Scene Point Blank: How many Fests have you played?
Nato Coles: I've personally played every Fest since I first got down with it for number four, so I guess this will be my fifth Fest this year. Dan's count is the same. Kate played last year for the first time. CJ, our new drummer, will be losing his Fest virginity this year. It's about time.
Scene Point Blank: What's your best Fest memory, onstage or in the audience?
Nato Coles: Every show has been fantastic. Back in the days of the Modern Machines, who were not really all that well-known of a band, despite what you might think, it was incredibly cool and affirming to play a show in front of a hundred-plus people who were singing along to the originals and covers. We always did a Tom Petty cover - because it's Gainesville, right? But personally, my favorite moments tend to be the after parties. Crazy mayhem, debauchery, total lunacy! I especially like it when bands play because it usually devolves into the three or four people who know how to play some Ramones or Stones or something grabbing the instruments and jamming out the jams until long after the hosts have screamed their voices hoarse at us to stop, or at least until long after whoever isn't playing has gotten bored and gone out into the yard to find alcohol or drugs or someone to make out in the bushes with or something. My absolute favorite Fest memory is from either number 4 or 5, playing acoustic guitars on the porch of someone's house until the sun came up. There were a small number of people, all singing along to whatever I could pull out of my ass. J Wang was there, he can testify. It was the last night of Fest. I truly believe that if you see dawn the Monday after the Fest, you will have good luck for a year... or at least stave off the shittiest luck you'd otherwise have. The best set I ever saw at the Fest is The Ergs! at the Sidebar in 2006. There are umpteen runners-up, but that's my pick for the Hall of Fame.
Scene Point Blank: Do you tour on the way to the Fest? Is it a way to pay for the Fest, or would you be on tour anyway?
Nato Coles: Some years, whatever band I was in would tour directly to the Fest and back. That happened the last two times. At least one of the two times the MoMacs played with Hanson on drums, we were on a larger tour and timed it with the Fest. I know that was the case for Fest 5. I really chased the wild goose down the rabbit hole that year. Danny called my mental state the next day "Brainsville." Anyway, talking about money, to quote Frito from the movie Idiocracy, "I like money!" Money's always a motivation for broke-ass punks. But it's one of several, and bands shouldn't expect to make money touring to the Fest, especially short tours with long drives, because thirty other bands are all doing the same thing and there are only so many scenes to exploit on the way south or east.
Scene Point Blank: Perhaps I worded that poorly. What I mean to ask, in short, is: does the Fest have an impact on other cities by getting bands on the road who, otherwise, might not tour?
Nato Coles: If your city lies on a highway that bands would tour down to get to the Fest, your city will be impacted by the fact that five unrelated touring bands who don't really draw all that many people need a show on a Monday night. So, people living in, say, Durham, North Carolina can see good bands in late October or early November that otherwise might not make it there. Whether the good citizens of Durham, NC choose to actually come out to the shows is another story. It's an impact.
Scene Point Blank: Have you found a cure to FestAIDS?
Nato Coles: There is no cure, but I've gotten pretty good at prevention. First, you have to drink lots of water, and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially fruit. Don't trust stuff like Vitamin Water: go for the source, or at least real fruit juices. Also, make sure you eat, period. Second, get at least six hours of sleep on Saturday night (Friday, do what you want). If you need to sleep until 2pm on Sunday, DO IT. Take the hit. You just saw a thousand great bands; you can skip the one who for some reason is playing at 11am on Sunday. Third and final, try to get in a little sexual healing if you know what I'm saying. Of course, then you have to watch out for RealAIDS, so where does that take us? Anyway, I've felt like a hundred bucks the Monday after the last couple Fests I've done and, believe me, I am a chemical monster and a party-?til-dawn kind of guy, so I've put these theories to the test and they work.
Scene Point Blank: Shifting gears away from Gainesville, how long have you been in Brooklyn? Are you settled?
Nato Coles: I've lived in Brooklyn since February of 2007, and Danny's lived there since September of 2007. I'd say we're pretty well settled, yes, with one caveat. I do plan to move on one of these years. Couldn't say where to though.
Scene Point Blank: How does it compare to the Midwest?
Nato Coles: For me? It's crowded, dirty, and beer costs too much in bars, but there are tons of great people and friends and I wouldn't trade my experience making the Radio Faces record for anything. One thing I've noticed is that many people move to New York City and end up working too much to have not enough money after exorbitant rent to have any fun. Look out. The Midwest is cheap to live in and cities like Milwaukee or the Twin Cities have vital rock'n'roll music just as full-blown as Brooklyn. I love the Midwest, I do want to clarify that I'm specifically talking about the Great Lakes region when I say that. For example, Buffalo is more Midwest than Omaha. I like New York City and Brooklyn too.
Scene Point Blank: Did you know Kate before she joined the band?
Nato Coles: I didn't know her personally until right before she joined. However, she knew us, and the MoMacs had even played a show at her friend's house out in Long Beach, Long Island, the town she's from. After I moved to New York, I started seeing her around. I'd always wanted to do a band with male/female vocals, so eventually I asked her if she wanted to jump into the new band that was going to start out of the ashes of the MoMacs, with Mikey.
Scene Point Blank: Speaking of Mikey, how did he find time for another band?
Nato Coles: This is a tough question to answer, because I'm not sure! Mikey has a hard time saying no to bands. Girls, drugs, bands, CD reissues of any classic music... Mikey doesn't say no! Ok, not so much the drugs. Anyway, when he was in the band, we were his top priority or co-top priority with The Measure, but we wouldn't book stuff on dates he was busy with anything else. So we'd always book two-three months in advance, and that avoided most problems, for awhile. Obviously it didn't work out in the end, but we still love him and we'd happily play a show with him on drums if there were ever a compelling reason for it to happen.
Scene Point Blank: Who is your drummer now? Myspace lists both a "home" and a "touring" drummer? Has this solidified?
Nato Coles: That home drummer/away drummer thing is just a funny way of explaining that CJ Frederick is our drummer for everything he has the time to do, from recording to regional stuff and maybe national/international stuff, and then Amos Pitsch from Tenement has been our drummer on two tours, and we're always happy to have him behind the kit whenever CJ can't do it, as a sub. But when he started playing with us, CJ was not necessarily going to be our drummer for anything more than a few shows. We're glad he's signed on for more!
Scene Point Blank: And he'll be at the Fest, too?
Nato Coles: Like I said earlier, CJ's going to lose his Fest virginity behind the drumkit for us this year, barring unforeseen disaster. He's even found a really good van for us to borrow for the tour down to Gainesville. What a guy.
Scene Point Blank: Are you in other bands?
Nato Coles: Personally, I'm at the point where I play solo shows on a semi-regular basis, and you might consider that my "other band" of note. I play in my friend Max's band, Uzi Rash, usually on drums. Dan's in Uzi Rash too. Also, Dan's in a real cool poppy, jangly punk trio called The Marshmallows with two girls. Dan, Kate, and CJ for that matter have all been members of the Weird Fantasy Band, Mike Hunchback's backing band with a rotisserie cast. Kate's going to play the Fest with Cheeky this year. All of us play music with other people all the time, so by the time this interview comes out this answer may already be obsolete.
Scene Point Blank: Since all of you were in previous bands, do you get a lot of audience requests for old material?
Nato Coles: In the beginning we'd get requests for MoMacs songs mostly, and also some Ergs! and Cheeky songs, but these days, we don't really get too many, except in Milwaukee or Carbondale, Illinois or wherever people's memories are rose-tinted, if you follow. I'll always play a MoMacs song for people solo, at a party or wherever, but this lineup of the Used Kids just doesn't play them anymore. Sorry to disappoint.
Scene Point Blank: How has the donation scale for Yeah No been doing?
Nato Coles: Well, there've been a few donations, and obviously a lot more downloads than donations, but there've been enough that we feel it was worth it to do it this way. A blog out of DC called Pop Narcotic donated $50 to us! Apparently they reviewed the album, and said that if 10 people commented on the review, they'd donate $5 per person for the "suggested donation." That was nice of them. Once or twice, people have walked up to our merch table and handed us cash, saying they downloaded the record and would rather give us the money straight than go through Paypal, which I appreciate deeply.
Scene Point Blank: What made you choose a vinyl/donation-based download format? Is it something you'll try again?
Nato Coles: I remember calling Marco from Salinas one afternoon, and offhandedly asking him if he needed any artwork for the CD. He responded, "CD? Um, I didn't think we were doing a CD. I thought it was just an LP and then download." Heh. By that point it was too late to change plans. I think most of our fans want vinyl or just use their iPod, but in retrospect, we could've done a small CD run for people who like to have a CD around. We probably should've. My mom wants a CD.
Scene Point Blank: There goes my question about what the label thought of it. Have you sold more vinyl than normal (without having a CD option)?
Nato Coles: I never thought to ask myself that question. That's a good one. Hmm, I'd have to guess that we've sold about the same, or maybe just a little more vinyl than we otherwise would have. I don't think many people specifically prefer CDs. Maybe some people are buying the vinyl ?cause it's the only material option and they want to support us, but I bet that number of people is very small.
Scene Point Blank: Your sound pays homage to older, working class themed artists. Are there any comparisons you're tired of hearing?
Nato Coles: Not really, but there are eyebrow-raisers. For example: I think that if you compare us to Bruce Springsteen, which people do, it'd help to be more specific in those reviews, because we only resemble a small quadrant of his sound, really. I love the Boss, but the first song on our album is more like mid-period Jam, I think, than anything Bruce ever did. Not to get all analytical. We play rock'n'roll - poppy-punk rock'n'roll - and want people to have fun and be inspired and feel good when listening to our tunes, and if somebody's turned off by reading a Used Kids/Springsteen comparison or whatever, that's unfortunate. But I know our music's out there and they can hear it and, if they were meant to like it, they'll come around. And reviewers can write whatever they like, I guess. That's what they do. No muzzling the fourth estate on my account.
Scene Point Blank: Do you have a clear direction you'd like your songwriting to go in, or is each album a snapshot of a period of your life?
Nato Coles: When you're learning how to be a songwriter, you write whatever comes to you. You experiment, try things. And then as you evolve, you start to realize how many different kinds of songs there are to write. Searching for your voice is a never-ending struggle, I think. Maybe every album I've done is a snapshot of my life, as of the time I was writing my songs. Dan, Hanson, everybody else as well. But on the other hand, in the past few years, I have been trying to write songs that are more universal, maybe timeless, stuff that people can relate to no matter who they are. Also, I want to write songs that my friends and those who have had the same kinds of life experiences as my friends can relate to more. Heh, I'm rambling now. I guess that, as opposed to a snapshot of my life, I'm just hoping that the songs I write end up as good snapshots of the lives of people who like the music.
Scene Point Blank: You're native to Milwaukee, right? You're wearing a Twins jersey on the album cover so I have to ask where your allegiances lie? How has Brett Favre affected this?
Nato Coles: I'm from Milwaukee. I am a Green Bay Packers fan. My family is from Milwaukee. But my parents lived in the Twin Cities for a while after I moved away from home, and my mom actually grew up in Minneapolis. So, she's a Twins fan. My allegiances? Let's stick to football and baseball, my two favorite sports to watch, and let's just dispense all the politics of money and jockish asshole bullshit. These two games are FUN TO WATCH, and play. Okay. The Packers are my favorite football team, and are the greatest football team of all time. Favre will always be remembered and honored, but his signing with Minnesota is traitorous and he knows it. He does. And he doesn't care, because athletes on that level develop friendships and personal relationships that aren't affected by fanbases. So he's happy to betray his supporters, and that sucks, but it's normal for people like him. Maybe I'm cynical. Whatever. I still follow the NFL because I like the game. Really, though, I'm a baseball guy. Baseball-wise, it goes Brewers, White Sox, Twins. The Brewers and White Sox are my NL and AL teams, respectively. The Twins are just a team my family loves and so I find it hard to root against them, and once the Brewers and White Sox are out, as they seem to be as of right now, the Twins are a good go-to. I don't like the Dome, though. I love the Tampa Bay Rays! Great new team. Joe Maddon's hilarious and wise. I'll pull for the Rays until they meet one of my teams. The Marlins should be moved to Portland or San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Scene Point Blank: I might as well close on another random question. In the Thwap! liner notes, I couldn't help but notice some props given to The State. Have you picked up the DVDs yet?
Nato Coles: I don't own a DVD player right now! Until I get one, I'll have to live in my memories, I guess. Going the wrong way down the porcupine racetrack.