By Georgina Langford

Forget the entire concept of the introvert emo musician stereotype: Nai Harvest are a band who want to have a go. At their EP release show in Brighton, Ben and Lew shared their (strong) opinions with Punktastic on why they’ll never be a fad band, why CDs are pointless, why singing about love might not be a bad thing and how it feels to have their names on the Hit The Deck lineup, just three lines below Brand New.

So, it’s RIP to ‘twinkly’ emo from Nai Harvest. We presume you are feeling happy with the response to your change in sound?

Lew: Definitely. It’s not that we hate twiddly music, it’s just that we’d done that and it was time for the next thing.
Ben: Also we got pinned into that whole ‘UK twinkly emo’ thing, with every other band doing that kind of thing and I didn’t really like that. It’s not like we did it first, but when we started, there were only a couple of other UK bands doing that, like Well Wisher and some others and then it started to grow. After that we got lumped in with bands that we didn’t really like. That didn’t influence our change of sound though, that would have happened anyway, but that [pigeonholing] happening gave us the push to think ‘maybe we should be doing something different…’.

That’s fair enough – even though things are going well for Nai Harvest, you are still a relatively new band, so it makes sense that you are still experimenting and finding your own way. You’ve also talked about not wanting to be known as a ‘trendy’ band; is that something that you see a lot of and want to avoid?

Lew: It’s not so much trendy, it’s just we don’t want to be a fad band, around for one year before everyone forgets about you.
Ben: You see people raving about a band and then straight away they are on to the next new big thing; the last thing I want is for us to put this EP out this year and everyone to want a piece of us, and then next year everyone’s moved on. I don’t want to have to chase fads, I don’t want to set fads, I just want to be there in something that is a little bit more timeless.

Because what you’ve described is essentially the music industry in 2014, what do you think is the secret to avoid falling into that trendy trap?

Lew: It’s not just about music, it’s not just about the look of the band, what shows you play – it all factors in.
Ben: Since December, when the whole ‘new’ Nai Harvest thing came out, I’ve learned that it’s not just about the music anymore. Coming from such a punk background, for the last two years we would play any show that anyone gave us; in anyone’s basement, for any amount of money, with any bands – we didn’t really care, we just wanted to play shows. Now we have to be more selective because it makes a huge difference who you play with. We never even did many interviews before; recently we’ve been doing loads, but before we didn’t know what to say. It’s sad and annoying to have to learn that the music industry is only fifty percent about the music, but it’s also important to learn that.

How are you getting on with your next full length?

Ben: We are about two songs in to the ten we need for our album. We’ve set aside a week in April to just write.
Lew: I’m not worried about it being perceived as ‘good’ because it’s going to be so different to our first album. It’s important for us for it to sound different, to keep changing things.
Ben: Even these two new songs, which we’ve written since ‘Hold Open My Head’, they still have a fuzzy, emo thing on the backburner, but we’ve also pushed them a little bit further. We’ve got a little bit cleverer about doing this: ‘Hold Open My Head’ was the first four songs of our new sound, and we were so happy that everyone took it on board so well, but already, these new songs we are writing, I’m wishing we had them on that 7”, because they are better. We are getting more confident about doing ‘verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge’ without having to add any like, mad bits, in like we used to think we had to. You don’t NEED a big drum fill here, a weird guitar bit there, you just don’t. A catchy chorus, that’s all.

Save the crazy stuff for the live shows. If you have that solid song structure in place…

Ben:…then you can fuck with it!
Lew: The crazy bits are so hard to play [sighs]. We can’t play the old stuff anymore…
Ben: No, we can [laughs]. I can’t always remember how to, like I can’t play ‘You’re Not That Boring’; I have to sit down and listen to it to practise.

That’s ok. Taking Back Sunday recently told Punktastic that they still have to practise songs from ‘Tell All Your Friends’.

Ben: Oh my god. That is the best album.

On a different topic: you flagged up an article by Steven Ansell of Blood Red Shoes, arguing that music is a passive experience. Is that something that you have witnessed first hand?

Ben: I saw that because Gnarwolves posted it on Facebook, actually. I used to love Blood Red Shoes, so I read it and thought what he had to say was so true. On Tumblr, we get asked to play Scunthorpe, Grimbsy and places like that, and no offence to those places, but I just think, why don’t you just get on a train, have a day out, go to a city where we are playing, have some food out, get to see us at a show where there will be a couple of hundred people in the crowd, and a much better atmosphere, rather than waiting for us to play in your village with twelve people watching. The only thing I disagreed with Steven on was the download thing; we believe in free downloads – when people ask us for CDs at the merch stand, I just say download the songs and burn a CD, write Nai Harvest on it. What’s the point of CDs? It’s a waste of our money and the record label’s money. Anyway, I just liked the article and I was pleased to see Blood Red Shoes were back, making a good point. Basically I just like it when bands have a go. A bit like I am doing now.

Alright, calm down Noel Gallagher.

Ben: Haha – it’s weird though, how people listen to what WE have to say, just because we are in a band. Our opinions are no more valid than somebody else’s; we’re as thick as everybody else walking around the streets, but people listen to us because we are in a band. Which is what I think is so cool about music; as well as writing songs and playing gigs, you can get a point across too, whether it’s about sexism or homophobia or racism, and kids will actually take it on board.

If you’ve got a guitar in your hands, people will pay attention. Getting back to your own music, we know you’ve been recording these new songs and working on the album – due in the summer next year.

Ben: The new songs are the single ‘Buttercup’ and our Teenage Fanclub cover; just to bridge the gap so that it’s not like we are not putting anything out for ten months. We’d never done a cover before, so that was really nice; we got our friend Alana from Yuck to do some vocals and she did a really good job. We’d never collaborated with anyone either, so that was fun too!

You described the new songs as for people who enjoyed ‘indie, Britain and the 90s’. What do those three things mean to you?

Ben: Indie: Fender Stratocasters. Britain: fish and chips. The 90s: Friends!
Lew: Britain: rain. Indie: pointy shoes! The 90s: Home videos, VHS tapes.

We know you are massive Twin Peaks fans, but what else is inspiring you at the moment?

Ben: This is really weird for me to say, but I never used to write any Nai Harvest songs about love, or girls or whatever. I’ve never felt comfortable with saying the word ‘love’ in songs. In ‘Hold Open My Head’ I say “Everything I love is dead” and in the new song ‘Buttercup’ there is the lyric “Why won’t you take my love?”. I’ve always felt it was cheesy to say ‘love’, because everyone does it, but I am coming round to the idea. I don’t have a girlfriend and I’m not in love with someone, but I do like to fantasise. I’m not even writing about anything to do with me specifically, I just try to be emotional about either things that have happened to other people I know or just things that are my fantasy.

It’s the ‘romantic’ era of Nai Harvest, then.

Ben: Yeah, but it’s more about what ifs: what if I hadn’t gone to art school, or I hadn’t gone on that date with someone. ‘Hold Open My Head’ was mainly about how I pictured my life if I hadn’t dated a certain girl; what would I have done instead? I used to visit a girlfriend in Glasgow, so sitting on the train from Manchester to Scotland every other weekend, I will always wonder what I would have done if I hadn’t done that.

Finally, Hit The Deck is coming up. It must have been an amazing feeling to see your name on the same poster as Brand New and Saves The Day?

Ben: Oh my god, I was at uni that day and had to run out of a lecture to ring Lew – I pretended I needed the toilet and I just rang him and said “I’ve just got an email from Anna [Nai Harvest’s booking agent] and she’s only gone and bloody done it!” Saves The Day’s ‘Through Being Cool’ is my favourite album of all time, so this is a massive thing for me. Saves The Day is the music that got me into skateboarding and punk. I never would have found Black Flag if it wasn’t for starting with Saves The Day. My best friend Danny is the biggest Brand New fan, like, in awe of Jesse Lacey, so when I told him we were playing with them, he was like, “Bullshit. Pics or it didn’t happen.”


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]