By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Native America
How does one describe this garage-rock trio from New Orleans? The band’s bio is a pretty good place to start: they’re a soul-pop Cadillac, inviting the glad broken hearts of our boys and girls to enjoy the last party of summer. Ross Farbe, John St. Cyr, and Ray Micarelli know a thing or two about partying, just as their songs shimmer with the sunshine they wholeheartedly invite us to enjoy.
Native America have been spreading their summer party across the country for nearly four years, booked as openers for big names like King Kahn and the Shrines, Woods, and The Shins. They’re currently at work recording a new full-length album. Ross Farbe takes some time out of his busy schedule to talk with BTR about the music, and what’s in store for this year.
Tell me a little bit about your backgrounds as musicians. What brought the three of you together?
We met at school in New Orleans in 2008. We all came to Loyola to study Music Industry… the broadest, most vague degree that attracts musicians and indecisive teenagers from all over the country, hah. We all came to play music though, and started playing together as Native America sometime in 2010.
What was it like planting your roots in a musical community like New Orleans?
Easy. Plant just about anything in New Orleans and it’ll grow. I’m not sure how it would be if we had met elsewhere. It’s a city like no other that I’ve found. As far as the musical community goes, I love it down here. It’s easy to be negative about certain aspects, but to me our small city has an incredibly inspiring history, some awesome current bands, and a few of the deepest dive bar venues around.
Do the three of you share creative influences, or do you come from completely different places?
That’s kind of funny. We come from pretty different places: Ray managed to grow up surrounded by southern soul music in Massachusetts, John was a big time, D.C. hardcore kid, and I was into hippy psychedelic bands. At least that was high school. When we met, the common ground was ‘60s pop, tight grooves, and Deerhunter.
Reading the bio on your official site, and listening to the tunes, I hear the idea of “summer” surface again and again as a common thread. Does this serve as a continual source of inspiration for the band?
I wouldn’t say it’s intentional, but we often make summer-y sounding pop music. Maybe it’s part of the old school pop thing that we love where it was all major chords and bright sounding songs, even if the subject matter was dark. Like Leslie Gore—it all sounds like bubble gum pop, but she pretty freaked out about being a young woman in the ‘60s. Smokey Robinson “Tears of a Clown” or “Tracks of my Tears”- sound lively and uplifting but are actually about how sad he is. Back to our sound though, it could also just be because it’s summer in New Orleans like 9 months out of the year.
The bio also says you’re currently at work recording a new full length album. What can listeners expect?
It’s a full length, and it’ll be our first vinyl release. Very excited for that. I put that line in the bio when I was recording it at my house, but now those have become demos and we’ll be recording in a studio at the beginning of June. So it’s hard to say too much about it at this point in the process. It could end up being a Celtic folk record. But probably not.
Album art for Bad Weed / But Still Weed
Your last release was called Bad Weed / But Still Weed. Do you guys like to get high and make music?
(Laughs). Short answer—yes. That album title is based on a true story. I wouldn’t call any of the three of us stoners though, especially not Ray and John. But maybe that’s because I’m a stoner. It’s all about vibing and appreciating the finerest things in life, man.
There seems to be a big improvement in sound production moving from an older release like Get Well Soon onto Bad Weed. Was this a conscious effort?
I’ve done all of our recordings myself, so what you’re hearing is more experience and slightly better equipment. I love recording bands and I definitely learn something new every time. So it makes sense that I got a little better at it between those two releases. Thanks for noticing!
What’s your recording process like? Do you still work with Ross Farbe in industrial areas?
(Laughs). Yeah, that old bio is still floating around in some places… when I started this project, it was just me and I would really get extravagant with the recording process. Recording a drum track in a parking garage stairwell and an acoustic guitar in a park. I was just having fun with it. Now that it’s a trio, we usually just try to find an available place for the three of us to make loud sounds for a few hours and we track mostly live. I’m doing our next recording in a legitimate studio, as I mentioned before, and I’m super excited for that. It’s a beautiful place built into an old neighborhood church.
You guys have done a lot of touring across the country, opening for some big acts. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the road?
Can’t think of any that are really that good/can translate into type… but there was one time in New York when we all got way too drunk at this warehouse party and ended up sleeping in different boroughs. Then the next day, we all had dead phones, and we somehow managed to run into each other on the subway.
Or check them out live:
June 10 2014- One Eyed Jack’s- New Orleans, LA
July 2 2014- Lamar Lounge- Oxford, MS
July 3 2014- Courthouse Co-Op- Memphis, TN
July 5 2014- Eisenhouser- Murfreesboro, TN
July 9 2014- Stone Fox- Nashville, TN
July 10 2014- Joyful Noise Recordings- Indianapolis, IN
July 11 2014- Cole’s Bar- Chicago, IL