National Service – Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
NS: Indie alternative. But not the Mumford and Sons type ‘indie’; the ‘we pay for everything ourselves’ type.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
NS: Me, Dan and Matt met at secondary school and have been playing in various bands over the years together. I met Iain at uni whilst in another band and when our guitarist quit, Iain stepped in. We were already going in a very different direction when the drummer left too and Matt was the perfect fit. After that, we spent about a year solidly in a room just the four of us, honing and sculpting the sound and getting back to really enjoying writing. We didn’t really do any gigs at the time but it was important having the breathing space to just write and play together with no other worries or pressures. When we got a set together, we put a name to the project and that was how National Service was born.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
NS: At the moment, I’m listening to a lot of Big Thief, Idles, Sharon Van Etten, Tame Impala, and Fontaines D.C. and my guilty pleasure is the new Taylor Swift album – I’m blaming my girlfriend for that one but the whole story behind it and how it all came about intrigues and excites me and I genuinely think it’s a great album. I know that the guys will give me no end of stick for writing that but unfortunately sometimes it can’t all be cool bands that no-ones ever heard of that only release on Sega Dreamcast and use smoke signals to announce their next gig. Sometimes you just want to listen to a saccharine chorus and cry like a teenage girl in your room.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
NS: Nothing big or fancy. When I was younger I wanted to be a rock god like The Libertines or The Strokes and have all of the frills and spills of the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll life’ that went with that. But as I’ve got older I’ve lost the zest for all the fame and glory aspect of it all. We love writing, recording and performing music and we want to make our money from what we love doing. Releasing an album we’re proud of every couple of years and being able to tour and gig for our fans and keep our families healthy and happy is good enough for us. That said, headlining the Pyramid stage is still on the bucket list…
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
NS: In the past it’s normally started off with me coming up with a shell of a song (usually a verse and chorus is all it takes), then I’ll take it to the guys and they’ll strip away all the fluff and rubbish and we’ll piece it back together as a group. More recently we’ve started a bit of a round robin where we send each other ideas and add parts to it until we have a framework then we take into the studio and refine it. Lyrically, that’s much more of a personal venture and I’m inspired by all sorts of things whether it be experiences I’m going through, or things I’ve talked to friends about or something I’ve read in the news, just anything that’s resonated with me in some way. This could encompass relationships, politics, growing up, life, love or loss. Recently I’ve started trying to push the boat out a bit and explore new avenues or even the use of fictional characters in songs which has been really interesting but there’ll always be the autobiographical nature to it, I can’t help it.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
NS: All the usual ways with social media and word of mouth. Being in a band that you care about and spend a lot of your time working with, you naturally end up talking to everyone you meet about it as well. Knowing a lot of musicians and artists who are friends also helps and you can shout each other out tell your fans to go listen to their music. I’d love to be the type of person that could just set up a guitar in the street, start singing and hand out flyers to our next gig, or organise some impromptu flash mob to promote the next single but it’s just not me. We try to be as authentic as possible and just let the music do the talking.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
NS: I think it’s a dying media sadly – it certainly is in my life. I have a Spotify premium account where I can listen to any song at the touch of a button for just £10 a month. If I really like a band or I want to support a particular artist, I’ll get the vinyl, book tickets to see their shows and buy their merch. I don’t think all the change is a bad thing, it’s just different. However, that’s not to say these streaming platforms are angels; I do wish that Spotify sorted out the way they pay their artists so that the money you pay as a user went directly into the hands of the artists you listen to.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
NS: This one’s tricky. I feel it could change almost daily as it’s so dependent on the mood and environment you’re in when you hear it, or who you’re with and what you’re going through at the time. For today though, it’s got to be Never Fight A Man With A Perm by Idles. It makes me feel like a 16-year-old me again. It’s raw, it’s angry and it’s exciting. When the snare comes in for the second half of the verse I instantly start nodding my head and a big grin peels across my face.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
NS: Oh dear, where to start… I could write an encyclopaedia of things that annoy me. I’m the type of person that at any given moment can give you 10 reasons as to why I’m doing something the right way and everyone else is wrong. This is something I’ve consciously tried to mellow out with as I get older because I know it’s not good for me or anyone else around me but I can’t stand people who are selfish or don’t think before they act.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
NS: For me, getting BBC 6 Music’s track of the week and having Steve Lamacq introduce your tune to the world is a pretty special moment. I grew up hearing him on XFM and remember every evening listening to his show whilst doing the dishes with my older brother or sitting down to do my homework. He’s introduced the world to some incredible bands and inspired generations of musicians with the music he’s played so it’s fair to say he’s a big deal. Hearing that distinctive, familiar voice introducing the world to National Service – that was a very proud moment indeed and it was even better because my Ma and Da were chuffed to bits too.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
NS: We’re releasing a new single in November and we’re currently recording our first album at our studio. Throughout the years we’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented engineers and amassed a good bit of experience recording and it’s something we’ve always enjoyed doing. We’re always very involved in the recording process and very specific about the way we want things done when we’re working with people. We have a lot of ideas and a clear creative direction with what we’re doing and given the lack of live music at the moment, we have a great opportunity to get our teeth into it and see what we can do by ourselves. It means it’ll take a little longer but we have the freedom and time to experiment with any ideas we have, and we have the ability to take our time and produce a record that is 100% us.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
NS: You can find our first two EPs on Bandcamp, Apple Music and all streaming sites – watch out for our new single ‘Caving’ in November.
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