Interview with Emma and Thomas of Natterers | By Ricky Frankel
Photo by Pay No More Than Photography
The UK’s Natterers burst onto the scene last year with their Demo ’16 EP. It got a great response from hardcore fans and critics alike. After tearing up their local Yorkshire scene for the last year by playing DIY venues and opening for notable acts like Jeff Rosenstock,The Adolescents and Discharge the band went back into the studio and released their new six-song 7-inch Toxic Care on June 23, 2017 through Serial Bowl Records and Boss Tunage Records. And just like Demo ’16, Toxic Care also got high praise (rightfully so). Now that Natterers have a lot of performances and couple of releases under their belts (and even a really cool music video) it is time to hear straight from the members about the local English phenomenon that is their band. Features editor Ricky Frankel spoke with lead vocalist Emma and guitarist Thomas about their new EP, the state of UK hardcore, environmentalism, Emma’s fascination with leopard print clothing, Thomas’s very unique guitar style and lot more. Check out their conversation below.
What is the story behind the formation of Natterers? What made you want to start a hardcore band?
Emma: I was playing guitar/bass in another band (Nervous Twitch) and seeing me do so (I believe), finally gave Thomas a kick-up-the-ass to get on with doing something musical again! About two years ago, we had a few practices with myself on drums and Thomas on guitar but that didn’t really amount to much (but it was fun!) Thomas then started writing some songs with a good friend (Dan) and we enlisted John on drums. After a few practices, I decided to not play bass and just sing. I’d just had a car accident and was still suffering with minor (women’s) whiplash and bass playing just exacerbated it. Dan thought we didn’t really need two guitars and left on good terms. I got my friend Chris in on bass. We played our first gig in August 2016. Chris left amicably in January 2017 and Creamy took over bass duties. Why hardcore punk? I love it! Riffs, anger, energy! I find being in a band largely therapeutic.
Thomas: I had been wanting to start a band for quite some time but could never find the right people who wanted to play the style of music I wanted to achieve and after being in many bands where I’ve not been 100% happy I didn’t want to compromise this time. I just wanted to play punk rock and this is how it ended up sounding!
Why the name Natterers? That isn’t a very common term here in the US. Why does it seem like the band fascinated with bats?
Emma: Natterers bat (Myotis nattereri) is a species of bat found in the UK (and across the western Palaearctic) which I studied during my MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation. I also work as an ecologist, apparently as a bat specialist, “natter” is also a northern/Yorkshire term for chit-chat… “oooh, she won’t stop nattering.” I am totally fascinated (obsessed with bats) – not sure the rest of the band are! I started a PhD on bats a few years ago but dropped out due to ill health/personal circumstances but I’m quite tempted to try become a Dr. of bats again….
Via the internet, I’ve also learnt that Natterer is a German surname, Sylvia Natterer is a maker of unintentionally creepy dolls and that people who enjoy knitting and chatting form ‘Knit and Natter’ groups (members of which are called Natterers!).
What is the Yorkshire punk scene like? How has Natterers been received thus far?
Emma: Yorkshire (Northern England) has a really healthy DIY punk scene, largely centred around a few DIY uues including Wharf Chambers, Temple of Boom, Chunk – Leeds, Lughole, Audacious Art Experiment – Sheffield, Gorilla Studios – Hull, 1 in 12 Club – Bradford). Bands we’ve played with and enjoyed that are from Yorkshire include Jaded Eyes, Community, Feral Existence, Clean Shirts… good mix of ‘punk’ there.
I’ve been really surprised by how Natterers have been received – although people are only going to make an effort to collar you after a gig to say they’ve enjoyed you. No-one would be mean enough to come up to you after you’ve played and say… wow, you are really shit! Would they?! We’ve been offered loads of gigs, people have put our records out, bought them, enjoyed them – can’t ask for more than that.
Emma, you have such powerful vocals. Who are some of your influences?
Emma: Thank you! A few people have asked where my apparently big voice comes from (I’m tiny…) and funnily enough, I think playing the flute has really helped as I learnt to breathe properly and fuel up from the depth of my lungs.
To be honest, I’m not really directly influenced by any vocalist. I mean, you just sound like whatever comes out your mouth, don’t you?! I don’t try to sound like anyone but myself – I think my Yorkshire accent is apparent. I can’t abide vocalists who sound American when they’re not…. I’ve been likened to Poly Stryene from X-Ray-Spex (in fact “Poly Styrene on steroids!”) a few times, including someone who knew her, which is very flattering! Dave Vanian from The Damned is one of my favourite frontmen, but mainly because he looks cool as fuck.
Thomas, you have a very distinct guitar-playing style. I hear bits of East Bay Ray (Dead Kennedys) and PJ Russo (Night Birds) in it. How did you develop your style?
Thomas: My two favorite guitar players are probably Johnny Marr and East Bay Ray and they both have very distinctive styles. Within punk I really like Rikk Agnew and in particular his work on the self-titled Adolescents album. I guess I’ve developed my style through listening to early 80’s American hardcore punk records though I do like to mix things up a bit and not just spend the full length of a song playing power chords. It’s evident that Night Birds are influenced by that So-Cal stuff and they’re a really great band.
In both of your EP’s one of the band’s consistent messages is about the environment. What is your goal as a band in that regard?
Emma: If I am going to sing sincerely, day in, day out, I need to sing about topics I can relate to or that are very important to me. We only have one Earth and there is no doubt that it is being destroyed by human actions. I find it easy to be passionate and vitriolic when singing about this. If my lyrics influence someone to think about the planet/environment and how we interact with it, then this is a bonus. As a band, we aren’t going to save the planet. Unfortunately, only global cooperation at the highest level will and I just can’t see that happening anytime soon. Not whilst Trump is President anyway.
On your Demo ’16 EP the song “And No Birds Sing” has the line “This is our silent spring.” Is that in reference to the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson? In what way are we going through “our silent spring” as you put it?
Emma: It is indeed! There is a chapter in Silent Spring called “And No Birds Sing” which discusses the negative effects that indiscriminate chemical spraying of insecticides has had on bird populations. Whilst we do still have a dawn chorus (so not quiet silent….yet), Earth’s biodiversity (the variety and variability of life) is being depleted at an alarming rate and this can largely be attributed to human activity – deforestation, habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, climate change, spread of non-native and invasive species, rapid population growth, over-consumption leading to depletion of basic resources….
As a species, we are inextricably connected with the processes of our local ecosystems (crop pollination, waste decomposition) and these ecosystems depend on the biological diversity within them to function. No bats? Plagues of agricultural pests, reduced seed dispersal, and no tequila! Over 500 plants rely on bats to pollinate their flowers!
I love the track “Surf Off!” on your new EP Toxic Care. What were the lyrics inspired by?
Emma: Archetypal punk song about hating being told how to live your life, especially by those close to you. People may think they are being helpful but incessant “I know what’s best for you” misplaced advice can be damaging. A little angsty but still relevant even though I’m way past my grumpy teenage years!
Was the song “War Whoop” inspired by a specific military conflict?
Emma: No! The chorus was ‘inspired’ by something Jello Biafra said when I saw him with Guantanamo School of Medicine last year. “Do we fight hate with hate?” – he commented that you can’t change someone’s opinions or beliefs by punching them in the face (I doubt that has ever happened) and that in some scenarios talking is more appropriate than fighting. I do wonder whether people get involved in fighting for political causes, right and left, just because they just proper like fighting – like those football ‘fans’ who don’t seem to know a lot about their team, but enjoy booze, gang mentality and beating the crap out of people….
However, I do strongly believe in fighting for those maligned and persecuted and not turning a blind eye to this. When we play “War Whoop” live, I usually dedicate it to the badgers. In England, badgers are currently being culled in their tens of thousands in an attempt to curb the spread of bovine TB. However, culling has been proven to be ineffective (it may actually cause bovine TB to spread! It’s horrendously expensive, not to mention inhumane and yet it is being rolled out further across the country, against scientific advice. Badgers are being used as scapegoats for failures in intensive livestock farming. It is a disease of cattle, predominately spread cattle-to-cattle. The badger cull was one of the reasons I went vegan after over ten years of vegetarianism. Against the badger cull? Boycott the diary/meat industry! Cull the badgercide!
In your video for “Exist Or Live” why does the date show March 3, 1984 in some clips? And what is Emma’s fascination with leopard print?
Emma: It’s just the date the app we used to film clips of us on tour (April 2017) defaulted to! Probably quite fitting though given the era of punk/hardcore we are heavily influenced by. Also, very Orwellian. And yes, I proper love leopard print! Oooh… leopard print record anyone?!
What future plans does Natterers have?
Emma: Recording an album in February next year – after we’ve knuckled down to some songwriting! Tours – we are currently booking a short tour (probably Germany) for the end of this year and hopefully we’ll get even further afield next year….
Thomas: Just to get this album written and recorded and play some gigs abroad.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Emma: A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us in any way over the last year! And well done to anyone who got to the end of our ramblings here!