Interview: Nate Garrett of Spirit Adrift
Interviewed by Tim FInch
It's just a mere year ago that Spirit Adrift released their third album, 'Divided by Darkness'. With COVID-19 having cancelled numerous UK tours for the band including prestigious support slots with Corrosion of Conformity and Orange Goblin, this coming Friday, the outfit release their forth studio album, 'Enlightened In Eternity'. We had the chance to sit down with the band's mastermind, Nate Garrett, to discuss the album, the band and how it all fits together.
The Razor's Edge: Welcome to The Razor's Edge
Nate: Thank you
The Razor's Edge: So let’s get this question out of the way right at the start… how has the lockdown been for the band?
Nate: It’s been interesting you know man. We have a unique band situation because this started as a solo project and now for the past couple of years Marcus, the drummer, and myself are kind of the core members. But he’s in Phoenix and my wife and I moved to Texas on March 1st. It’s been interesting, we moved to totally new place, we are right outside Austin. I’ve spent a lot of time in Austin just touring and stuff and we’ve wanted to come here for a long time. But the timing has been odd, we’ve been down here since March 1st and only a couple of weeks later everything kind of shut down. So I’ve been out in the woods, working on music.
The Razor's Edge: Obviously you were due in the UK this past April and May for a tour with Corrosion of Conformity, how many live dates have you lost through this year?
Nate: Oh man, so that tour got postponed to next year, which I am still a little sceptical that it will happen next year, I hope it does. That one got moved and then we were doing a December run with Orange Goblin which was all UK and one Ireland show. That got moved to next year, but I think that one will probably happen because it’s December of next year. Surely we’ll have figured something out by then.
One tour that people didn’t know that we were planning on doing was, we were going to do something with Pallbearer in the States, maybe also in Europe because we are both putting out new albums. So yeah a ton of dates over months! Months and months and months. There have been other opportunities that have come up since then which we're just unsure of what is going to be able to happen. Who knows how many potential shows we could have played that are now up in the air.
The Razor's Edge: The big issue we are seeing in the UK is with lack of government support for music and the arts. Venues and clubs closing down for good, tour crew leaving the industry to find other jobs etc which is detrimental for the industries future here. Is it the same situation in the States?
Nate: It is man! I saw a friend of mine the other, who had just been in Denver, Colorado. Theres a whole stretch of road in downtown Denver that has all these great venues, and he told me all of them are closed. Denver has a great scene for heavy music, so if that is happening there I hate to think about what the rest of the country looks like.
I know of a few specific venues, Great Scott in Boston closed down. Everywhere here in Austin is closed down, except the one venue which is pretty much the underground metal staple and they are doing a pretty good job of staying afloat. It's been brutal man, anyone who hasn't figured out how to pivot and adapt to the situation is just going down across the world.
The Razor's Edge: Sad times. I want to move onto something happier....
Nate: yeah sure [laughs]
The Razor's Edge: Your new album is due out very soon. But it’s only a year since you released ‘Divided By Darkness’. How soon after your last album did you start the writing process?
Nate: Well lets see. 'Divided By Darkness' came out in May of last year, I wrote the music for this album in March, April and May of last year. So I had almost all of the music written before the last album came out, then I wrote the lyrics in June 2019. You know there is a delay between my experience and the experience of the general public, because it takes so long for labels to get vinyl pressed and you want to schedule the album for the most ideal period in time, so there is always a huge delay. I didn't even mean to make a new album it just kind of happened.
The Razor's Edge: Did you get the whole recording process done before you had to lock down?
Nate: Yeah I did, or we did! The way the band operates and the way it has operated for quite some time; I write all the songs and demo all the songs at home. And the big difference with the last two albums, compared to previous stuff, is that I've figured out how to program drums on the computer. I used to record the drums and play the drums for the demos. But it's a lot easier and a lot less time consuming just to program them. So I get all the songs done and send them to Marcus and then he plays along to the demos. If there is something with the drums that he wants to do differently or just feels unnatural for him then we'll talk about it and re-write some parts.
So we did all of that in 2019, scheduled the studio time and recorded the album in January 2020, just before my wife and I moved across the country. It's been a very hectic year and then as soon as we got here everything closed down. So I am very grateful we went ahead and made a new album, if I didn't have this to work on I don't know what I would be doing. I would be losing my mind right now.
The Razor's Edge: Would it be a case, if's and but's I guess, but would you be writing another album now if you didn't have this one to come out?
Nate: I'm not sure. When the lockdown hit I started writing again, I was feeling a lot of emotion. Even to this day, even though I know what to do when I am feeling a lot of emotions I know that I should right music, sometimes I forget. I'm like "I feel all weird and stressed out and overwhelmed". Sometimes I forget, yeah thats when you are supposed to write music, thats what you can do with that.
So when the lockdown hit I started writing and I have ten or twelve songs pretty much finished or in the final stages of being demo'd. I just stopped because I'd rather not put an album out next year because for five years it's been an album or two every year, if you include the other bands I was in, and I just kinda want to enjoy my life for a minute.
The Razor's Edge: I was going to bring up your other bands. Spirit Adrift have only been together as a band for five years, yet you’ve produced four studio albums and two E.P.'s. That in a timeframe when you were still with Gatecreeper as well and putting out albums. How do you manage to produce so much good music in a short space of time?
Nate: I don't know man. You know I was really fucked up for a while. I wasn't doing so great creatively in any way, shape or form. I got sober in 2015, March of 2015, and it's like a dam broke open. All those years of creativity that had been blocked up because I was so fucked up and out of, all of them came out. I feel like that still happening, it's still flowing out of me. I wasn't one of the primary song writers in Gatecreeper, I contributed just a very small amount to that, with them it was just learning songs that were already written. But it was every waking moment in my life from 2015 until today. Literally every waking moment, everything I do that's not music is to make me better at doing music. I take care of my mental health and physical health, I study live performances of all of my favourite bands. Even when I am listening to music for pleasure I can't turn off the analytical part of my mind. So I am studying and taking notes, what works, what doesn't work, what common elements do all these classic bands have that I can pinpoint to that timeless essence that makes it so classic. I just can't turn it off, it's been every waking moment for the last five years.
The Razor's Edge: Your lyrics are quite expressive, what gives you the inspiration for them?
Nate: This album was kind of a reaction to the last album. The last album examined the darkest aspects of humanity and society and trying to add that in a pretty angry and violent way; why we are so divided why we are so compulsively drawn to conflict in todays society. It was a really gruelling experience mentally and emotionally to be thinking of all those nasty things all day long while I was writing. When I started writing this album, which I said earlier wasn't even intentional, I actually wanted to take a break but the music refused to allow me to take a rest. As soon as I realised ok I guess I am making an album whether I like it or not. My only rule for myself was that I enjoy the process, because I didn't enjoy the process last time it was really overwhelming and daunting. So this time I was like, let me have some fun with this. So I thought about what are the elements of metal that are fun? And I started thinking about the albums that make you feel invincible and that make you have fun when you are listening to them. So albums like 'Screaming For Vengeance', 'Defenders of the Faith', 'Powerslave', 'Somewhere In Time', 'Heaven and Hell'. Those albums that make you want to take on the whole world, that was the genesis for the entire lyrical approach this time round.
The Razor's Edge: I think that comes through in the lyrics and the music this time. Everywhere I look I see you described as “doom metal”, but you music doesn’t feel like doom to me. How would you describe yourselves?
Nate: Metal! Actually my most preferred description would be 'Spirit Adrift'. But if people want to throw a genre on it I would just call it "metal". I am sure it is metal, I'm not sure we are a doom metal band. I think the early recordings, the first E.P. and the first full length was definitely doom. Even back then there were fast parts, there were progressive parts kind of in the realm of Mastodon or even the 'Spiritual Healing' era Death. Those bands have always been an influence.
I think we have evolved, the sound has evolved over the years as I have evolved as a person. I have grown and changed. The climate or the landscape of my life has changed and improved. The general trend in my life since 2015 has been upward and an improvement. So I think the music has gotten less downtrodden and doomy and a little more Judas Priesty and kick ass and uplifting and powerful. We still have some of the doom elements, on 'Astral levitation' there are some classic Tony Iommi stylings and on 'Reunited In The Void' thats more similar to music around the time of the first full length.
As far as what I would call Spirit Adrift, I would just call it Spirit Adrift. Eventually, hopefully your band has such a broad pallet that people just call it what it is. I think about Opeth, I mean what would you call Opeth? You call them Opeth because they have so much different, great stuff, across so many different sub-genre's that you just call them Opeth. So hopefully some day they just call us Spirit Adrift.
The Razor's Edge: A band that can't be pigeon holed!
Nate: Yes sir!
The Razor's Edge: Do you pay much attention to the reviews in the press when they come in?
Nate: In the past I have, yeah paid quite a bit of attention. This time I don't find myself really checking in on things all that much. I think it's because any doubts, or any lack of self confidence maybe in the previous material has pretty much gone. With this album I feel like we had a situation that enabled us to fully reach our potential. Me as a song writer, Marcus as a drummer, both of us as musicians and performers, the production, everything. I feel deep in my heart that every album that I've made is the best album that I was capable of making in that situation. There are always budgetary restrictions, there are always time restrictions, and there was this time as well but they didn't feel as pressing or as urgent. I felt like we were a lot more free to spend a lot of time on parts and make sure they were exactly how we want them. So if you know in your heart that you made the best album that you could possibly make, then it doesn't really matter what other people say.
I am more interested in what the fans say, I'm making music that I want to resonate with people that need to hear it. I don't really care if people don't like it want to critique it, it's not for them. Honestly by and large Spirit Adrift has been really well received by fans and critics, so we are grateful to be in that position.
But I don't see myself really paying that much attention. I am actually on October the 16th, which is our release date, my wife and I are taking a week and a half to disappear. Our PR people are like "what the fuck are you doing?" [laughs]. But I am just going to disappear for the week that the album comes out and then I'll be back to do more interviews and stuff but I'm not paying all that much attention to that.
The Razor's Edge: You say you are disappearing, my next question was going to be "Are you planning anything to mark the launch of the album?" I guess you are just disappearing instead.
Nate: Actually we are doing a live stream on October 17th. We are doing that, thats going to be on Century Media's Youtube channel. We'll be posting more information on that on our social media. There's going to be a link with a countdown. I think it's going to be 10pm Berlin time, CEST [9pm BST] and thats on October 17th. We'll play a couple of new songs and a couple of old songs, it's free, we are not charging anything. It is what it is, it's a quarantine album release, there are no big explosions or fire or dragons flying around. It's just four guys in their houses playing some songs.
But I personally will be out kayaking, checking out the area and playing with my dogs and not paying attention to whats going on.
The Razor's Edge: I like that attitude towards an album release. You mentioned streaming, have you done much streaming since the lockdown started?
Nate: Yeah we did a thing for Metal Injection over here, called the Slay At Home Fest. We threw together just two songs. It's very tricky being separated by thousands of miles. Now our line up is; I'm in Texas, Marcus and our bass player are in Phoenix, Arizona and our guitarist is in Oakland, California. It's tricky to make that work. We learned how to do it by doing the Metal Injection live stream, took those lessons and improved on everything, so I am really excited about the one on Saturday.
I've also been doing, it's not live, but the Two Minutes To Late Night collaborative covers on Youtube which has been a whole lot of fun. It's one of those things where this is an entirely new situation we find ourselves in and the only way through it is to figure out how to adapt.
The Razor's Edge: You've only been together five or so years, but looking back at Spirit Adrift would you go back and do anything differently?
Nate: Nah! [Laughs]
I've been in a lot of bands over the years, 29 band to be exact, and I wouldn't do anything different in any of those bands, and trust me I have made some huge mistakes with bands throughout my life. I have suffered a lot through many many years and many many miles for quite a few different bands. But what I have found is that every bit of suffering that I did, every mistake that I made, every life altering decision that I screwed up. All of those lessons culminated in the experience and knowledge that made Spirit Adrift possible and made Spirit adrift possible.
The Razor's Edge: So I've got one final question for you. What's next for the band once the album is released? Obviously you have tours, potentially, booked for next year, but where do you go as a band?
Nate: Thats a good question. I will just continue writing music, thats what I do thats what makes me feel good and I feel like thats my purpose in life. So yeah I'll keep writing songs, I have about ten or twelve. I have some ideas too, I try to do something different with every album as far as how I approach the writing and recording. Something we have never done is the Metallica approach, tonnes of bigger bands do this who have the time and resources. It's where you write thirty songs and then you whittle them down to maybe the best ten and maybe you cut some songs, you take parts from three different songs and put the best parts together. So I think it would be cool to write an excess of material and then cut it down to one album. I think that will be the approach for the next album.
Hopefully the touring that is scheduled for next year happens. I just saw that our agent in Europe has pitched us for some really big tours that are kind of fantastical, but thats the way we operate, I shoot as high as possible. I am going to try and tour with Iron Maiden until it happens, thats the way I operate.
In the meantime I'm down here in Texas, I'm trying to handle a really significant family situation, which is a good thing it's not a bad thing at all. I was telling my wife for the past five years I missed out on every major life event in my own life. I had to cut a tour in half to go and get married to my wife. As I said the music has been every waking moment and I feel I've been missing out on home life, so once this album comes out I'm going to take care of this family stuff, and these personal transformations and just enjoy the fact that I am going to be present for some pretty big life events. Keep writing music, keep talking to Marcus every day and hopefully we're are back on the road over the next few years.