This week, California indie-rockers The Drowning Men released their latest album, All of the Unknown, on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beat Records. We chatted with the band’s lead singer, Nato Bardeen, about his songwriting, the dynamic of the band, their tour experiences, and what’s up with all that facial hair!
Jessica Reed: I read that the band went unnamed for a while until The Drowning Men stuck. What were some of the other names at the top of the list?
Nato Bardeen: We went by the name “Wakeup ” for awhile. I think we even played one show under that name. We quickly realized that name was lame and kept throwing names in the pot. For some strange reason Chilidog (James) kept tossing in names like “Tron Javolta” and “The Winona Riders.” We would laugh, and then tell Chili he’s silly.
JR: Was there a defining moment that made you realize you wanted to make music?
NB: I started singing in a punk band when I was in high school. I loved it. However, I wasn’t a great frontman, I needed to hide behind something, like a guitar. So I taught myself the guitar, and it quickly became a part of me. So if there ever was a defining moment when I decided to write music, it had to be then. But I’ve never told myself that “this is what I want”, it just happens.
JR: Nato, it looks like you handle the songwriting. Do you come into the studio with a finished piece or does everyone contribute to the development of the full track?
NB: We all contribute to the songs. Yes, I do the majority of the songwriting and arrangements of the tune, but I don’t really tell the boys what to do. I’ll give a hint of what I’m hearing and what kind of mood I think we should try to capture, and then I just let them go for it. We’ll jam it for a bit, then we”ll discuss what was cool and what was not cool.
JR: You’re signed with Borstal Beat Records, Flogging Molly’s record label. How did that come about?
NB: Yeah, they’re awesome! We were their opening act on their Green 17 tour a little over a year ago. We heard they were putting their new album Speed of Darkness out on their own label. After, they came to loving our music (live as well as our previous recording). So we became the first band they signed on Borstal Beat Records.
JR: Would you ever want to start your own label and nurture up-and-coming bands?
NB: I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of it before. Maybe in the future. I would love to produce some records in the future… but I dream. Ha!
JR: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
NB: Yeah. Panic. My nerves/confidence really love to torture me at this time.
JR: Craziest experience from the road?
NB: Some drunk driver nailed us in connecticut on route to Boston when we were touring with Airborne Toxic Event. The dude was wasted and all hopped up on government drugs. He totaled our van and our trailer and made me scream like a girl. Some of our gear was destroyed too. We all made it out perfectly fine though. Airborne was kind enough to throw us in their bus until we got another van. I think there were 18 people in that bus at one time.
JR: We tend to inquire about facial hair and there seems to be a lot in this band. Is it hard to upkeep on the road and do you trim down for the summer months?
NB: Yeah it’s weird. We never said “ok, you be the guy with the beard, and I’ll be the dude with the mustache, and you be this, and you be that”. It just happened.
I’ve had my little stache now for like six years. I can’t imagine myself without it. I’m sure the other boys feel the same. Facial hair is the perfect accessory. And I love accessories.
I guess my stache is the one that needs to be kept up a wee bit more than the others. They just let them go. I however, like it just above the lip and just below the nose. Nice and tight.
JR: What’s next for The Drowning Men? Are you going to focus on promoting All of the Unknown for a while or are you already looking forward to the next project?
NB: We will be touring and promoting this new record, All of the Unknown.
I’m always writing tunes. It’s just what I absolutely love to do. I love learning new instruments too. I’m sure I’ve already been working on songs for the next album, without even really knowing it I guess.
– Submitted by Jessica Reed, Social Media