December Roses Is Here!

December Roses cover

Just in time for the festive season, Native is releasing an all-new mini-album — December Roses!

Recorded by the full band linep-up: Mat Hutt (Vocals, Guitar), John Wood, (Vocals, Percussion), Mike Jaimes (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Matt Lyons (Bass), Chris Wyckoff (Keyboards), and David Thomas (Drums, Vocals).

Produced by John Fitzwater & David Thomas, December Roses displays a band at the peak of its powers. The performances are stellar, with Mat, Woody & Mike harmonizing better than ever, the rhythm section of Mat Lyons and Dave Thomas cooking up one hot groove after another, & the extraordinary flights of incendiary, cosmic guitar virtuosity of Mike Jaimes at his apex. Throw in the Cajun-infused piano of Chris Wyckoff, and wonderful guest appearances by Catherine Russell and Lizzie Friel (aka, Lizzie Love), and you have the perfect choice for holiday listening. Or, any day, for that matter.

December Roses is not a Christmas album, per se, but rather a meditation on the feelings one gets this time of year, which in the contradictory-logic of Native, makes it a perfect summer album as well.

Check it out today! And, remember — there’s no better holiday gift than December Roses.

Buy Now at Bandcamp

Coming soon to all other online music retailers.

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Love Will Leave You Mystified!!

Mystified is a song Native played a lot right before we made the recordings that would become And Then What and December Roses. It quickly became a fan favorite, and a band favorite. It’s rousing, rambunctious, has great sing-a-long harmonies, and it modulates!!! There’s nothing like a good modulation.

When I wrote it, I was writing to myself, trying to pep myself up after a very trying period where my marriage fell apart — so it’s not a diatribe against the fine institution of wedlock — just the words one says to make a friend feel better by downplaying the importance of it. Matrimony does not suck — I want to be on the record about that.

And now I am!!

With the release of December Roses I can finally rest easy, knowing that such a great song is out there, after such a long waiting period.

Why did it take so long to get it out?

Well, the whole history of these recordings is one fraught with delays, disaster, distractions, more delays, and finally — dismay.

We started to make an album in late 2000, convening at our Marmfington Farm Studio located in a top secret location everybody knew about on 26th Street, NYC. Our long-suffering soundman, John Fitzwater helmed the Producers seat and the band proceeded to enthusiastically lay down the many new songs developed since 1998’s Exhale On Spring Street.

Things went great, then things went bad.

Mat moved to California, something we knew was coming, but he and we did not want to break up, and the proof is this stellar set of recordings, surely our best.

When Mat moved away (after an epic gig at Wetlands) the rest of us continued on with completing the record, such was our love of the music.

But, Marmfington Farm was not a fully air-conditioned studio and we made the fateful decision to take a hiatus on recording for what was expected to be a long, and very hot summer.

Indeed, it was. But we scheduled a session with Mike to do his guitar leads. The day we scheduled it was September 11, 2001.

Next week, the story of the amazing journey to finishing the album continues… till then — remember,

Love will leave you —

Mystified

Running Smooth

Dave Thomas on DrumsI have few recollections of recording our first album. I was ill with walking pneumonia, which meant I was operating on auto-pilot for three long days as I laid down my drum tracks in a studio adjacent to Union Square on 17th Street.

I remember a few scant pieces of it — wondering why our co-producer was wearing spandex (it was 1994, for gosh sake — nobody wore spandex in 1994, except our co-producer. I, wondering why the same guy was hating on my drum style (and why was a guy in spandex with bad taste in drumming co-producing our record?). I can faintly remember a few moments of the last track we did, The Sea, and having an equipment breakdown with the Alesis D4 drum module I used to get tabla sounds. Woody quickly jumped into the fray and played the sounds on a different device, but it was nearly the last straw for me. In my delirium, I drummed along with a click track that played only in my headphones while the rest of the band had only my drums in their cans. Doing my part of the song without the tabla patterns I was used to playing was bad enough but, when the click track broke down mid-way through, I simply soldiered on and ignored it. But, let me tell you — playing music in spite of an out-of-control drum machine in my ear was a nightmare. And no one believed me later, when I complained about it. The engineer told me it couldn’t have happened, “It’s quantized, man!” Nevertheless, they kept that take and it’s what’s on the album.

I was extremely ill for weeks after that, and I never again attended a session. Mat would come home with tapes of the ‘Ruff Mixes’ and they sounded pretty good, although to this day I can’t listen to The Sea without wincing from the memory of that poorly-quantized drum machine, my valiant but unsteady performance, and the ridicule of the engineers.

That terrible experience eventually led to my learning about record production — I was never again going to be at the mercy of technology that I didn’t understand, or engineering staff that were hostile to the very sounds and styles that got us into the studio in the first place. I guess I wouldn’t be a record producer at all, had it not been for all that agony and frustration.

And in grand irony — the D4 module started working again. I still have it!

So, for me, it’s a compromised album, and one I want to revisit. Next year will be the twentieth anniversary of that recording, and I’d like to remix it for that occasion. But, I may not be able to remix my bad memories of pneumonia, spandex, and ‘quantized’ click tracks.

In the weeks after the recording was done, I recuperated and we were back on the road, playing bigger and better shows, and the ordeal of making the record subsided. Times were good again…

We were Running Smooth

Cornbread Wednesday

Mood Swingers About Town

Native was rolling by the time we started recording our first album. As evidenced by this Karl Ottersberg-drawn flyer which lists our December 1993 gigs.

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The game plan was simple, we can’t tour the world, but we can tour Manhattan. We can get a residency at a New York club, and play other clubs about town. We can make the world come to us. And of course, we can play nearby places in New Jersey and upstate New York.

The first part of the plan was based on a successful run we did at Larry Bloch’s Wetlands. The second leg came to fruition at Ruby’s on the upper East Side. How, or why we ended up there is a story yet untold. But, we played there every Tuesday for a long time, and it’s where we jammed with our first celebrity — Ivan Neville.

Before long, we decamped to another New York venue, McGovern’s. Steve Greenberg’s venerable nightclub became our home away from home for many years.

The above flyer’s inclusion of a date at The Rhinecliff Hotel shows that we were starting to travel a bit further afield than before. For this, and all our galavanting around NYC, we got a van. The Silver Cloud, we called it, and truly. For, it rode the way a cloud floats, and it was silver. For me, this conjures up the image of The Lone Ranger’s horse, a faithful, trusty steed — although, not actually silver-coloured like our faithful, trusty van.

The moral of the story is this: Native had a plan, and a van. We were touring New York and thereabouts. We were recording an album. It was a time of incredible highs, and exhaustive lows. Then, incredibly high again. Perhaps inspired by this, Mat & Woody came up with a dilly of a number which, more than any, evokes the memories of that tumultuous time in our career.

Mood Swing

Cornbread Wednesday

The Woodman Arriveth

John Wood, (aka Wood, Woody, Woodman, & Toast, Toastman, Stretchy McTallguy, and… to at least one rabid Asian fan —Goody!) has been Native’s percussionist for a long time — although, truth be told, he never actually, officially joined the band! He just showed up on stage at Nightingale Bar on December 10th, 1992 (and played his ass off!). He then continued to show up for every gig we played from then on. He also became the cornerstone of the infamous Native loft, den mother, and the grease that kept the Native machinery rolling.

So, today marks the twentieth anniversary of that event — not joining Native. And boy are we glad it happened, or didn’t happen, as the case may be. We couldn’t have been who we were without him.

Yay Woody!

Woody at Amherst Brewing Company

photography by Kassandraa Tamanini

Nativology Part 2: Fall Away

By the time Native rolled into the studio to begin work on its first album, Mat Hutt had become the chief songwriter of the group. From day one he’d been bringing in strong material and he’d collaborated with the rest of the band when they had song-related ideas but now he’d consolidated that position to become the primary channel through which all new songs were directed.

Mat Hutt at Wetlands

And that, for the most part, is a good thing. A band needs someone to be the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn’t right and proper for the band’s oeuvre — is it Native enough? That’s a very good question to ask.

The reason this is a good thing is that there was a lot of new songs being written (particularly by a certain drummer) that were stylistically all over the map. Mat became the siphon that every song went through for the rest of Native’s most fertile period and he made sure that the focus was not just on the strongest material but on songs that really conveyed the unique traits the band had developed, and would continue to develop.

And, of course, he had to sing them, so in hindsight, well, finding that your latest masterpiece has a lot in common with a Cobb Salad (it’s chopped) is a bit easier to understand.

Having said that, this week’s Nativology offering is pure Mat Hutt.

I remember listening to him playing the song at the breakfast table, and wondering what a Native reggae would sound like. I didn’t have to wait long, nor did anyone el
se. It landed on our first record after only a few public airings and remained in our setlists for years.

Fall Away