They haven’t even released their debut album yet, but have been garnering praise from Mercury Prize winner Guy Garvey. Finbarr Bermingham spoke to Nacional to find out what the fuss is all about.
Glasgow based indie outfit Nacional have played Glastonbury and SxSW, and received admiring glances from such luminaries as Guy Garvey and, eh, Sean Hughes. Not bad for a band supposed to be “cutting their teeth”. The Skinny decided it was high time to find out what the fuss is all about.
Who are Nacional?
Hailing from disparate parts of the UK, the band’s members first came to each others’ attentions in Glasgow, formed together and started playing music at the end of 2006. That all sounds very simple, so we asked frontman Rob Armstrong to put some meat on the bones. “It built on from those hours spent in freezing rehearsal rooms,” he reflects. “Then we started to fall in love with what we were doing. A non-for-profit label from down south called art/goes/pop contacted us about releasing a couple of our records and we put out our double a-side Telephone/Yorkshire a few months back. I suppose 2008 was all about us cutting our teeth but we still got a buzz doing stuff like Glastonbury, releasing our first record and playing some cool gigs closer to home.”
Each of the band undoubtedly brings something different to the equation, although Armstrong admits he is not sure it is because of their contrasting hometowns. Their current abode, however, is intrinsic to who they are as a band. “Glasgow’s definitely got a hold on us; I’ve personally lived here for 8 years now and matured as a songwriter during that time. I love how it’s straight-to-the-point and there’s no bullshit about it. I suppose that’s kind of mirrored by our music to an extent.”
The band have yet to release an album, although it is “ready” and awaiting recording.
Who do they sound like and where do they fit in?
The early signs are promising: comparisons to the likes of The Smiths and The Wedding Present are unlikely to do any up and coming band much harm and whilst admitting such links are flattering, Armstrong is confident “that Nacional is doing its own thing and there are no rules.”
Nacional’s members forged musical bonds over a love of “guitar bands that created a sort of tension and energy when they played”. It’s a theme they’ve incorporated into their own sound, giving them a definite sense of vitality and urgency. Influence wise, the lead singer finds it hard to pinpoint, but politely nods to Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and The National as three acts currently floating his boat.
What is Nacional’s assessment of the ‘local scene’?
Like most of the bands we speak to, Nacional are pleased that Scottish music is in safe hands, at least in terms of the bands. “You need to know where to look as, there’s too much going on!” offers Armstrong. Special mentions ensue for the likes of Woodenbox & a Fistful of Fivers, The Skinny’s cover stars The Phantom Band and Twilight Sad, Diamond Sea and Roscoe Vacant. Despite the presence of such luminaries, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Given the means, Nacional would “try and bring more credibility back to venues this city used to be proud of and get them pushing the brightest bands in the city.” According to Armstrong, pay-to-play “scams” should be scrapped, whilst initiatives like the one going on at Stow College are only to be encouraged. The band have gotten where they are through hard work and their own initiative. Little outside help has been offered and this is an area Nacional would like to see addressed.
How did a band without even an album get to play such high profile slots?
No sooner had the ink on the band’s tour van dried than they were being asked to shuttle it down south for a slot at Glastonbury. It’s the sort of exposure most bands only dream of. The people at Concrete Records in Manchester set the ball rolling by offering them a set at the festival. Guitarist Colin Healy takes up the story:
“They’re quite friendly with Guy Garvey, who must have been checking out bands they chose to play and he came to see us. We’ve never met him or spoke to him or anything but he’s come out and given us some cool compliments since. We were getting phone calls from our mates in the morning saying… ‘I’ve just heard the guy from Elbow banging out about you on the radio!’ As for other encounters, Sean Hughes bought me a pint after coming to see us play.”
Nothing says bigtime like a beer from a falling star. All joking aside, Nacional have certainly been setting tongues wagging on both sides of the border. In a year’s time, they hope to be relentlessly touring their debut album having become ingrained in our collective consciousness. Why not come along for the ride?