Coinciding with today’s exclusive premiere of Naturalist‘s new song “I”, here is an interview I did with lead vocalist Ashton Prescott about their new album Friends. Thanks to anybody that submitted questions. I tried to integrate as many of them as possible while still remaining on topic. Without further ado, here is up-and-coming post-hardcore act Naturalist…
AP: This is Ashton
IZ: Hello, this is Ian
AP: Hello, how are you doing Ian?
IZ: I am good.
AP: Good? Having a good day
IZ: Naw, just running some errands. You doing anything for the holiday?
AP: Not really. I am actually working right now. We had a big ice storm come in, so I’m kind of stuck at the house.
IZ: Where are you at again? I forgot.
AP: No, you’re fine. I’m in Oklahoma City
IZ: Oh right
AP: It was 80 degrees a couple of days ago…..on Saturday, now it’s like 20 degrees. We have pretty wild weather here.
IZ: I wish. It’s still like 85 degrees in California
AP: You’re in California? Awesome.
IZ: Yeah… ready for some questions?
AP: Yeah of course.
IZ: Alright. Since your first EP, it sounds like your sound has evolved and progressed quite a bit with your new music. What was the decision behind the transition?
AP: Yeah, I’ll be 25 next month. The older I get, the more accessible I want our music to get… if that makes sense. We’ll still have hardcore influences, that’s something I had growing up, but I don’t see myself screaming for the rest of my life.
We really just wanna push ourselves, as far me vocally, and the other guys in the band at least wanted to try something different. We wanted to try to widen our fanbase and reach. Really just try to push ourselves as much as we could.
IZ: Yeah, I understand. Did you have previous experience with the melodic vocals compared to before, or is this something new for you?
AP: Yeah this is something completely new for all of us. We have all kinda been in hardcore bands. We don’t really listen to a lot of hardcore. Vinny and Hunter do, the bassist and guitarist. Me and Micah, the drummer, we tend to listen to more emo and laid-back stuff. We’ve always been a fan of mewithoutYou and early ‘90s emo and screamo music. We just wanted to do something that we enjoy listening to. It was definitely kind of a reach. It was difficult to write something that we’ve never done before. We got back from tour in July, took a month off and wrote, then we were in the studio for about 3-4 months.
IZ: Okay, so when you were setting out to create this new sound, you were looking to create something more in the vein of what you listen to, is that right?
AP: Yeah, probably more in the vein of what we listen to as a band and something that we thought we could do well. I started taking singing lessons. Honestly, we didn’t expect to do any singing on the album at all. I was just going to yell, it was just something we thought to try and liked the way it sounded. We decided to kinda go that route. Hunter wrote most of the songs on guitar. We kind of write all of the songs as a band, but he was coming to us with parts that were more emo-styled and laid-back. We just decided to go that route. I think it’s interesting too because our music isn’t necessarily heavy, we just the fact that we yell some. I just think its interesting mix to have more mellow music with harsher vocals over it. Might be more accessible for people that aren’t used to hardcore music.
IZ: Yeah, personally I don’t listen to that much hardcore music. I like your band’s music, I like mewithoutYou, it’s kind of that crossover you know? So personally I love that.
AP: Yeah dude, I appreciate it so much! Thank you.
IZ: So, the new song that you premiered, “You”, gave everybody the first taste of the new album Friends. We talked about the new sound and everything, but the lyrics have been taken up a notch as well. Are there any personal themes or lyrics that you want to talk about from the new album?
AP: My whole life, and especially as a kid, I guess I always wanted to write, what is in my mind sort of a concept album.
IZ: Ah, yes!
AP: Something that all went together. It’s also another great avenue that I could use to explain it. If someone just listened to the one song, they could kind of get the idea that it could come across differently.
There’s five songs on the EP. “I”, “Wish” “You”, “Were”, “Here”. The EP kind of deals with the theme of abandonment. Whether that be family, friends, exes and even feeling that from faith and God. “You”, I wrote really about me and my struggles. The feeling of being alone, the idea of having a God, friends leaving… overall the feeling of abandonment. I guess it’s kind of more of a depressing album but I’ve always tended to gravitate to those albums anyway. Those are the ones that an adult have meant more to me and shape me as a person. As Cities Burn and Pedro the Lion albums aren’t necessarily the happiest albums but they are the ones that are more relatable. Definitely overall, kind of the theme abandonment is what the album is. Topics of family, friends, past relationships and things like that.
IZ: I love that it’s a concept album that’s very um… what’s the word…………… I can’t think of the word. I don’t know. Good for you though!
AP: No you’re fine. There are many times I can’t think of a word. When you type up the interview it will just say “…”
IZ: Yeah pretty much, IN BOLD
@IanZandi haha yes!! Now if I could only remember all the words I forgot to say!
— Ashton Prescott (@ashtonprescott) February 16, 2015
IZ: Do you have a release date for the album yet?
AP: Pre-orders should go up in March. In April, we have a cool release thing. I guess I will be able to give you guys more info as that comes up. We are kind of putting together something unusual for the release. Pre-orders will be up next month. We’ll have packages with the album, shirts, lyric sheets, and things like that.
I guess I forgot to mention the Friends title.
IZ: Oh yeah… the title!
AP: Yeah, I just wanted to mention that. There’s five songs on the album. “You” is the only one that doesn’t have a guest musician on it. Friends, kind of took on a double meaning that we had some of our favorite vocalists from our local Oklahoma bands feature on our album. We just wanted to give back to our Oklahoma scene through touring and everything. If somebody picked up our album and found a particular vocalist that they really liked, maybe they could reach out they wouldn’t have necessarily heard of. The “friends” thing is double with the album art too but we’ll get to that when we get to that. I just wanted to mention the fact that there are guest vocalists and we want to support the local Oklahoma scene.
IZ: Can you say any of the guest vocalists yet or are you saving that?
AP: Oh yeah, for sure. The song “I” that we are releasing on Thursday has a guy named Bradley Meredith from a band called the Wallclouds, “Wish” has a guy named Nathan Schatzer from a band called Fade, Jimmie Miles from Tigerlilly, they are a pretty well-known band, he’s singing on a song. On the last song we did something unusual. We had an R&B singer come in, Jonathan Winston is his name, who is a solo act. It is pretty cool feature.
IZ: That’s great for what is only your second EP, right?
AP: Yeah, we released a debut EP. We started as a band and recorded “I Was Happy Here” had and “Stay”, went on tour, and came back. We became more comfortable with each other from being stuck together for a month. It forced us to play better, get to know each other better, and then we came back and wrote this one.
IZ: That’s great. On the topic of touring, I haven’t seen your band play live, but I heard it’s quite a crazy one. What would one expect if they came to see the Naturalist live?
AP: Yeah, I think we definitely want to promote our show. Maybe if there are people that don’t like our show, they can just go home and think ‘Well, whatever I just saw was the weirdest thing in the world…”. A lot of flailing about, and just weird stuff guess. We try to put on a show where we have additional percussion going on. I like staring at people. I’ll just pick someone in the crowd and just stare at them for a really long time, just to weird them out
AP: We try to put on a performance. We are really big fans of The Chariot and stuff like that. I know our music is kind of laid-back compared to that. We tend to have very emotional songs, so I think that is just going to come out in you when you play it live. Especially the ones that are personal to me. I think it’s just a portrayal of our album, live.
IZ: Have any of you ever been injured while you are performing? With the high energy…
AP: Oh yeah… broken hands, concussions for sure…
IZ: Broken eye sockets from staring at people…
AP: Yeah yeah, we have definitely gotten hurt before which is definitely no fun. We have a first aid kit in the van. Not really much you can do about it when you are out on tour. Just taking an occasional guitar headstock to the face, broken teeth and things like that.
IZ: Do you guys play any cover songs live? Do you just do your debut EP and some songs from this? What does your setlist look like?
AP: We have never played any cover songs before. The tour that we have coming up in the summer, we are playing a couple songs from the debut EP and then majority of the stuff from Friends. I saw that one question online (“What are the odds we will see Naturalist cover the contemporary classic “Picture” By Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow?”). That’s all our next album is… just like ten different versions of that song. That’s what the whole album is. Just that song.
IZ: Ok, so 100%.
AP: Yup, that’s all. That song is a jam.
IZ: I’ve never even heard it.
AP: Pretty terrible.
IZ: Last but not least, the elephant in the room, the album artwork. What is the inspiration? What am I looking at?
AP: An artist out of Austin named Matt Magill, you can check out his art and stuff at MattMagill.com, we gave him an idea and he heard the album. We wanted to name the album Friends, when you think of the word “friends” you kind of think of “warm and inviting” but when you actually listen to the album itself, it’s not so much that. I think what he wanted to do was portray an imaginary friend type-of-thing with the monster in the back. That can be our fears of abandonment or things that just have to learn to live with. They are always there the entire time. It’s just kind of a coping thing. We kind of wanted to portray the album through an imaginary friend type-of-scenario.
IZ: Is it just the front that has the album work, or do you have album liners that has more?
AP: Oh yeah, there’s definitely album artwork throughout the entire thing. They are still getting pressed and stuff. Those will be posted shortly. As far as shirts and stuff goes, there’s a bunch of individual monsters and things that goes with that theme.
IZ: Cohesive to go with the album…
AP: We are trying to everything as cohesive as possible. With a video coming up too that we are posting on Thursday, it kinda has the same color scheme as everything as well. We are trying to make it all as cohesive as possible. So you know it’s all from the same album…
IZ: It’s a concept album too so it all fits together. I like that. Is there anything else you wanna add? Any plugs?
AP: Oh yeah, of course. We just want to thank Evan Crowley. He engineered and recorded the album. He used to be in a band called Subseven. They were a pretty popular band. Matt Magill, of course for doing the album artwork. Oh, Robbie Clark as well, for shooting the video. Everybody else who had a hand in making this album possible. Indie Vision as well, you guys have always been really good to us.
IZ: Awwww. Thank you.
AP: We are going to be on tour in June. Mid-west and all over the east coast. Come by and hang out with us.
IZ: Any California in the future?
AP: Uhhh potentially. We were supposed to go there on the last tour but it sort of fell through. I think that we will probably have another tour, probably a fall tour, where we hit the west coast.
IZ: Ok, very cool.
AP: It was just super hot last time we went there. The AC went out in the van and then it was just the most miserable experience in the world. This time we are just going east.
IZ: Yup, that’s California. Alright, thank you Ashton! Have a good President’s Day
AP: Thank you man, I will talk to you soon.