Nai Harvest Like The Fact Hairball Sounds Kinda Weird

Before their gig at Dalston’s Birthdays, we sat with Sheffield two-piece Nai Harvest to chat about what it’s like being a duo, apparently they’re like an old married couple sometimes. We also compare their debut album ‘Hairball’ to something they just had to get out of their mouths. That wasn’t sick. Interesting.

Nai Harvest have just finished their celebratory album tour, but don’t worry, they’re gracing the beaches of Brighton this May for The Great Escape Festival. 

So you guys met a couple years in Sheffield?

Ben: About three years ago.
Lew: Three or four years ago.
Ben: We knew each other for a year before we started the band. Best friends.

What made you want to start a band?

Ben: Boredom. Lew came to uni in Sheffield and I was already there. He was in another band I was friends with, then we ended up starting this band together just got something to do. Little bit of an escape I guess is how it always is.

The best things come from boredom.

So tour started yesterday… What’s been the best thing so far? [Laughs]. 

Ben: What was the best bit of yesterday? It’s really nice to be on tour with Best Friends because they are actually our best friends. They live in Sheffield, Lew’s lived in various houses with them, and we see them every week, every day. They’re like our actually bros from home so it’s nice to go on tour with them. We’ve played so many shows with them over the last couple of years, we’ve never actually been in a van together so it’s the first time we’re all in a van together for nine days in a row which is gonna be really fun. It’s nice to be with your mates on a tour.
Lew: Yeah, yeah.

Are you going to get cabin fever?

Lew: Naah.
Ben: We’ll be fine. Cardiff was really cool yesterday, its our first ever headline tour so we didn’t expect what we got yesterday which was really good.

Didn’t charlotte church turn up?

Ben: Yeah, she did.
Lew: I don’t know if she was actually there for the show.
Ben: She wasn’t there for the show but she was hanging out.
Lew: Her drummer was in a band upstairs, she came down to use the toilet,

Someone was like, “charlotte church just went to the toilet” and everyone was like “what the fuck”. Then she came out and she was singing. She didn’t have shoes on either.

Ben: We’d like to mention, Charlotte if you watched us, we really hope you enjoyed it. She probably didn’t.

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The debut album comes out at the end of this month, 28th. How have you been building up to it? 

Ben: We started writing it probably like 8 months ago, I guess. Wrote it all in about six months, we were on tour quite a lot of the time but we were writing it between touring and sound checks and just in the van working things out. It was kind of like an on the road record, which is nice, different.

I think that’s why the record sounds like it does, because of the way we wrote it quite quickly on the road, they’re all quite fast which was an influence on the record.

In terms of building up to it, it’s been in the works for like a year because the record label was talking to us about way before we even started writing out. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had a couple singles out and now it’s finally coming out at the end of the month. And this tour is to celebrate it. It’s been a year in the making of emails and talks and then writing it and recording it and touring it a little bit in America then touring it here now. It’s been a while. All the songs feel a little bit old now, which is weird.
Lew: Yeah.
Ben: We’ve been playing them for like a year so some of them feel old.

What’s your favourite to play off the new album?

Lew: For me it’s ‘Dive In’. It’s one of the album tracks.
Ben: I like ‘All The Time’, which was our second single, because it’s really easy on guitar. [Laughs].

Do you think there’s more of a scope now for two member bands?

Ben: I guess so.
Lew: I think it was more last year.
Ben: Last year was a big two-piece year.

We never did it because we wanted to be a two-piece band, and we did it because we didn’t know anyone else to be in our band.

We were like, “we get on”. We tried a couple of bassists when we first started, before we really put anything out there or did any gigs. But it just didn’t really work.

We felt it was better as the two of us and we spent the last couple of years figuring out how to be a two-piece and not sound like shit.

It’s quite difficult to make it sound like there’s quite a lot of people, imitating that real band feel with just two people. It’s easy to write songs but it’s harder how to make them sound good. When you’ve got a bass, drums, two guitars, singer, it’s easier because everyone’s playing their own thing. With us, we play one thing each and we have to make it as interesting enough as we can for people not to be like “this is just boring because it’s just two people”.

Well it’s obviously working.

Ben: Hopefully.

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Is the album called ‘Hairball’ because it was something you needed to get out of your mouth?

[Laughs].
Lew: I like that.
Ben: That’s probably better than we would’ve put it. So yeah.
Lew: Yeah.
Ben: It’s called ‘Hairball’ because it was a polite way of saying we’re throwing up all this stuff, not necessarily being sick, but we wrote it all really quickly, we were on tour a lot of the time, it was a fast pace record anyway. Our previous material; is a little more laid back and this has taken more of a punk route so ‘Hairball’ just felt like it fitted quite well with the intensity of it and the fact that it’s a 35 minute record but it feels like it’s over and done with very quickly because of how fast all the songs are. It was an appropriate title. It was an idea that we’d been throwing around for a while and we finally got to use it for something.
Lew: I started this other band a year or so ago with a couple of my friends, we ended up doing this band called Hairball. It was a few weeks, a couple of practices and then it was over. But I always wanted to use the name.
Ben: Then when we wrote the songs, Lew already had ‘Hairball’ in his head and then we sat down and Lew just said “Hairball” and I was like, that works. It happened half way through the record, we wrote half the songs then named it then wrote the rest of the songs knowing it was going to be called ‘Hairball’. Half we had no idea what it would be called, we finished the other half knowing ‘Hairball’ was going to be the theme.

You know when you say a word so many times it starts to sound weird? Hairball is doing that right now.

Ben: I also kind of like the fact it sounds weird.

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What’s the best thing about playing live as a two-piece? 

Ben: It’s that vibe. It’s when we look at each other sometimes.
Lew: I haven’t played in anything else in a long time.
Ben: It kind of feels normal. Playing in a band with more people would feel weird now.
Lew: More chance to go wrong.
Ben: The best thing about it is that we both completely trust each other and we’re not going to fuck up. If you’re in a band with like four or five people, there’s always one person that doesn’t do anything. We rely on each other quite a lot, and we write our own parts, there isn’t one guy who slacks off and doesn’t write anything then comes to practice and goes, “I don’t know what I’m doing”.

Live is really fun because it’s just the two of us, it feels like an old married couple type of thing. We look at each other and go [smiles]. We just know. It’s that little moment [laughs].

What would you say to any other new bands? For anyone else trying to get their music out there?

Ben: We kind of fucked our band up loads at the beginning.

Lew: I believe in putting in the graft. Just play any shows you can and do whatever you want. If people like it they like it, if they don’t they don’t.

Ben: We started our band with no real intention of doing anything, just played a bunch of local shows, got offered a couple of shows in London. We were like, “this is cool”, and this was two and a half years ago. We worked really hard to be where we are, and now it comes a little bit easier. We know a lot of bands who have not put as much effort in as us and has just got a manager and PR people straight away and they’ve blown up. It feels like you should always put that work in because putting that graft in makes you a band that has a bit more ground. You can all be a one-year hype band and get a hotshot manager who knows everyone in Shoreditch and get you all these shows, but in a year time no ones going to care about you anymore. We know so many bands like that who did a really good one single and the album was shit.

You can’t live up to the hype.

Lew: They didn’t even have the time to develop.
Ben: We spent a good two years changing our music.
Lew: Experimenting.
Ben: Seeing what worked and what didn’t.

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What was your weirdest experiment?

Ben: I don’t know. This album. ‘Hairball’ has been our weirdest experiment, but it seems to have paid off the most. All our other stuff is a little more radio-friendly, or normal, this is a weirder album and I think people have responded to it quite well. People who have even followed us from the begin have seen the transition, but even people who have only just heard of us now, it’s really nice. We were a bit nervous thinking it might be a bit mad for everyone, a bit out there, but I guess that’s what you have to do these days because being in a band is not a special thing anymore. Everyone is in a band.

Everyone who goes to uni starts a band at some point, I think the weirder you are and the more you don’t give a shit about how you perceive yourself, the more recognition you get for just being yourself and writing a weird record.

And if you think it’s cool then other people are going to think it’s cool. The more confidence you have in yourself, more people respond to confidence.

Everyone at uni is in a band though.

Ben: Everyone’s in a band. Everyone. Being in a band isn’t necessarily cool, to your Mum and Dad it’s really cool, but anyone who goes to uni you realise everyone is in a band.

To stand out you have to do something that is a little bit apart from the flock, don’t just do another boring indie-pop band that sounds like every other boring indie-pop band in London, or wherever right now.

If you do something a little different, a little bit weird, a little genre changing, we take influence from a bunch of things. Some people call us an indie band, some people call us a punk band, and we have a lot of different strands.

It’s better to not be pigeonholed into one genre.

Ben: Being pin holed is the worst thing you can do. If you’re just an indie-pop band that plays with indie-pop bands forever then you’ll always be known as that band and you’ll only reach a small amount of people. We’ve tried, not even tried, it’s just happened that we’ve got so many influences, we like so many different types of music that’s come into one. Punk kids like our music, NME kids, a bunch of different scenes, which is nice.

It was something that wasn’t intentional, but we see it now. When we play shows we see people dress differently, it’s kind of nice that there’s not just one crowd of people that come to our shows, various crowds come over.

Obviously your touring with Best Friends now, have you got any other bands you’d like to tour with or play with?

Ben: They’re not that knew, but Black Tambourine are amazing from Falmouth. I really got into Alex G recently, he’s from Philadelphia, he’s a solo artist but he has a band behind him and hopefully we’ve been trying to sort some things out.
Lew: I don’t really know any new bands.
Ben: That band Hooton Tennis Club are really cool. They’re near where I live in Manchester, they’re really cool. They’ve only put a single out, I literally listened to it for the first time last week and I was like, “why have I never heard this band?” and I realised they’ve only been around for not very long. Alvvays are really good, I’ve seen them recently. It’s hard, there are so many good bands. We cant say who we’re going to tour with, its wishful thinking isn’t it? We have a lot of great friends who are in really good bands who are supporting us along this tour, like Best Friends, Radical Boy from Sheffield, Play Lounge are great, Black Tambourines are great, Night Flowers who are playing tonight are awesome. These are all our friends’ bands that we love and will always play shows with.

Where are you most looking forward to? 

Lew: Sheffield.
Ben: Tonight and hometown.

The London show is pretty early on tour. 

Ben: We love playing London; I don’t think we’ve played a bad show here, I think that’s the nature of London.
Lew: So many people.
Ben: I know there are two other gigs happening tonight as well, but I don’t think it’ll affect our show just because of how many people there are. Sheffield is obviously going to be great, hometown show, obviously Best Friends are from Sheffield as well so it’ll be a bit of a blowout, a big party. And Manchester, the second home. I think those three will be the best shows.

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Would you rather cereal or toast?

Lew: Cereal.
Ben: Toast. I don’t get cereal. That London Cereal Café is fucking stupid. On the record, it’s so dumb. Why would you leave your house to get cereal? Fuck that dude. I want a full English or beans on toast. I barely even have time to eat breakfast let alone go somewhere to sit down and have a coffee and some cereal.

What you rather be a girl for a day or be a kid for a day?

Lew: It’s got to be a kid hasn’t it, you can just do whatever you want.
Ben: If we were girls of the same age as us assumedly, I’d rather be a kid.
Lew: Being a girl isn’t different.

Ben: I’d just be a 23 year old walking round for the day, I guess id get to wear a dress which id probably like.

Lew: That’d be cool.
Ben: We’d look good in dresses. But I’d like to be a kid because you’d get Mummy to cook you fish fingers then you get to go nursery and fuck around the sand pit.
Lew: Sick.

Would you rather have your family read your Internet history or be secretly filmed whilst home alone?

Ben: Oh my god.
Lew: Definitely filmed.
Ben: Secretly filmed whilst I was home, because all I do is watch TV. Nothing incriminating. I don’t know about my Internet history.
Lew: It’s probably sketchy just because…
Ben: I don’t know if my Mum would appreciate it. What about you, what would you rather?

Definitely filmed. And it’s like when you’re ill and you search on the Internet, “am I dying?”

Would you rather always say everything on your mind or never talk?

Ben: Always say everything on my mind. I always do that anyway.
Lew: I’d definitely never talk. But I hardly talk anyway. We’re opposites in that.
Ben: We’re ying and yang I think, this is why we work. We balance each other out quite well.