When Native was preparing our first album, we were trying on a lot of different musical styles. With Anthony Ballsley as lead singer, we had rocked hard. But with his departure, the various tastes and temperaments of Mat Hutt, John Wood, John Epstein. Matt Lyons, Mike Jaimes, and Myself all came to the forefront and many an hour was spent in our Mott Street basement studio, The Radon Room, trying to find our signature sound.
We’ve heard in the past few weeks, as we’ve reviewed side one of that album, that we were capable of spanning a lot of differing aesthetics – from the powerful rock of Carried Away, to the straight pop of Go, to the funky groove of Trying, to the candle-lit folky vibe of Shed Some Light, to the psychedelic Mood Swing – Native’s versatility was so all-encompassing that we were in danger of being impossible to categorize.
While, being uncategorizable might seem pretty cool, in the world of big record labels it is a major negative. “How the hell do we market this?,” was the feedback our management got from all quarters of those high offices.
The record never got picked up by a major, and we were plenty bummed out.
In today’s environment an album like ours would probably have a much better chance of finding an audience, so we take a bit of solace in that.
But, back then – when things were bleak – we rallied around the one song Mike had brought in. A rollicking little number, with a gentle groove, a heartfelt sentiment, and a soulful vocal. In many ways, it rallied us, and we persevered through the fallout of failing to get a deal, even as our studio-mates, The Spin Doctors, and the other bands in our scene – Blues Traveler, Phish, God Street Wine, and others all went on to have successful, multi-album runs and radio hits.
For Native, it was management upheavals, John Epstein‘s departure, and the long slog of being everyone’s opening act, but rarely the headliner. It was a crucible, but we went through it and came out swinging.
And a major reason why we didn’t capsize was because of one song.
It would become the song we always played at every show, with requests coming in before we could get to it.
Even as I type this, I’m humming the easy-going melody and find myself smiling in the face of yet another set of dark times. The eternality of Mike’s deceptively simple invention will never cease to amaze me, and can never grow old.
Folks, in times like these you gotta go —