera.]