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Fotocredit: John-Patrick Grande
Nathan Gray & John-Patrick Grande

Interview: Nathan Gray (Boysetsfire)

Vor Ihrer Show beim Family First Festival in Köln am 02.02.2018 hatte ich noch die Gelegenheit mit Nathan Gray von Boysetsfire  über sein Solo Album Feral Hymns (siehe Review) zu sprechen, welches am 19.01.2018 erschienen ist. Viel Spaß dabei:

So why a solo album?

Well – because they wouldn’t let me start a new band. Seriously – I think Boysetsfire is going to keep doing shows here and there and festivals – and it really doesn’t make much sense to bother with another band. I’ve got a band and we have that economy that shared experience. What I really wanted is something that is for real separate. Something that was just me and what I do and don’t have to have this kind of democracy. I want to play I play, I want to write this I write it. So that is basically it. I have written a couple of songs and I sent them out and they were like “ok you are recording this time,…” And I was like: Wait what? He said “I know you, if I don’t get you doing this you will try to get a new band” Alright – fair enough! But it’s been really rewarding. Out of all the bands I have done on the side of Boysetsfire this was the most accepted I think. People really felt this one an that’s rewarding. Having all these side bands that did okay, but didn’t really get that much. And then this and people are like: “Oh Fuck yeah” Awesome”. That feels good, because that’s just me. Perfect.

But then I have another question, because a couple of your songs are like old Boysetsfire or Casting Out songs as well…

Well there’s only one on the album that’s an old Boysetsfire song. I’ll explain the Casting Out one. The Boysetsfire song was because it’s a cool song that we did and we’ll never play live. And so it was something I could deconstruct and make cool. I will play some other ones live, but as far as recording, we already recorded them. That was just one of those I thought that were cool. But for the Casting Out one it was more purposeful: all of those songs were written the way you are hearing them now. And then I just turned them into band songs. So I really wanted to take back those songs that I had written in that way, because the Casting Out started because I chickened out at going solo. So it is sort of a reclaiming and going “look this is the way they were meant to be”.

What’s your favorite song of your solo album?

Way too hard!

I always get that – but if you had to decide to only focus on one song?

I think two songs that I really enjoy – give me three!

Ok Three!

Walk – I really love a lot. It’s hard, because the two ones I already did videos for Echoes and Waves are obviously favorites and I think Walk will be the next one. And then past that Burn Away. It’s a real fun one to do live and has a lot of meaning for me. You know all of them are really special to me, so it’s hard to choose.

Why the title feral hymns?

Because of the idea of stripping back, the idea of going back to basics and that feralism. And a lot of the songs are about being an individual, about being someone that transcends religion, politics and more becomes their own person. And in that, in being happy with being their own person, is able to show that life to others and to inspire others to do the same, because as far as I’m concerned happy people don’t hurt other people and that’s the best politic or religion you can have. To realize that your happiness is what makes the world a better place. And what helps others to be inspired to do the same.

To realize that your happiness is what makes the world a better place.

So is that something you want people to take away when listening to your music?

Without a doubt! And not only that, but also – because there are some depressing songs on there. And I think there is a reason to get into that sometimes, to purge it out, to ritualize it almost. And that makes you a well-rounded person. When you are able to sort of drop into that depressive state for a little bit, but you also know that there’s hope and you can get out of it later. And sometimes you just need to hear someone else say that it’s okay to feel that way and you don’t have to be fucking happy all the time. You can feel this way, but just know that other people feel this way too and we’ve all gone through it. Trust in your friends, trust in someone who can help, trust in what I’m saying –I’ve been there too.

Can we expect more solo stuff from you?

Absolutely – without a doubt! It will be the only other thing I do besides Boysetsfire.

So you will not chicken out again?

No- I am sold now. I put this out and I was telling someone else – with the other stuff I put out it was doing ok, but it never really took off. And this – the reaction I am getting has been overwhelming and in that it really puts you in a different mindset when you go “Fuck – I am just doing what I want with no other influence and that’s what people wanted to hear all along. That’s awesome! That’s inspiring and I don’t see any reason not to be doing this.

the reaction I am getting has been overwhelming

Are you more excited for big shows like playing Festivals with Boysetsfire or smaller shows with a solo tour?

Both – because it’s a different thing. It’s a different feel altogether. I would like to be playing bigger shows with my solo stuff as well, but I am really enjoying what I have now. I’m in the moment – the stuff that we’re doing with Boysetsfire here is fucking phenomenal. Just the appreciation that people have for this band is mind-blowing. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here – every single fucking time.  And to do this and then to do a solo tour even though it is in smaller clubs – to have it all sold out. It all sold out within a month – It’s like how can you not just be overwhelmed and in love with that. That people are that inspired by what you do and that inspires me.

What really gives you the goose bumps during a show?

Just looking over at Josh…(everyboy laughs)

Josh: Laughing out fucking loud motherfucker. Jesus Christ – a smaller chuckle would have been more appropriate.

You know what: it’s the interaction with people and I noticed that this last night. We all talked about it after the show. Like we did as supposed to what we normally do – play 3 or 4 songs and then we stop, we interact and keep going, we did about 8 songs in a row and by the time we were done it was like: I feel like am missing something. You know I didn’t get a chance within the first couple of songs to be like “Hey how are you guys doing, thank you so much for being here”, because that is not a bit for us, you know it’s not an act. It’s a part of us. Like the people there and the interaction that we have with them, is so much a part of us that if we don’t have that, it really messes things up. It feels wrong.

What do you most like about playing in Germany? Is the crowd in Germany different to other countries?

Honestly – anywhere in Germany and especially here in Cologne – I mean that is why we’re doing this here. You know it is sort of like home base for us. And it’s always been the people so that the people here have been so supportive and so friendly, so really into what we are doing. And this was from the get-go. Cologne was one of the first places we had to play a double show in one night. This was like 15 years ago, so you keep coming back where people want you and you enjoy that and you take your time to get to know those people – your fans – and I think that’s brought a lot of rewards for us. Because in the end that is what music is about.

What do you prefer – club shows or festival shows?

All of them! I prefer shows. I prefer shows to not-shows.

What do you like most about festival shows?

Bigger stage to run around on – I think that’s best. You get some room and I can watch Robert and his pretty little ballet. It’s nicer when you have a little bit more room not to bang into each other. But then what we try to do at those shows is to let the audience know that they are there. Because I think a lot of times bands don’t do that, they just do their show. What we try to do is bring that “Hey we see you there, we know you’re there – thank you”, which you get automatically from a smaller club show. And that’s what I love regarding smaller club shows, but you can create that anywhere if you really want to. If you don’t want to, you’re not going to. But if you want to you’re going to make it no matter where you are.

What do you want to do with your next solo album? Because right now you’re quite close to what you’ve been doing before, so do you want to experiment a little bit more or do you want to stay in this part?

You’ll have more of my Casting Out moments, as the Waves could’ve been a Casting Out song.  But you also have songs like Echoes, which is a little bit different to that. What you have on this album, you’re going to hear more of, because that’s just me. But you are also going to hear things that are a bit different and experimental. But there’s always going to be a sound to it. It’s going to be me. But I don’t think in a boring way. Like “here it is again” – like another Bad Religion album. I love that band, but it is what it is. You get locked into a sound and people love it and that’s great. But I would definitely like to move away a little from that and have some room for experimentation. But honestly at the end of the day I know 3 chords. Maybe I will learn another one. I will learn a fourth and we will be fine.

Josh: That will be your downfall! Ever since he learned that fourth chord he hasn’t been the same. It just sounds different. It’s not right. He sold out.

Is there anything you want your fans to know?

Thank you! That is really it. I mean with Boysetsfire and what I do, I think that is the biggest message we ever had is: thanks! Why would we even be here? We’d be standing here in a room in Germany for no goddamn reason.

the biggest message we ever had is: thanks!

Robert: People forget that – Bands forget that. This could be a very very silly situation without these people out there. We are not forgetting this. It is always about them. We would still dance around and have a good time, but it makes it better.

Thanks for the interview – thanks for your time!