Nat Col & The Kings is not who your brain might be trying to tell you it is, instead it is the Australian blues roots rock pairing of guitarist/vocalist Nathan Cavaleri and former Screaming Jets drummer Col Hatchman. Not to be confused with the blues/roots that has been most familiar here in Australia in recent years such as the likes of John Butler Trio and Xavier Rudd, Nat Col & The Kings perfectly channels Nathan’s background in the blues and Col’s background with Aussie rockers Screaming Jets. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s full of energy and it rocks!
Armed with a stomping five track EP, with a revolving door of ‘Kings’ rounding out the band, the guys have already been stamping their presence on the live stage from Melbourne to Sydney to Queensland. From the swagger of Count On Me with it’s seductive mix of blues licks and female backing singers, the harder edged rock of first single Kicking & Screaming or the rollicking good time romp of Breakin‘ Out, Nat Col & The Kings seem set to introduce their take on the ‘blues‘ to a whole new generation of Aussie music fans.
Chatting to Nathan Cavaleri, his enthusiasm for where he is at musically with Nat Col & The Kings radiated throughout the conversation. As one of Australia’s most talented guitarists and now adding vocalist, songwriter and producer to his credentials, his journey of musical discovery seems like it has found an environment where his talents can truly shine.
Nat Col & The Kings…be sure to check out the bands YouTube channel and hear/watch for yourself!
So Nathan, thanks for taking the time to chat about Nat Col & The Kings. You have now played a bunch of shows around the country since the EP was released, what has the reception been like thus far?
Yes, we have our EP out, which has been out for a few months now and I have been blown away with how people are responding, it’s been fantastic. We have done Melbourne and some up in Sydney and Queensland. People have been picking up on it really quickly. My past crowd have been digging it, but I probably haven’t fully connected with them yet. I want to try and establish a good fundamental base first as Nat Col & The Kings as it is, rather than as my past. But being blues/roots, I’m loving it. It’s definitely home for me, we have been developing this now under the radar for about a year and it feels real.
Up front Nathan, I have to say that if I happen to say Nat King Col during the interview, it’s not intentional, that’s what my brain keeps wanting to say when I say Nat Col & The Kings haha!
Haha, yeah I have been wondering to myself when people go ‘I’ve heard of you guys before’ whether they are thinking of Nat King Cole! Nat Col & The Kings came about as I have a terrible history of naming bands and I won’t do it anymore. My last band name was Dirty Skanks! My partner in the band is Col Hatchman who is from The Screaming Jets and we just seemed to have this rotating bunch of guests who would come up on stage and rock out with us and one of my hip hop mates said, ‘why don’t you just call it Nat Col & The Kings’ and I loved it from the start. It seems to suit our style, it’s a bit of a play on words and it’s rootsy and that’s getting as far away musically from people thinking we are a Nat King Cole cover band!
You mentioned Col Hatchman a little earlier, how did your association with Col Hatchman first come about?
Well we thought we would fool around with the Dirty Skanks band first for a year or so and get the rebellion out of our systems. It was a bit of an anti industry band that one! We first met through a mutual friend and at the time I was looking for someone to jam with, so they said why don’t you hook up with Col who had about 10 years under The Screaming Jets. I fell in love with him from that first jam, right from his vibe, to the way he sets up his kit and not only is he an incredible drummer, but his playing style as well, which reminds me of Animal from The Muppets haha! Not only is he awesome technically, but he is just great to watch with his energy.
What about the Kings, is that a revolving door of musicians or have you got a set bunch of guys in the band?
Well yeah at the moment kind of. We have a bass player, a guy called Kenny who is our rock when it comes to a bass player. But as far as keyboards and backing singers etc, we just invite up whoever wants to have a jam. That’s really going well, sometimes it might be whoever has gone on before us or whatever. That’s the good thing about being a bluesy roots based rock band, you can just jam out and it’s pretty free flowing.
You have some cool gigs coming up, with some support slots with Boom Crash Opera, as well as at Bluesfest at Byron Bay in April…
We also have an awesome gig at The Vanguard in Newtown with a band called Indigo Rising who are an up and coming rock band. We share that similar kind of bluesy sound. It’s going around at the moment, it’s great! We are playing with another band from Tasmania called The Dirty Love and they were great!! It was a good way to end last year…knowing we are playing Bluesfest, do we can’t wait for that one!
Your role in Nat Col & the Kings in addition to guitarist, (not to mention songwriter and producer) is also lead vocalist. When did you first turn to singing, rather than just being the guitarist?
I was kind of bumming around on the mic since I was about 15. When I was touring as just Nathan Cavaleri, we had a vocalist and I would jump on and do a couple of songs and take care of some backing vocals. Then after that, when I backed out of the music industry to have a think about what I really wanted to do musically, I realised that just playing guitar wasn’t enough. Ever since then I have always sung in bands and an interesting test for me was last year when I was touring in Electric Mary as a guitarist. Which was great and got me back in touch with my guitar playing in a way that I hadn’t had for a while, but I was like no…I have to be behind the microphone I cannot just be the guitarist.
You also produced the EP, have you been producing material prior to Nat Col & The Kings?
I started off producing local bands in a studio I had back when I was living at home. Any bands that wanted recording space or whatever, I would just end up recording them and producing them. I was a bit of a sponge when I was younger as I was always sitting beside the producer, watching everything that they did. So I was bringing that knowledge to the table with the local bands, then I was producing a bit of hip hop which was cool as my love for that came from my blues and funk roots. As far as my choice to produce our EP, it definitely was a choice, it wasn’t something we had to do. I suppose I didn’t want It to be overproduced.
So you obviously had a very definite sound you were after?
Exactly! We spent a lot of time developing these songs and playing them out in the rehearsal room and laying down demos of the songs and then take a break from them for a few months, then listen to them with fresh ears. So we had a lot of time to get the songs to a point they were ready to record. You know, I just wanted it to be simple, I didn’t want it to be overproduced. Whether you play it in your car, or on your iTunes, I just wanted people to feel like they were in the room with us. Some songs maybe down the road, I am definitely open to working with a producer. It was actually great to work with an engineer on these songs. I definitely didn’t want to be doing any of that…I just wanted to be an artist and create!
What can you tell us about the album at this stage, when is that likely to be released?
That might be a little later now, but there will be an album or an EP later this year. I am actually really liking the EP concept. I mean I like buying albums, but I like the idea of when you are an indie of injecting a little quicker with an EP. If we do another EP, then after that we will put it together with another 4 or 5 songs to make an album. So no matter what….there will be an album!
From a songwriting point of view are these songs written in very recent years, or do some date back to ideas you have had kicking around for many years?
A few of the songs have been floating around for a couple of years actually. They were post Skanks. I guess the Skanks were a bit of a Fuck You, I was sick of people telling me to do things like join a boy band and a whole heap of other really bad advice. So I kind of went ‘fuck you guys’, I am going to have some fun, get sloshed on the road, write dirty lyrics and release that. So that’s where the Skanks was coming from. So when I finished that, I started feeling a little unfulfilled and wanted to do something that was real. So that’s when these songs were written, more from a real place, a little bit more connected. I just started thinking, so what is it that I wanted to say to people listening to my music? So these songs have been around, they have never been written for anybody else. They have been written selfishly for us haha! I mean there is a shitload of songs we have, but these were the songs that fitted for this EP. That’s always the difficult thing about selecting songs! You are not always selecting based upon awesome songs, we are always trying to create a theme stylistically.
You have written and played with an amazing collection of performers, what have been some of the key learnings you have picked up over the years from a songwriting point of view?
Man, one of the biggest things from a musician point of view that I was always taught was how important it is when creating a song, you have to try and forget about yourself as a player. So it means you have to connect with everybody and play the song. There’s a difference between playing a part and playing a song. People who overplay, where the bass player may not be locking in with the drums or the guitar player isn’t locking in with both of them, it’s about getting rid of that selfish mentally of ‘ok, I’m playing my guitar, everyone else has to follow me’. So that’s one big thing as in the studio you can really tell when that happens.
This is probably a blues thing more so, but another is just simplicity and knowing how to escape your muso type brain! There are so many artists I have worked with who just can’t step out and listen to their song how the Average Joe is going to listen to it and are constantly over evolving and an attitude of nothing is good enough. Also, the importance of your environment, if you are not comfortable in your recording space or with the people you are working with, then you have already lost the battle!
On the subject of recording spaces, where was the EP recorded?
We recorded at a place called Big Jesus Burger where bands like silverchair, Powderfinger, The Presets all recorded. That studio has the environment nutted! If you want to get an old school type sound etc, then that’s where you go!
For any of the guitar heads who may be reading this interview, what guitars are you playing these days?
I’m a Gibson man and happy about it to haha!! I’ve been playing lots of things over the years, I have a 62 Strat, a Tele, but for this stuff, it just wasn’t doing it for me. I’ve never really been a Les Paul Standard person, when you pick it up, it feels a bit cumbersome. But I remember when for Dads 50th, we bought a 355 and when I picked it up I was like ‘home’! It’s great, such an easy guitar to play and as far as the sound it’s got that old rootsy hollow body vibe going on. It’s warm, it cuts, yeah so I am playing an early 80s black 355. The other things I play are Les Paul juniors, but they’re not my main weapons up on stage, that’s the 355 and my SG.
How was playing guitar in Electric Mary last year on their “world tour”!
Yeah that was awesome! We played at the World Cup Soccer and a few festivals too.
One of which was Hellfest wasn’t it?
Now that was an experience..but in the best way ever! I like my metal, but I’ve never been to any festivals like that before. I was just in heaven, Motorhead were killer, I mean a 3 piece, but they just sounded huge! Alice Cooper was great and Slayer! Those festivals are like nothing we really have over here. They are really there for the music…Electric Mary were first band on the main stage and we walked out on stage and we were playing to an empty field, but as soon as we hit that first chord, you should of seen the people just bolting from everywhere!! Within 30 seconds we were playing to a full crowd! It was kind of surreal watching as they were all dressed in black with big boots haha!
So tell me…is Col definitely the loudest drummer you have heard haha?
Haha absolutely he is! That record thing, was back to when I said, ok what are we going to do for genes for jeans day and I said have a look at the record for loudest drummer and we thought that’s not really that loud. He’s not so loud with Nat Col & The Kings as it doesn’t call for it as much, but back in the Skanks days it was all about whacking the shit out of the drums, but I should still be wearing earplugs!
Nathan, thanks for chatting and it looks like It’s shaping up as a great 2011 for you, especially given there is a growing scene here in Australia at the moment for the kind of blues/roots rock you guys are playing…
Thanks man! I’m loving it here too, because for a while there in the late 80’s, early 90’s kind of era, when you said “blues” people would think of people like Robert Cray etc, where blues got to a place of really polished sounds and flat and daggy…which is not the blues I grew up with at all. When I think of blues I think fire and extreme emotion! When you listen to some of these old blues artists they are talking about going down town to shoot and such and such and it was all about emotion in it’s highest. I think that’s where Jack White has done an amazing job in bringing it back to the people in a different way. As you said, yeah it’s good to see the younger bands out there doing the same kind of thing and people are digging it which is great!
Sounds Like: Blues / Roots / Rock
Band: Nathan Cavaleri – Vocals / Guitar, Col Hatchman – Drums
Latest Release: Nat Col & The Kings (EP – Independent Release)