Interview with vocalist/guitarist Nathan Hardy | By Renaldo Matadeen | Photo by Cam Flaisch
Atlanta’s Microwave have been one of the most intriguing bands on the indie rock circuit over the last few years. They released their debut album, Stovall, in 2014 and its follow-up, Much Love, two years later on SideOneDummy Records, and now, they’re back with Death Is a Warm Blanket, out Sept. 13 on Pure Noise Records.
Below, vocalist and guitarist Nathan Hardy details the difficult journey that led to the creation of the new album and offers some insight on the final product.
With this album, what would you say is different or has changed stylistically and narratively for the band?
We’re always working on music and revisiting different ideas for songs. I think the songs that get finished with lyrics and everything are indicative of what’s going on in my life at the time. Different songs bring out different thoughts and ideas just based on how they sound, and some things just resonate at different times. A lot of this album was written while we were on small club tours where we weren’t making anywhere near enough money to consider our lifestyle sustainable. I don’t have any sort of financial safety net, so pursuing my passions with Microwave has been an unnerving experience at times.
Safe to say, the shoulder injury [at The Wrecking Ball ATL festival in 2016] factored in a lot. How was it processing all that and then writing this musical novel?
Well, I mentioned before that I haven’t been making much money the last several years and I don’t have a financial safety net. I turned 26 and lost my health insurance right around the time that I started dislocating my shoulder and needed surgery. This was a big contributing factor to me sensing the need to hang up my music hat and get a job that provides health insurance. Thankfully, MusiCares is a great organization and helped me get fixed up.
What were some of the other challenges when it came to making the album?
We’ve always tried to write as many different types of songs as we could and experiment with shit that sounds like it wouldn’t necessarily even be the same band from song to song. One of my longtime favorite bands is Ween, and that’s an element of Ween that I always thought seemed really genuine and cool and thought, “Why not?” As a musician with no financial safety net, you find yourself considering which of several directions that you could go may be the best route toward becoming a musician with a financial safety net. It’s somewhat unnerving to do, but ultimately, I think most of my favorite records are ones where that doesn’t seem to have been a very big consideration.
It seems like this sense of being on edge is reflected in the title Death Is a Warm Blanket. Would you elaborate on it a bit?
I embrace nihilism quite literally as a worldview. I’m a big proponent of being completely honest about everything regardless of the implications or consequences.
I also wanted to see how many different ways I could reference “shitting” and have it feel appropriate in the context of a song. [Laughs]
What would you say are your favorite tracks, personally?
My favorite songs on the record are “The Brakeman Has Resigned” and “Hate TKO.” Also, there are the last two songs, “Carry” and “Part of It,” which touch on what I said earlier about the value of being honest about what’s going on around you regardless of the implications or consequences.
Most of the songs do feel heavier and angrier than Microwave’s older material. Any reason for this particular direction?
I’d just say again, we’re always working on music and revisiting different ideas for songs.
There’s a strong ’90s rock vibe here, and for a modern spin, it feels like there’s some FIDLAR tucked in. Could you specify what influenced you this time around?
That’s an interesting comparison. I love FIDLAR, though. I wish it hadn’t started raining at Shaky Knees [Music Festival in Atlanta] this year so we could have seen them play longer. My influences as a whole haven’t changed much since I was, like, 16, but sometimes, different shit just starts hitting again at different times. I think there’s some somewhat obvious Queens Of The Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails influence on the record. The Daughters album You Won’t Get What You Want came out [in 2018] right around when we were tracking the album and blew us all away. I think that was an influence on our decision to try to make something that felt unique to us.
Any last messages for fans to encourage them to go pick up the new album?
It was a hard process choosing singles for this album, because the songs are all different from each other and I don’t think there are obvious singles. We’ve never been a band to toss a couple tracks on there just so we could have 10 songs for an LP. If you heard a single and you weren’t into it, I hope you’ll just listen to the whole album from front to back when it comes out. I think it makes more sense that way!