Nat James Rufus

Nat James Rufus

Nat James Rufus - Nat James Rufus

  • February 26th, 2021
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After years working with his brother on The Blacklist Royals and The Bad Signs, Nat James Rufus is branching off on his own with his debut solo album, “Goes Solow.” We chatted with him to find the low down on the album, his love of surf rock and the uniqueness of doing an instrumental album.

Read the interview below and listen to the new album here


I’ll start with the simple question – why the added “w” in solo for “Goes Solow”?

The song’s about depression. The original version had lyrics and was going to feature Jordinaires style backup singers, no musical accompaniment at all. When Covid shut the world down that became impossible, so I worked it out on guitar. “I go so low, thought I’d been down, what did I know…”

Can you give us a brief history of how the idea to do the solo album came about?

Guitar rock has always been a favorite genre of mine, I grew up on Taratino films, so those soundtracks were also the soundtrack to my life, and a big influence on The Bad Signs. I was standing outside Exit/In when I heard Dick Dale died, and I had the idea.

Nat James Rufus - Goes SolowWhy the cassette release? With the resurgence of vinyl, what made you release it in the even rarer medium?

Originally the EP was supposed to be a Cassette Store Day 2020 release, which was canceled.

What are some of your favourite cassette releases that you have?

Dick Dale “Better Shred Than Dead” 2 Tape Set

With streaming become so ambiguous with music these days and the proliferation of digital albums – is there something special about releasing physical media? Does the physicalness of a cassette/vinyl/cd add anything extra to the listening experience for you?

Something physical is very important to me. You can stream/download the EP for free, I’m not even trying on that front. Purchasing something physical in today’s world validates it as art.

The album, Goes Solow, is about the listening experience. It’s meant for the listener to let go and listen to the instruments – what led you to do a fully instrumental solo album?

It seemed more challenging to write an instrumental that wasn’t boring – Sleepwalk, Miserlou, Rumble, these are great fucking songs, classics, no lyrics needed. It was also a way to incorporate beat poetry/spoken word into a musical project. Anything written with or for a band is a collaborative effort, even if it’s done alone. Picking up an acoustic guitar and singing a song I could be using for one of our bands felt like cheating, and stale.

 It’s also a slightly different style than your work in Blacklist Royals, but more akin to The Bad Signs – what has led you into this surf rock soundscape?

Guitar solos never interested me generally, I intentionally never learned sweeps, tapping, etc. As The Bad Signs progressed our sound, I needed to expand my playing to match what we were trying to do stylistically, so the surf rock classics were my instruction manual. 

What was the hardest part about teaching yourself surf rock?

Taking the time to suck at something.

You mention that the death of Dick Dale was an influence and inspiration to branch into this style – can you expand on that?

I’ve been seeing the term “surf” used to describe bands for the last few years, and every time I check them out, and every time they’re just kind’ve – emo? I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not surf. I once heard Buddy Guy say he kept playing to keep the tradition of the blues alive, so it’s about that.

Why do you think surf rock killed Dick Dale?

Dick Dale lived with tigers, and no one who’s heard his music would have trouble believing it.  Since we’re talking him right now, did anything kill Dick Dale?

 For live performances, you mentioned you’ll be doing beat-poetry and lyric-version of the songs – why do the alternate versions live?

It’s more punk that way.

One thing that I’ve always loved about live concerts is screaming the words back at the singer, if you’re doing lyrics for live only, no one will know the lyrics beforehand. Do you feel that will bring a different element to the live performance where people can’t sing along with you?

A stomp and a clap go a lonnnnggggg way.

Do you plan to always perform solo or would you have guest singers/poets come and perform with you?

That’d be awesome, anything is on the table at this point.

Do you have ideas for the words that will accompany these songs or is that something you plan to contemplate later?

The poems on the tape were written after the songs, just raps inspired by the titles. I’m hoping to put a poetry zine out late this year.

Nat James RufusOf course, going back many years – Die Young To Me was such a personal release detailing Rob’s fight with cancer. Was it kind of nice doing the opposite here and not relying on any words to get the emotion across?

Exactly!

It’s been almost four years since Model Citizen came out, almost seven years since Die Young With Me. Do you have any plans for a new Blacklist Royals album anytime soon or is that on the back burner?

We have a new Blacklist Royals EP coming out next month!

Rob has also been busy writing with his second novel, The Vinyl Underground, coming out last year. Obviously the two of you have always been highly creative and have never been afraid to explore different avenues of expression – what is it that drives the two of you to continually be doing new creative adventures?

Honestly, failure has been a huge motivator to switch things up over the years. Also, some things are better expressed in a song, some in a book, some with words, some without, etc.

What was it in the Rufus household that fostered such support and inspiration for the arts?

Our bands always practiced at the Rufus house when we were kids, even though my parents hated punk. That says it all.

Of course, twins (or siblings) in punk bands isn’t totally unheard off. The Interrupters, Good Charlotte, Tegan and Sara, Every Time I Die, My Chemical Romance, Title Fight. What advice do you have for siblings trying to start a band together?

You always have a bandmate!

This would be more of a question for Rob but I feel the need to ask you. As I’m in the film industry here in Vancouver and currently pitching a few scripts to a few companies – how is the Netflix adaptation of Die Young With Me with Emil Nava going?

I don’t have many details but the Die Young With Me movie adaptation will be great and Emil is a very cool dude, we hung out with him in Rob and I’s hometown of Huntington, WV a few months back and I think it blew his mind – full Deliverance country baby!

Finally – anything you’d like to add?

Thank you and your readers for keeping punk alive in square world.