I’m not 100% sure how I met Nate Frey. I do remember remarking that he was wearing Uniqlo T-000 jeans. I gave him much respect for this, as I can only think of a few people in DC who enjoy going up to NY and shopping at Uniqlo as much as I do.
But this is not an interview about fashion – no. Nate is a talkative fellow and he's in a couple of bands. Detox Retox is his longtime band and I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with those guys several times. Homeboy also has a new band called Last Tide and they'll playing at Red and Black on Tuesday June 2nd.
Nate you’re a pretty busy guy(he also has a post-rock group and occasionally does noise sets). How do you find the time to devote this much energy to making so much music - I mean you do have a full time job as well!
It's pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I could easily spend every waking minute playing music and be happy.
Boring question - what made you wanna pick up the guitar?
I started playing when I was about 13. At that time I was mostly trying to learn a lot of classic rock, stuff like Jimi Hendrix, The Police, Neil Young.
Who are your primary influences?
Depends on the project. Here's a few of the more obvious ones:
Last Tide: MBV, Slowdive, Red House Painters, Smashing Pumpkins
Detox Retox: Talking Heads, !!!, Modest Mouse, Head Automatica
Reversal: Mogwai, Don Caballero, Explosions in the Sky, King Crimson
And then there are loads of others who've influenced me in more subtle ways.
What’ve bee you listening to in the last 6 months?
"Isn't Anything" - My Bloody Valentine
"Year After Year" - Idaho
S/T (I) - Red House Painters
"The Name of this Band is Talking Heads" - Talking Heads
"Dark Was the Night" - VA. (The Bon Iver song on this record is incredible!)
St Vincent - I saw her play at the Black Cat the other week, not knowing much of her music, and I was really blown away.
Now, your band,Detox Retox, has been quiet for a few months due to the fact that your singer is doing an internship abroad. When is he returning and what your plans are for the next few months?
Well, we have some tracks recorded that we're hoping to have Justin Moyer (Edie Sedgwick) mix in the near future. Not quite enough for another EP though, so when Parker gets back we'll need to record another song or two before we can do an actual release.
Show-wise, we just found out we're playing MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati in late September, so we're probably gonna do a couple additional Midwest dates around that. Plus, there will definitely be some local shows later this summer that aren't quite nailed down yet.
And I just heard that y'all are playing the Warped Tour. Congratulations!
Yeah, that is definitely happening, July 14th at Merriweather on the Kevin Says Stage. We're looking at it as a great opportunity to get some exposure to an audience we probably wouldn't have access to otherwise, and to get to see Bad Religion play for free... among other things. I think it probably means even more to the other guys than it does to me; they all went to Warped Tour as kids, but yeah, we're all pretty stoked.
It's great that you've managed to make so much progress. But it must be a bit odd to have so much momentum and then have to switch focus to another project.
Playing in Detox Retox is a blast, but I've also always loved a lot of dense, moody stuff that doesn't really fit in with what we do. When I found out we were going to be taking a break from April to July awhile back, I seized the opportunity to start up another project.
So what's Last Tide's songwriting process like? Do you hand the group finished songs and say "play it like this" or is it a more communal effort?
With Last Tide, usually Libby or I will have a fairly complete song, and we'll take it to the band and try to work out an arrangement collaboratively. I tend to think that it's pretty hard to "jam it out" with this type of music, particularly in a five piece band.
In Detox Retox, on the other hand, usually songs start with Parker bringing a riff to the band, and then all of us collectively jamming the rest out.
So how'd you manage to start a new group and book a mini-tour of the East Coast on such short notice?
Well, I went into the project with a lot of songs I wanted to play already written, plus Libby's written a bunch of great songs too, so we weren't short on material like a lot of new bands are. Beyond that, everyone has been good about practicing regularly, which is helpful.
As for booking the shows, I have a lot of contacts from doing almost all the booking for Detox Retox, so I was able to use those connections to my advantage.
There are a lot of bands experimenting in post-rock and shoegaze. In your opinion why is there so much interest in this sort of music right now?
I guess I have two answers to that. Taking a very broad view, God only knows what drives public opinion. But more narrowly, I would say that it may be related to the fact that bands like MBV and Slowdive made such amazing records, but had very little mainstream exposure stateside. And now with the advent of digital music, it's been easier for people to obtain their music, and it still sounds fresh because there really never was a mainstream record anything like Loveless, and because the best shoegaze records were years ahead of their time in terms of production and arranging techniques. That's totally a guess though.
(Photo by Andy Watts)
Ok, so how does one approach such a popular sound and still come off as original?
I think it's important to keep an open mind about what your sound is and not let yourself be constrained by some preconceived notion of what the music should sound like. For example, I started Last Tide as a "shoegaze" project, but there's a lot of other stuff that's made its way in, psychedelic music, minimalist stuff, some punk, all kinds of things, and I'm not even sure a purist would consider what we are doing to be shoegaze music at this point. And that's okay with me. We just try to let the deciding factor be whether we like it or not, and so far, that's worked out pretty well.
Now for inevitable "the scene questions." What do you think about the Washington DC scene right now?
Another broad question. There are a lot of bands I dig, True Womanhood, Imperial China, The Tennis System, Greenland, Title Tracks, Mittenfields, to name a handful, but there are loads of others. (Apologies to any friends I failed to mention!) My biggest disappointment has been that so many DC bands seem to not capitalize on the buzz they accumulate for one reason or another, and seem to end up just another great band that nobody outside of DC ever heard of.
Favorite venues? Are there any places you'll never play again?
Well, maybe it will be different with Last Tide, don't really have enough experience to say yet, but with Detox Retox... we've found Rock and Roll Hotel's sound to be really good, the best we've had probably. Velvet Lounge has a really cool vibe to it that we like a lot. I've never played Black Cat or DC9, so I can't really speak to those from a performer's perspective, but I love seeing shows at both.
Outside of DC, there's this BYOB space in Philly called Connie's Ric-Rac which is just a huge party, (the place Detox Retox played with you guys a few months back), that was just a great atmosphere.
There actually haven't been very many places I've disliked playing. I'm easy to please, I guess.
And who are your favorite bands to play with?
These are all bands Detox Retox has played with, though I am really stoked to play with some of the bands Last Tide is sharing bills with in the next couple months. We love playing with you guys (Ra Ra Rasputin), we love playing with Loose Lips. Oh, and I definitely have to mention the guys in Fight the Bear; they've been great to us basically from the beginning, and they rock so hard.
And finally, I must acknowledge our many conversations about musical equipment we findon Craigslist and Ebay. Tell me about some of your recent purchases. Any regrets?
I spent a few months this winter acquiring a small arsenal of cheap guitars. In retrospect, some of them probably weren't worth buying, but they are gonna make fun DIY upgrade projects, so I don't really regret them. I will say that I regret buying three chorus pedals that all kind of sucked before finally spending the extra money on a BBE Mindbender, which was what I wanted in the first place. But c'est la vie.
Do you have any predictions on how the economy will affect the market for vintage instruments?
I had to sell some stuff a few months back and I can honestly say it's very much a buyer's market right now. I think the future direction of the market depends upon the state of the economy at large, and if I knew that I'd be a much richer man.
Last Tide will be playing @ the Red and Black on Tuesday June 2nd. Doors are at 830pm , first band is on at 9pm.
Last Tide MySpace
Detox Retox MySpace