Another week, another highly promising Scottish act for you.
Despite the name, Natalie Pryce are actually a four piece band consisting of Mark Swan (Vocals/Harmonica & Melodica), Greg Taylor (Guitar), Steven Litts (Bass) and Stephen Coleman (Drums).
After a successful Kickstarter campaign the band will be recording their second album Vol. II: The Ascent from Ego to Ego in the very near future and it really is time that they featured on this blog as they create a great neo-noir tinged bluesy garage rock racket.
A few days ago, I emailed some questions to frontman Mark Swan. He replied almost immediately with some fascinating and not always predictable answers. But first, the searing new Natalie Pryce single Emily, available to download free for a limited period of time here.
How and when did Natalie Pryce form?
Well the group all met at a Howard Phillips Lovecraft appreciation society in Glasgow. We were brought together through a mutual interest in Lovecraftian occult madness. That’s where the music came from too: at these society meeting we would have readings of the stories, the guys that would ultimately become Natalie Pryce would bring their instruments and improvise some music to play along with the words being read. One day I suggested that we try doing the same thing but with some original stories that I’d written. After that we had the band.
Why choose Natalie Pryce as the name of the band?
Natalie Pryce is the name of the protagonist in a novel by Mary Unthank called ‘The Uneffectual Fire’. It is, in part, a retelling of the Orpheus myth. It felt like everything that the character goes through in that book is what the band wanted to sound like. It’s a great, great book. As far as I’m aware not too many people have read it but it is definitely worth seeking out.
Your songs often reflect the band’s interest in cinema, literature and theatre, Sam’s about Samuel Beckett, isn’t it?
To say that the song ‘Sam’ is about Samuel Beckett wouldn’t be entirely true. Samuel Beckett is a character in the song and I’ve used the setting of his famous play ‘Waiting for Godot’ in the story but what the song is really about is the creative process. In the song there is a dialogue between two characters which follow a style that is in part based on the back and forth between Vladimir and Estragon but actually in my song the two voices represent the duality of my own creative and destructive urges. Samuel Beckett appears in the song as a corpse that is dragged up to excite some inspiration but fails to inspire a song worth singing. The song is about the difficulties of moving away from one’s own influences and creating original work. It is also about the cannibalisation of the things you once loved for the sake of writing: in the song Beckett’s corpse fails to inspire and that is because it has been all used up. There is a quote from Goethe’s Faust that I really love – “When scholars study a thing, they strive to kill it first, if it’s alive; then they have the parts and the’be lost the whole, for the link that’s missing was the living soul.” That’s what ‘Sam’ is about.
Who are the main influences on the band’s music?
Franz Kafka, Francis Bacon, David Lynch, Angela Carter, insects, J. G. Ballard, Egon Schiele, Philip K. Dick, Paula Rego, Michelle Hannah, flowers, Philip Larkin, Edvard Munch, Marlene Dietrich, Ingmar Bergman, Austin Osman Spare, Vladimir Nabokov, Stewart Lee, W. H. Auden, Marilyn Monroe, Dylan Thomas, Werner Herzog, Edith Wharton, William Blake, Jake and Dinos Chapman, tungsten light bulbs, Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Sigmund Freud, Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Frida Kahlo, Harry Clarke, crows, Christopher Marlowe, storms, Susanna Clarke, John Milton, Will Self, Sarah Kane, Nikola Tesla, Robert Mitchum, John Keats, Christopher Lee, Buster Keaton, Alfred Hitchcock, Sylvia Plath, Orson Wells, Emily Dickinson, Carl Jung, Saint Sebastian, Alan Moore, Ben Wheatley, smoke, Harpo Marx, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Dee, Nicolas Winding Refn, Sandro Botticelli, Alasdair Gray, Søren Kierkegaard, Henry James, Lynne Ramsay, Artemisia Gentileschi… there is a few to start with.
What about current acts, any you’d like to recommend?
Most of the groups we’ve played shows with are really great and it’s brilliant to see them live. There is such a strong scene in contemporary music now. There are still loads of groups I’m itching to play live with as well.
I’m curious about the collective Natalie Pryce image which is rather dapper, how did that come about?
Gangsters, cowboys, highway men, secret agents, hitmen, Natalie Pryce: we’re carrying on a tradition of folk heroes and villains.
The promo videos are visually very striking. Who shoots them and do the band have much of an input into them?
Thank you! How much input does the band have? All of it! We do all of it ourselves from the original concept to editing it together and everything in between. The one exception is the video for the song ‘Raquel’ which our good friend and skilled photographer Kev Thomas acted as our cinematographer. The videos have been so fun to make. I think I’m getting better at making them too. Each new video is better than the last. I’m gradually forming my own style. I think that mainly happens in the editing. I love editing. I think I like it more than any other phase of filmmaking. Editing is the only unique aspect of filmmaking which does not resemble any other art form.
You’ve just successfully funded the recording of your second album using Kickstarter, that must surely be a very satisfying feeling?
The success of the Kickstarter campaign was inspiring. I’m still buzzing from it. I feel invigorated by it. The idea that people are interested and excited as much as I am about the music is an incredible feeling. I feel like I’ve achieved what I always wanted to achieve with art – which is to make a connection with people. It’s like when you become moved by a piece of art and even if it’s dark or sad in tone the joy of the thing is in that connection, that empathy with the artist. It’s that feeling of un-aloneness that creativity strives towards. A lot of my heroes died in poverty and complete obscurity so the idea that there is enough interest in the music of Natalie Pryce that people are willing to pay for us to make more is about as great as it gets.
So you’d advise other bands to go down the same route?
I would recommend Kickstarter. To me it seems like such a great model that I don’t know why all music isn’t created through it (there is probably a good reason – feel free to contact me through our website with the answer). For small bands like Natalie Pryce that make albums quickly and cheaply it works so well – people interested can pay in a small amount to get a copy and they’re money covers the costs of recording. For huge bands like the Rolling Stones that spend a lot of time and money on their albums it would work for them too because more people would be interested in paying in. One of the main advantages of the Kickstarter approach is the freedom it entitles the artist. It’s great for fans as well because they get to be a part of the creation of something they are interested in. Their input directly affects the thing being made.
You recorded and mixed your first album in two days doing one live take of each song. Same again second time around?
Two days?! Wow. We did that out of necessity because the cost of recording music being what it is two days was all we could afford but what happened is the sound on that album is amazing – there is so much energy in the room. It was like high wire walking, if we made a mistake we were dead. I think that rawness and tension can be heard in the recordings. This time around, for our upcoming album ‘Vol. II: The Ascent from Ego to Ego’, we aim to do the same again.
Where are you recording the album?
We are recording the album once again at the incredible Green Door Studios. It is pretty much the most important studio in the world at the moment. All of Scotland’s greatest acts have come out of the Green Door Studio. It has a sound and an atmosphere to the place that is so unique. The building itself is like an additional instrument. We’re booked in for next month so till then we’re all in intensive training.
Why should we buy it?
Natalie Pryce hold a unique position in new music. They take the roots of jazz, blues and punk and grind them through the mill of their imagination. A unique imagination filled with Freudian symbols and Jungian archetypes, cult cinema, fairy-tales, classic literature, high art and low art. With their music Natalie Pryce create a world to slip into: a world with raging hallucinatory characters and impossible nocturnal cities where magick is real and reality is never taken at face value… it’s music about life and death, love and sorrow, sex and dreams that leaves you still listening well after the songs are finished.
Plans for the future?
Make our greatest album yet, make better and better visually striking promo videos, play some more gigs with bands that we love, write more interesting songs, repeat…
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Mark. And good luck with the album.
* The full band photo is from an unplugged show last year at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. © Fotomaki, while the other three are from a recent show at King Tut’s, © Paul Barclay.
For more on Natalie Pryce: