On the Radar - No 212: Natalie Pryce

Natalie Pryce at one of their Nights at the Circus
Natalie Pryce at one of their Nights at the Circus
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What do you expect from a band interview? You might think you’ll hear about a new album, an origin story, or the usual fawning chat about their fans.

A rousing debate, lurching between faith versus science, the merits of ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis, and a spirited discussion into just what is the proper way to chop an onion (I tend to half it, cut the ends off and peel, but then it all starts to fall apart) isn’t usually on the cards. With Natalie Pryce, you’re never going to have a boring evening.

And as with their scintilating conversation, their music is designed to be poured over, examined, given a bit of thought.

“Plenty of people – some of them very talented – make music designed for the audience which is easy to listen to,” says vocalist Mark Swan.

“That’s not what this band is for. What I’m trying to do is create something that you need to invest a bit of time in; it’s not difficult, it just requires a little bit more attention.”

A case in point is their debut, ‘...And Other Tales’ – part funded by an Indiegogo campaign which raised £600. It’s not necessarily an easy listen, but certainly an intriguing one, staggering from drawn out starkness and brooding glimpses into the darkness to downright boogie (‘Tamara’) and soundtracked spoken word.

Listen to the album in full on SoundCloud

It’s an album split down the middle in a separation of feminine and masculine; purpose and drive wrought into every heartwrenching note.

Never fans of an easy life, the band – Mark, guitarist Greg Taylor, bassist Steven Litts and drummer Stephen Coleman – recorded it in a single day, and mixed it the next at Green Door studios.

“When we booked the session, we hadn’t actually planned to do the whole thing,” says Greg. “But we were getting really tight in our performance, and once we had the idea, it just seemed like the natural thing to do.”

“We’ve all recorded with previous bands and usually a day is barely enough to do one song,” Mark adds. “Everyone said it wasn’t going to happen, it couldn’t be done.

“And it was certainly stressful – there was a point I remember Stephen was fiddling with something on his drumkit, and I was shouting, ‘It’s got to be right!’ at him. But my own personal opinion was that it needed to have that energy. One of my big regrets from previous bands is that, because the recording process is so laborious, you start to lose the spirit of the songs.”

Energy is also a key component in the band’s live shows. Not content with a standard gig set-up, they’re liable to introduce more theatrical elements – from visuals to guest poets, burlesque artists and dancers at their ‘Night at the Circus’ events.

“We put everything into it, we’ve done shows where there were only three people in the crowd, and it doesn’t mean any less,” says Mark. “We don’t ever want people to think we’re just going through the motions.”

That eternal bugbear of the gig experience – people chatting during songs – can even be a strength in the right hands.

“I find myself actually being fueled by it when I’m playing,” says Stephen. “There’s one song we do which has a kind of dirge section where I’m just pounding the drums, so I use that to focus, even stare at the people talking and create something more intense.”

“I’d rather people left the room if they’re not into it,” Mark adds. “We’re trying to challenge people, so they need to pay attention. The people who are really watching, who’re there at the end, are the ones we want.”

• Natalie Pryce launched their album, ‘…And Other Tales’ this week. The band next plays at Stereo, Glasgow on October 18. More info at nataliepryce.co.uk

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