The Drowning Men
By John B. Moore
It pays to have influential fans.
CA indie rock outfit The Drowning
Men self-released a phenomenal debut in 2009 (Beheading the Songbird) that somehow found its way into the
collection of Flogging Molly frontman Dave King. The Celtic Punk rocker was so
impressed with the band that he brought them on tour, quite a feat for a
relatively unknown, unsigned band.
Many pints and drunken sing-alongs to Irish pub songs later,
the band now has a home on King’s newly created label Borstal Beat Records. They
gave Beheading the Songbird a proper re-release
and just put out The Drowning Men’s follow up All of the Unknown, an album that somehow manages to top that
stellar debut thanks to inspired experimentation (see the Theremin discussion
below) and plenty of punk rock attitude.
Nathan “Nato” Bardeen (vocals, keyboards, guitar and
mandolin) was kind enough to talk recently about connecting with King,
recording with an actual budget and their upcoming tour.
I was interviewing Dave King about a year and a half ago and he
couldn’t stop raving about you guys and now you are on his label. How did you
first meet up with him?
It’s a pretty rad story. When you’re on a six week tour with
another band, you eventually begin some type of a relationship with each
member of the other band you are with. This happened with Dave and me somewhere
in the second week of touring with each other. For some reason I found myself
on their bus. It was just Dave, Bridget (Regan, Flogging Molly’s violinist and
married to Dave) and I. After a few pints and some kind words were exchanged,
Dave found out that I was a huge traditional Irish folk lover. I knew all the old pub songs as well as the rebel
songs. We were singing them as loud and as proud as we could. It’s funny,
because I don’t even have enough Irish blood swimming through my veins to call
myself an Irishman. I do however, love passion in the voice, I love the poetry;
I love the musicians who play for the ones who struggle. This is what I hear in
the Irish tunes. So, if you’re ever around Dave and you want to strike up
a conversation with him, tell him Luke Kelly is your favorite singer. Then open
your mouth and sing “Tramps And Hawkers”. He’ll love you forever.
Has he given you guys any decent advice?
He’s given us
amazing advice while we were on the road with him. We learned a lot on
that tour. Mainly, it was our first big tour. What he told all of us in his
hotel room one night was that when were on that stage, we need to absolutely
own it. You need to believe there is no other band better than you in that
time, on that stage, in that moment. Total confidence. This is also the advice
Angus Young gave him when he was opening up for AC/DC years ago.
You worked with Billy Mohler on this
one? What was it about him that made him right for this record?
Billy Mohler wanted to
work with us. We have a mutual friend and he said he had this producer that
wanted to help us with our EP we were getting ready to track. We were jazzed!
He’s done some amazing stuff. Eventually, that EP turned into an L.P and
then turned into our first album on a label, All of the Unknown on Borstal Beat is what it became. Billy really
was perfect for the job. He taught me and the other guys a lot, and together we
put together a great album that we’re all very proud of.
What can you tell me about the songs on this one?
I believe there is an
overwhelming feeling of longing throughout the whole album, not only lyrically,
but through the instrumentation as well.
Was the recording/writing experience any different this time
around, knowing that you would have a label supporting this one?
It was very exciting
to have a bigger budget to work with and not have to spend our own money on it.
The label was amazing with this too. They pretty much said “here, take
this money and do whatever you want”; Very artist friendly. As far as the
writing process goes and knowing there’s going to be a push on this record, it
didn’t affect me whatsoever. I don’t write to make hits (of course I would love
one… or two… or three, laughs), I write because it’s what I do. It’s a
release for me. I constantly jam by myself until some tune hits me. I’ll play
with it for a long time then I’ll show it to the boys and we’ll work on it for
a bit together. Eventually I would meet up with Billy and we would go over the
parts and arrangements of the songs to add or take away when needed.
How long have you wanted to add Theremin to one of your songs?
I’ve been a Theremin
player now for about six years now, so I couldn’t wait until I felt like I was
ready and filled with confidence to use it live as well as in the studio. It’s
a beautiful instrument that really uses your body energy and your emotions to
make a sound and melody.
Do you plan to tour much around this record?
Yeah, we will be
touring heaps on this album. For sure through the states again, and a strong
possibility of Europe too.
What’s next for the band?
Were touring the
West/Northwest coast at the end of August through the beginning of September.
So we’re home for a short bit of time doing a couple of local shows and getting
ready to tour hard in the near future.
That’s all I’ve got. Anything else you want to
the sunny side.