Tag Archives: The Drowning Men

The Drowning Men’s Nato Bardeen Interview

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Nato Bardeen is the talented front man and distinctive voice of The Drowning Men, one of today’s best new bands.  I recently had a chance to catch up with him from his hometown of Oceanside, CA before the band embarks on the next leg of their tour supporting their new release All of the Unknown.

Cretin: Being from Oceanside, California, what’s the local music scene?

Bardeen: We beat the hell out of San Diego for the first three years. Played all the local bars and small clubs and did that for a bit before we started touring. We were just a local band, then we got to LA and played the Long Beach area, then the Northwest thing, Portland and Seattle and the West Coast. As for the scene, I don’t really know what the scene was; we just do what we do and go out and do our thing.

Cretin: Today’s rock is dominated by one man bands, where it’s a talented singer on keyboards and a drum machine, playing cute poppy rock – you guys have taken a different approach?

Bardeen: I’m a fan, but not a big fan, of the two piece band thing. I like a big band and that full sound. I’ve known (Rory) and (Todd) since we were kids and we’ve played together for years, and I’ve always liked bands with four or five guys.

Cretin: It makes a difference both live and on the album. You can tell that it’s a collaborative group effort, not just dominated by one person (Bardeen writes all of the music).

Bardeen: I’ll write the song and bring it to the boys and throw out hints. I’m more of a melody guy, I’m not really good with drums or bass. I kind of let them figure it out on their own.  We’ve played together so long, I already know what Rory’s going to do without even telling him. I just know the way he plays. The same thing with Todd and just us as a band. I pretty much know what everyone is capable of and their unique touch on the songs. James (guitar) and Gabe (keyboards) and I discuss the melodies and harmonies.

Cretin: When I saw the band live, it seemed like the pieces  fit together extremely well, and Rory on drums just seems to accompany you perfectly.

Bardeen: Honestly, in the last four months, I realized how Rory and I complement each other. His drum playing is straight in the pocket, really loud and it just fits our music perfectly. I really agree with you, he and I have something cool together.

Cretin: Going into the show, knowing that you wrote all of the music, I didn’t really expect to see the five of you so tight. But you guys seem so cohesive.  Kind of sucks that the Orlando crowd didn’t really show up, though.

Bardeen: We’re still young. We’re a young travelling band. We don’t expect much.  We’ve toured with some great bands and traveled nationally and opened up in front of thousands of people, but we know we’re young. We haven’t won that many people over yet, and hopefully we will. If not, we don’t and that’s just how it goes. But, it would be nice to go out and play our own shows outside of Southern California and get some really cool crowds.

Cretin: Tell me about the second leg of the tour that you’re about to embark on?

Bardeen: We’re main support for Cheap Girls for a short leg. After that we’ll be doing main support for Bad Books II which is the side project for a few of the guys from Manchester Orchestra. (As of this time, there are no dates in Florida)

Cretin: Last year you supported Flogging Molly. You ended up being one of the fist bands they signed to their new label Borstal Beat Records. What was that experience like?

Bardeen: When we did that tour, it was our first legit national tour as an opening act playing in front of thousands of people. They were rad. They fell in love with us; liked our live sound and our music, and had our Beheading of the Songbird album and they loved it. We knew they were putting out their own label and on tour we started talking about signing with them. We were like “Yeah,” and it worked out great.

Cretin: Let me ask a question back to Beheading of the Songbird, and the title track which I feel is just a great song.  On your recent co-headlining tour, you didn’t play it. Is there any reason?

Bardeen: We played it more than a handful of times earlier on tour. We love it and I’ve actually been thinking about bringing it back into the set, so it’s not dead. We really like playing it, but it is a real long song and in a 30 or 45 minute set it cuts into what we can do.

Cretin: Any backlash due to the nature of the lyrics?

Bardeen: No. We just had other newer songs that we’ve been working on and are excited to play. We’ve been playing those Songbird songs for a long time now.

Cretin: So, how has the reception been for the new songs?

Bardeen: Good, really good.  Some songs people like more than others, which is totally natural. Some people miss some of the old stuff which is something we need to deal with. We need to put together a good set, try to create a cool mood or weird mood or whatever mood we’re trying to put out. But the response for the new stuff has been surprisingly cool.

Cretin: Who were some of your influences?

Bardeen: I was a lifetime Smiths fan. Ever since I first heard Morrissey and The Smiths in Junior High School. (Their music) just hit me and I’ve always been a fan. I’m also a huge  fan of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen and The Pogues. I like the moody crooners.

Cretin: Some dark stuff there, and definitely some great songwriters.

Bardeen: That’s what makes me move and that’s the music I like to listen to. I think the lyrics are beautiful, the lyrics fit with the music, the music fits with the lyrics, the melody, the vocals. It’s the perfect fit for me. Those guys do it well, My goal is to always make it fit and whether I do that or not I’ll never really know, but that is my ultimate goal; to make the melody, the vocals and the strain of the vocals fit the strain of the guitar, so everything is one piece that works.

Cretin: That’s cool. So, let me ask a bit about your background.  The night I saw you, you played guitar, keyboards, mandolin, melodica and sang lead vocals on every song.  What’s your musical background?

Bardeen: I would say I’m unschooled. I picked up a guitar when I was eighteen and I picked it up pretty fast.  I loved it and it immediately became my passion.  I also have a huge love for traditional Irish Folk music, and that made me want to learn the mandolin, the fife and banjo and a bunch of other things. Right now, I can get by on 14 or 15 different instruments, anything like the piano, mandolin, suzuki, banjo – anything with strings pretty much. I love to learn new instruments, I love playing them, I love writing on them, I love just jamming out with people to different styles. I started at eighteen and lord willing I can do it the rest of my life, and hopefully when I die I’ll be able to play one hundred.

Cretin: On All of the Unknown, it seems as though you’ve taken your vocals to a new level from where they were on Beheading of the Songbird.  Have you seen yourself grow as a vocalist?

Bardeen: I have, and I’m loving it.  When we did the Beheading album, we weren’t playing out as much, but after touring more and more and singing every night, I was really hurting my voice, so I had to learn how to sing better. On the Beheading album, I was yelling.  I still yell now, but I’ve learned how to yell better. And, I’m enjoying it because I’ve always wanted to be a better singer. I always want to sing with passion, but I’m learning to control my breath a little bit more both live and on track.

Cretin: It’s nice getting to listen to that evolution.

Bardeen: I’ve definitely noticed the maturity in my vocals and I’m very excited about it.  I’ve never been confident about my vocals.  I know I can sing, I just had to work on it, do breathing exercises and learn how to control it. I’ve been happy with it. I hope I can always sing and I look forward to twenty years from now what I sound like.

The Drowning Men Tour Dates

Into the Unknown with The Drowning Men


All of the Unknown – The Drowning Men

Passion… Creativity… Power… Vulnerability… Raw Emotion…

For years, these traits have defined what makes the best rock ‘n roll so special and personal. Unfortunately, today it seems to get more difficult to find, as a steady stream of Techno-driven music acts dominate the rock music landscape (see Foster the People and MGMT). It’s good stuff in its own right, but it’s just not that wonderful rock and roll that grabs you by the ears and screams that you pay attention.  Then, along came The Drowning Men.

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men - credit: Ryan Renteria

They’re back with their second full-length album release, All of the Unknown, proving that there’s still a throbbing pulse left in the rock music universe.  The album, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label builds on the success of their debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow.

The Drowning Men, out of Oceanside, California are Indie rockers with a sound that reminds a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent.  Nate ‘Nato’ Bardeen is the creative vision behind the tracks on All of the Unknown, yet all of the band members contribute, offering a unique powerful sound that builds as the songs move on.

The album kicks off with a strong track that gives you a good idea of what you’re in for. “Lost in a Lullaby,” the first single off of the album is an excellent song about a relationship that couldn’t work out. It begins with a nice keyboard intro from Gabe Messer; then Bardeen jumps in with his mandolin, and finally the remainder of the group kicks in and ratchets it up a notch.  It’s a great start and a of hint of things to come, as many of the tunes on the album build to a crescendo as the song progresses. It’s rock and roll with an orchestral flair; music that highlights a fantastic juxtaposition hard to find these days: powerful driving rock and roll, lush melodies and beautiful harmonies.

Producer Billy Mohler has really done a masterful job on this album. Guitarist James Smith and Todd Eisenkerch on bass are played off expertly against the keys from Bardeen and Messer. One hallmark of the band’s music that remains on All of the Unknown is the powerful backbone supplied by drummer Rory Dolan. The raw powerful drums are prevalent and steady throughout and absolutely appreciated in these days where computer generated drums are the norm. “I am the Beggar Man” is a strong rocker that highlights some of Dolan’s best stuff and nicely pulls together the entire band.

Bardeen’s voice is strong and infectious, and his distinctive sound meshes perfectly with the expert musicianship from his band mates.  The lyrics remain poignant and introspective as Bardeen reflects and shares captivating life experiences. This is never more prevalent than in the introspective “The Waltz.” The vocals truly shine on “Smile” a hopeful song that features Bardeen’s voice, and on one of the album’s best tracks, “Bored in a Belly,” a swaying roller-coaster ride that finds Bardeen in top form. It’s also a nice showcase for some interesting keys from both Bardeen and Messer.

“A Long, Long Walk” takes us to the other end of the spectrum. It’s a beautiful song with Bardeen reminiscing back to the last night with a long lost love. It’s a great ballad that had me repeatedly flashing back to early George Harrison. Great stuff!

The best cut on the album is “A Fool’s Campaign.” The song features excellent guitar work from Smith, pristine drum work from Dolan and tender, honest vocals from Bardeen. It’s a song that would appeal to many different genres of rock fans and hopefully another cut that will find its way to US radio. I suspect that radio play in today’s “safe” radio landscape may be a challenge to find, but would not be surprised to see these men develop the same kind of passionate following as their record label sponsors, Flogging Molly.

A few of the deeper cuts are mediocre, but there’s a slew of great music on All of the Unknown.  For sure, it is not a perfect album, but it’s the perfect tonic for our current rock ‘n roll landscape screaming for passionate, powerful rock music.

Check out the album linked above – it’s only $7.99 on iTunes! If you like reading about rock music, please take a moment to Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Rock on!
Cretin

The Drowning Men concert review

Beheading of the Songbird album review

River City Extension Rocks Orlando

River City Extension LiveRiver City Extension Live at The Social

Earlier this week, I had one of those moments that all rock music fans covet. I was out at a venue reviewing one band and stumbled across another act on the bill that really caught my attention. I was out at The Social in Orlando checking out The Drowning Men, who were great in their own right (see the review here) when I had the pleasure of catching the dynamic eight piece River City Extension.

The octet out of New Jersey crammed onto the small stage and delivered an energetic and diverse set that I would best classify as a creative merging of Mumford and Sons and Gogol Bordello! It might sound unusual, but they pull it off magnificently. Over the course of the night, the six men and two women traded off among fifteen different instruments, providing quite the aural feast. At different times, they featured two drummers, two banjo players, violin, trumpet, mandolin and more; a welcome diversion from much of the cookie cutter stuff dominating the airwaves these days.

Led by front man Joe Michelini, the band focused their set on music from their excellent new release Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger. I spoke to Michelini briefly after the set and asked him how he would classify their brand of rock.   There’s no easy classification, which is part of the beauty to their unique sound. We settled on Alt-Americana, but you can check out the link below and make your own judgment.

They kicked off the show with “Glastonbury,” the opening track off of the album and followed that up with nine other cuts from the new album as well as a few selections from their two prior releases.

“Welcome to Pittsburgh” was an early highlight. The track has a beautiful, optimistic feel to it, as Michelini shows off his broad vocal range.  The most impressive features of the song were Nicole Scorsone on violin and Dan Melius on trumpet! The violin absolutely powers the song and Melius also contributes some fantastic trumpet work.  Good stuff!

“Point of Surrender” and “Ballad of Oregon” were two other songs of the same vein that were crowd-pleasing favorites.

This band is quite diverse and they showed off their versatility all night. Other highlights included “Slander,” a poignant tune in the vein of classic rock, “Our New Intelligence” a nice boy/girl duet, and the stark “Standing Outside in a Southern Riot” which featured Michelini and vocalist Samantha Tacon alone on stage.

It was a great introduction to a talented band that we should be hearing much more from in the years ahead.

Rock On – Cretin

Setlist

Glastonbury
There & Back Again
Welcome To Pittsburgh
Our New Intelligence
Point of Surrender
Standing Outside a Southern Riot
If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn
Slander
Nautical Sabbatical
Ballad of Oregon
Everything West of Home
Something Salty, Something Sweet

Drowning Men Rock Orlando


In a sparsely filled room on a rainy night in Orlando, I saw the future of rock ‘n roll.

The Drowning Men brought their unique style of rock to The Social and absolutely blew away the energetic, yet small crowd. For those of you who don’t know the music of The Drowning Men, you’re missing something special. I’d characterize them as a cross between Arcade Fire and Pink Floyd, but I’m sure everyone else in attendance could come up with different comparisons. Bottom line: they’re unique, they’re creative. they’re interesting, they’re provocative, and they’re pretty damn good!

The band does things their own way, from their look, their arrangements and their sound, and it’s a method that works exceptionally well. The first impression you’ll get from the quintet covered in tattoos and facial hair is of a group of longshoremen or bikers, but then they start to play…  Pure majesty.

They exploded onto the stage with a rich versions of “More Than This” and “Caroline You’re A Mess,” both off of their critically acclaimed 2011 re-release of Beheading of the Songbird – a fantastic album that dominated the night’s set list.  It was apparent quite early that this group fits together exceptionally well.

Nato Bardeen and his distinctive voice are the focal point, but the band is comprised of five equally talented musicians. Drummer, Rory Dolan is the driving force that powers the band throughout all of the songs, and he’s joined by the very talented James Smith on guitar, Gabriel Messier on an old-school organ and Todd Eisenkerch on bass and keyboards.  Over the course of the night, we also get to see the talented Bardeen trading off instruments, from his magnificent Gretsch guitar, to a melodica, a mandolin and the keyboard.

After the show, Smith acknowledged that the band got a little flexible with their set list, and the next three songs featured cuts off of their upcoming release All of the Unknown. Messier provided a nice lead-in into “I am the Beggar Man” the first of the three and carried the song, along with the steady driving beat from Dolan. Bardeen’s fantastic vocals on this one are reminiscent of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Bardeen then took a seat at the keyboards for the interesting “Bored In a Belly,” which starts off with a bit of a carnival fun. It’s a new sound for The Drowning Men, but again an excellent tune.  They wrapped up thier sojourn into All of the Unknown with the mandolin driven “Lost in a Lullaby” which has the potential to become an anthem for the band.

The remainder of the set was a nice diverse mix of the old and new, with the highlight being a great version of “Courageous Son.” It’s a consummate rock song that came together perfectly on this night. Bardeen sitting at the keys and Messier on the organ got it off to a rollicking start, then the rest of the crew took over, featuring some of Smith’s best work with his Fender Telecaster.  The frenzied foot-stomping finish is damn near perfect in a song that I’d describe as beautifully chaotic.

For their closing song, it was their biggest hit “Rita,” which had the band still passionately pouring it out on stage. It’s an addictive tune that had the crowd dancing and singing along.  An excellent end to a great set (see the full setlist below)

I suspect the next time I have a chance to see these guys, it’s going to be in a much larger, more crowded venue, but that’s okay for me: losing a bit of that intimacy means good news for the future of rock ‘n roll.

Rock on!
Cretin

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about the show, the band, the review, facial hair…

Setlist

More Than This
Caroline You’re A mess
I Am The Beggar Man
Bored in a Belly
Lost in a Lullaby
Courageous Son
The Waltz
Michelle is Getting Old
Smile
Rita

 

Central Florida June Concert Calendar

SMS Audio LLC

Another great month of diverse Rock and Roll across Central Florida, highlighted by the Drowning Men in Orlando, as well as The Cult, Against Me!, Coldplay and The Rocket Summer.

Orlando

6/4, Two Door Cinema Club – These Alt-Rockers are all over the airwaves on Sirius-XM and for good reason. Check them out at The Beacham. They’re also touring with a nice opener: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

6/5, The Drowning Men open for River City Extension at The Social. Check out these guys. We loved their last album Beheading of the Songbird, and have heard they are great live! Here’s our album review to whet your appetite.

6/5, Bon Iver at Hard Rock Live

6/6, John Waite at The Plaza Theater.  The former Baby’s front man puts on an excellent show and sounds great still today. We caught him last year. Check out our review, and don’t miss Jackie Bristow who opens, beautiful voice…

6/6, City and Colour at The Beacham

6/13, Puscifer at Hard Rock Live

6/16, BoDeans at The Plaza Theater

6/16, The Cult with Against Me! tear up HOB.  Both bands are fantastic live; required attendance for all of you Rock and Roll Animals!

6/16, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down. Both bands are playing at Universal Studios, which requires park admission. Might be worth going if you already have passes.

6/16, Roger Waters. The legendary guitarist from Pink Floyd performs The Wall. It will be a great show, but break open your piggy bank for this one.

6/18, G. Love and Special Sauce, Beachside Tavern in New Smyrna Beach

6/20, The Rocket Summer at The Social

6/28, Eric Johnson at The Plaza Theater

Cheap concert tickets

Tampa Area

6/3, Styx at Ruth Eckard Hall

6/5, City and Colour at The Ritz Ybor

6/6, Two Door Cinema Club at The Ritz Ybor with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

6/7, Bon Iver at Carol Morsoni Hall

6/8, John Waite at Capitol Theater in Clearwater with Jackie Bristow

6/11, Puscifer at Ferguson Hall

6/14, BoDeans at Jannus Live in St. Pete

6/17, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at Tropicana Field

6/19, The Rocket Summer at The State Theater in St. Pete

6/28, Coldplay in support of their fantastic Mylo Xyloto album comes to the Tampa Bay Times Forum

6/29, Boston at Ruth Eckard Hall. This one intrigues as I’ve never had the chance to see “this local band out of Boston…”

6/30, Def Leppard and Poison at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This one is a guaranteed fun time.

Jacksonville

6/8, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at St. Augustine Amphitheater

6/27, Eric Johnson at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

6/29, Rinog Starr and His All-Star Band at St. Augustine Amphitheater. Ringo’s touring with Steve Lukather and Todd Rundgren among others.

6/30, Chevelle at Mavericks. Check out our album review here.

Wednesday Evening Random Thoughts

So – Orlando Calling has come and gone.  We asked for press access to the inaugural event so that we could dazzle you with our amazing coverage, but the Festival organizers ignored us.  Truthfully, I can’t really blame them, we’re still a small player on a huge stage.  You can help us for next year – follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. Then tell your friends to do the same thing.  And finally – post on our Facebook page, share your pictures, provide your thoughts, and offer tips on new music, beer tasting and your favorite Modern Family episodes.  OK – got it?

Follow @rarasfarm

As for the first iteration of Orlando Calling, we’ve talked to a bunch of people who were there, and all of the reports have been positive.  Personally, Day 1 was much more appealing with The Killers, Gogol Bordello, Pete Yorn and The Pixies among the many bands spread across their five stages.  Day 2 had a totally different vibe with Bob Seger, Kid Rock, The Doobie Brothers and Blake Shelton headlining.  Truthfully a little schizophrenic.  Next year, they need to decide what they want to be when they grow up and have the entire weekend gel better as far as the line-up is concerned.  Seriously, what would a Bob Seger fan think when they saw the antics of Gogol Bordello???

Although we weren’t there, a few of our website members (oh yeah – you can register there, too) did attend, and we’ll be sharing some reviews shortly.

We’ve reviewed a bunch of great new music lately to tide you over.  Here are quick links to the last handful, if you want to check them out:

They were all good – honestly (we are not just schmoozing for more free music, although we are certainly open to that).  My favorite was Grouplove’s effort – and fortunately, they’ll be hitting the Sunshine State shortly for a few shows in early December.

We also had a great interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard.  The band has a great story, a unique sound and their talented front man is a helluvanice guy.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit from The Last Royals, who we interviewed a few months back.  Here’s a recording studio that is truly a “head” of its time: Crystal Vases

 

Drowning Men Beheading The Song Bird

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men

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Damn, just seeing that album title convinced me that I needed to listen to this band.  Beheading of the Songbird?  Twisted? Maybe. Interesting? For sure. I think I’d describe it as eclectic and hectic – and good for the ears.

I first became aware of this San Diego area quintet when Flogging Molly brought them on tour and subsequently signed them as the first act on their new Indie label Borstal Beat.

The album was originally released in the UK two years ago, but has just now been released in the United States.  It’s an excellent introduction to their powerful and divers music.  It’s a unique sound. I would imagine the progeny of Arcade Fire and The Pogues would have resulted in a band just like The Drowning Men.

Their music is deep and layered, packed with dark lyrics and filled with passion.  It seems as though it would translate fantastically into an excellent live show.  And, you’ll be able to see for yourself this fall, as they tour the country supporting The Airborne Toxic Event.

The selections on Beheading of The Song Bird are hit or miss, but the best tunes are very strong.  “Songbird” is a future anthem in the making. It’s a song about a troubled youngster struggling with the aftermath of something horrible he’s done: “I took all his worries, I cut away his charm. From the nest to the hand, What a mess Iʼve done.” The song starts with some nice keys from Gabriel Messer and features moving vocals from Nathan “Nato” Bardeen throughout; where he seems to channel Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.

“Oracle Meets Weeping Willows” is beautiful and is a fitting intro to another strong song, “Down These Days,” which resembles Arcade Fire.  “Get A Heart”and “More Than This” are also excellent arrangements that spotlight the band broad musical talent. The songs that feeatured piano and keyboards were the most memorable.

The cut with the greatest potential for airplay is “Rita” driven by the powerful drums of Rory Dolan, and melancholy vocals of a relationship gone bad.  It’s got a nice sing-along vibe despite the dour message.

“Courageous Son” is my personal favorite. The lyrics reflect tough times adjusting to life in America. “This is the wishy washy land, That you hold so dear. This is the final cure, This is America. In their hearts you will never win!” The music belies the lyrics and conjure images of a crazy musical carnival ride. It brought back good memories of The Killers and Pogues. Good stuff!

Check out the tracks on iTunes.

Rock On – Cretin