Nai Harvest has always had a habit of surprising people, whether by surpassing their sonic expectations of a two piece or by effortlessly skipping between genres.
Guitarist and vocalist Ben Thompson and drummer Lew Currie are incredibly focused; a pair of best friends who have found their sound on their own terms. After two years of nearly relentless touring that took them to the other side of the world and back, the band has fully articulated that sound with their latest LP ‘Hairball’. Racing through ‘80s and ‘90s-influenced indie rock, their recent album Hairball (Released back in April) is propulsive and elastic, taking sharp turns into hazy garage punk and feedback-laden grunge.
In town on December 1st to open for Jaws (info here) we caught up with vocalist Ben Thompson to chat about the show, not being pigeonholed and world peace for Christmas…
How has 2015 been for Nai Harvest?
2015 has been very cool for us! Our debut album Hairball came out and we’ve played some of the best shows of our ‘career’. We also got to go back to play CMJ in New York City again which was sick. We just recorded some new singles for next year too
What’s the best thing about playing live as a two-piece?
We get asked this a lot, and it’s actually way harder than playing in a fuller band! I mean, we’ve become totally in sync now and it’s effortless but if something goes wrong with my guitar for example you’ve got nothing to fall back on apart from drums and awkward silence, so I think it actually makes you better musicians and really aware of your songs and how you play live show. We literally give it our everything every show, no holding back.
How much, if at all, is your music influenced by Sheffield?
None of our musical is influenced by Sheffield really. The scene in Sheffield is great and we’ve got so many friends in bands from the city but we’re not Arctic Monkeys singing about High Green pubs and playin on the fruit machine.
‘Hairball’ came out earlier this year, how have you found people’s response to it?
The response to Hairball was great yeah, it was a big step up for us and I think most people really see that. I think people who rate our older stuff more are mad.
What was the hardest track on the record to finish and why?
I can’t remember, it was all such a blur of writing. Off the top of my head maybe All The Time, cus we kept changing it.
The record has quite the departure from your earlier material’s sound, how did you find yourself following this new direction? Were there any apprehensions?
I actually don’t think it’s that far off. We just got better at writing songs, using effects and didn’t need to over complicate things as much. Simple is the answer.
I’ve read that you want people to see ‘Hairball’ as your debut LP, how do you find the album varies from ‘Whatever’ and what lessons did you learn from ‘Whatever’ that you brought onto ‘Hairball’?
Yeah it’s our debut.
‘Whatever’ was a collection of songs we’d wrote over the first year or so of our band from different releases all thrown together on an LP. We didn’t have any intentions back of being a band that did anything major back then so it seemed the easiest way.
We thought about Hairball a lot more and wanted to make it a real album where all the songs connected and also it’s a sound we were finally proud of, so I class it as the best overview of our band.
Musically I can hear several different reference points on ‘Hairball’, was it your intention to encompass so many different sounds and genres? How important is it for you to not be pigeonholed by genres?
We’re two guys who grew up on punk and hardcore now playing slacker pop songs. I don’t think we’d be where we are today without that punk scene and sense of community. I don’t really wanna be put in a scene anymore, I just want us to be a band that reaches as many people as possible who ‘get it’, ya know?
The record also features some older material, how did it feel coming back to these and re-visiting them?
Just ‘Buttercups’. We rushed to record that the first time for a deadline so it was cool to come back to it and do it more justice the second time round. Both versions are good, just a little different.
We read that a good chunk of the record was written on the road, how did you find this creatively? Does space or pressure effect your writing?
I love the pressure. I think we only write good songs under pressure which is why we are constantly playing shows and cramming in practises inbetween.
Is the writing process quite democratic within the band?
We totally jam everything together. Lew might have a beat in his head and I’ll just play a bit of guitar and it goes from there. I would hate to be in a band where only one person writes stuff, it’s not a band then is it? It’s a solo project.
How much experimentation is involved in your music?
We experiment mostly in the studio. We just write the bones in practise and demo it but when it hits the studio it becomes a proper song. We don’t like playing songs live until they are recorded, cus they don’t feel as real.
Hypothetically you’re gonna DJ a disco for us – what is your go to dance floor filler?
Has It Come to This? by The Streets
Christmas is round the corner, what are you asking Santa for?
I’m asking Santa for world peace man. And maybe a new guitar too
Last question, when are you gonna play a headline show here in Cambridge?
Next year for sure! We’ve got some shows and tours already lined up, hold tight.
Nai Harvest play The Portland Arms on December 1st
Debut album ‘Hairball’ is out now