As the sun beats down upon this year’s 2000 Trees, there’s probably no better way to spend ten minutes than in the company of Microwave singer/songwriter Nathan Hardy. In an action packed interview, The Midlands Rocks finds out what’s going on in his world.
Firstly, welcome to 2000 Trees. What are your expectations for today?
I knew very little about 2000 Trees before I came. I looked at the line-up and I was overjoyed to see Rival Schools, Joyce Manor, Militarie Gun, Zulu, Origami Angel and Heart Attack Man and everyone, and I was ‘OK!’, the bands look sick. I had no idea as to what to expect as far as the aesthetic as the festival, I wondered if it was a weed-smokers festival with a name like 2000 Trees.
It must be strange playing an afternoon show. How do you get in the zone?
I very methodically get in the zone, I’ll do hip stretches, I’ll do things to relax.
You’re fresh off a UK tour with Can’t Swim. How was that, and how do you feel the two bands complement each other?
This is the sixth time we’ve toured with Can’t Swim. We’re long-term friends, Greg who plays guitar in Can’t Swim actually played with us last year on The Story So Far tour. They’re very close friends of ours, we shared a van and everything so it was kind of like a family reunion road trip!
Chris from Can’t Swim said his sound was very much rooted in New Jersey. By the same token, I wonder how your native Atlanta informed your sound?
When I was in high school, Manchester Orchestra started to pop up, and I pretty much learned to sing by singing along with their songs. The similarities with that band are spooky; they came from the same are a north Atlanta, they grew up singing in churches like I did. When I was 14 and started playing in bands, all the venues were at youth centres in churches, so it was almost like if you wanted to get a show you had to have a Christian song. So there’s an element of that in my vocal style that has stuck with the band.
America’s South can be quite conservative. Did that play into your aesthetic? Were you trying to rebel against that?
For sure, I grew up a Mormon, I was especially orthodox, I went to church six days a week. I was a Mormon missionary when I was 19 for two years, so that was something I had to propel myself out of and everything. I try not to be like a cliché of rebellion, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind all the time [laughs].
How do you feel now? Do you think you’ve reached a kind of equilibrium?
Yes, it’s been 10 years since I left that environment. Also, being in Atlanta, there aren’t a lot of Mormons, although there’s a lot of conservative Christians, but they drink alcohol and do a lot of normal-ish things [laughs]. Most of my friends weren’t Mormons, so it was easier for me to fit into larger society.
I once heard your lyricism described as “depressing and softly nihilistic”. What’s it like inhabiting those songs every night on stage? Does it ever bring you down or bum you out?
No, I think it is more a cathartic thing. It helps more than anything, to sing my piece and then see that the crowd feel the same way about it, and then see that we’re all in the same boat.
You’ve stepped up from SideOneDummy Records to Pure Noise. Has that brought any pressure?
Not necessarily. They’re both awesome labels, but it’s great being with Pure Noise, they have great staff and bands. It’s an honour to be on their roster will all those other sick bands such as Knocked Loose and The Story So Far.
Although we’ve had the pandemic, it’s been four years since your last album. Why so long?
Mainly the pandemic. The last album in 2019, the whole theme of that album was being burnt out, and then when the pandemic hit, it was like the nail in the coffin. It sort of embodied what the album had been about. Then I returned to work, I rig lighting trusts and speakers, then I dislocated my shoulder and couldn’t work for a year and it felt like the universe was saying ‘what are you going to do now?’. It’s took me a while to get back in the swing of things. You’d think with the big break people would have put out more music, some did, that was their response, but for me, it was harder than ever to work on music.
But four years is a long time and people move on. Were you worried you might lose your fanbase?
Not necessarily. I feel like we got a free year or two because of the pandemic, so it feels like it has been two years. A lot of bands have this kind of break between albums. I think you can go away for awhile, I think that as long as the music is good; I’d rather wait five years and put out a good record.
On your last album you said there was no light at the end of the tunnel. On your next album, do you think you’ll have a touch of redemption?
I think so, I think that’s part of the journey of what the new album has been. I think I needed to find that to keep writing music.
Today is the final date in Europe then you head back to the States, What’s next?
We’re gonna keep the ball rolling. We’ve got new music to turn in, and it’s just about done. We’re playing Riot Fest in the fall. We’ll be back, the last year has been really good for us, despite everything we’ve discussed, this is the largest the band has been as a touring band and everything, we toured two times in the last year, it’s been surprising.
Can we expect you back in the UK next year?
I hope so, this tour has gone so well, nearly all the shows were so out and it has been really fun so I’m sure we’ll head back.