Introducing must-hear indie pop artist Nat Vazer — Sungenre Interview

Introducing must-hear indie pop artist Nat Vazer

Nat Vazer is a rising singer-songwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Her debut album Is This Offensive And Loud? will be released on May 29.

A lot of people say that the debut album takes about 10 years to write. And then with the second album, you’ve got a year and a half to punch something out. Has it always been a goal for you to write an album? How did it come about?
I guess when I was younger, it was always a dream of mine to write an album. But when I wrote this one – a lot of these songs I wrote in 2018 – I didn’t expect it to sort of come together as an album. I initially thought this was probably going to just be another EP. And then eventually, I guess once all the songs were written, it sorta just all made sense that they all kind of fit in together in one collection. So it’s all just stories and from a certain period in my life. It all kind of came together unexpectedly and everything was working really well in the studio and we thought, you know, “Why not record these few more songs?” and yeah, it just kinda turned into an album accidentally.

Is it important for you that all the songs have a common thread or a theme or from a certain period? Do you think albums need to have that?
I don’t think so. This is just my personal view, but I don’t think people should confine the creativity in that way. I think it can be very limiting. Sometimes I don’t think albums necessarily have to have that. If you’re just setting out to write a concept album, maybe that’s a bit different, but I think yeah, it can be whatever you want. And in this case there wasn’t a really unifying theme except for maybe just me, just what I was going through, you know, just experiences and emotions and stories from a period of my life I guess.

What are some of your favourite albums?
Uh, so many (laughs).

Do you think there is a specific reason for them being your favourites? Is it because of a time in your life that you first listened to them or is there something about those albums that make them superior?
Different reasons I guess, for different albums. But yeah, like I grew up listening to a lot of the records that my dad would put on or my uncle would lend me. So I listened to a bit of The Beatles, Abbey Road (1969) was my favourite. Um, just like a lot of indie during high school, like The Strokes and Death Cab For Cutie was a big one when they released Transatlanticism (2003). I guess that really was sort of my gateway into indie music in a way. I guess… yeah, it was just a fun time in my life. Like in high school, everything’s sort of new and novel and exciting. And there were the bands like you know, Radiohead, Nirvana as well. Those were the bands that sort of got me playing guitar. My earliest memories of learning the guitar were tied to those albums. So I guess those have such a special place in my heart cos of the way I was introduced to them and the way that they’ve influenced my musical development. And then I guess more lately, I don’t know, just any albums that sort of spark a lot of creative ideas that I can’t quite pinpoint why, but I just find them. Just really anything just sort of fascinates me and excites me. It sort of fuels me as an artist.

Do you think your album might be doing that for some new listener out there? Do you think you’ve created something that will spark some sort of indie revolution in some kid’s heart?
Um, I hope so. I don’t know. But yeah, it’d be great if some kid sort of picked it up and started learning some guitar riff and that kind of perpetuates into some other thing. That would be – that’s a nice thought.

Do you think about that? When you’re writing songs and recording them, do you wonder if it’s going to have an impact on someone else? Or do you write them purely as a thing for yourself?
Um, I think the latter, definitely. I’d say, yeah, all the songs I write, I write for myself. And maybe incidentally it might inspire other people, but that’s not the goal and that’s not the intention. Everything I write, I write for myself for personal reasons and for personal expression, for self-expression.

And how does that play into, I guess, the commercialism of music? When you can make these songs, you’ve recorded them, you like how they sound, you’ve said these things that you want to get out. Do you feel any pressure to then go and package it, put a brand on it and sell it?
To be honest, I don’t really think a lot about that sort of stuff. I’m just more excited about the art side of things. I leave that mostly to my label manager and publicist. I mean, I don’t feel a lot of pressure doing that. I feel like once I’ve written it, I’ve written it and however it’s released it’ll just snake its way out there, I guess. I mean, I try to get it out through the right avenue so that more people can hear the work, but it’s not really the priority in my head, I guess… It’s stuff that I probably should probably think of a bit more to take a bit more of a hands on approach to, to running the music project, but yeah, just I guess more recently I’ve been getting a bit more into that. But usually I think like there’s just so much already in that creative process that’s keeping me busy, it’s hard to be on top of it all. And I feel like that pressure can be really overwhelming for people sometimes. And for me, I think it can be too. If I let that sort of pressure of having to sell and worrying about packaging… I don’t write with an intention of, “Oh, you know, this could be this really great single that could be released at this time to coincide with this event and should be released through these avenues” or anything like that. That’s something I would maybe consider a lot further down the path once it’s ready to release. But even so, it’s not something that excites me a lot.

Would you have liked to have recorded this album any differently? Say for example you had more finances and time and all that sort of stuff, would you have approached your debut differently?
To be honest, probably not, simply because I think with things like time and money, there’s always going to be issues. There’s never really a perfect time to release an album. I’ve never found I’ve ever been quite in that financial position to do things perfectly. So I think it was just really great timing. Things came together. I found all the band members when I came back from Canada, I wrote all these songs when I was living up there for a while. And it was just purely just, you know, cos I had the time off. I had just quit my nine-to-five job in Melbourne and went to live in North America for a while. And so I guess just being away from home, away from the distractions of everyday life allowed me to focus on that… I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently in terms of recording either. I was just really lucky that my producer, Rob Muinos, who is from Saskwatch, he had just started his own studio at the time. He just had set it up like months before. It’s in a guitar shop in Collingwood, it’s just a little room. He doesn’t even really call it a studio. It’s just a room with his gear. We use it when the shop’s open, but it’s just upstairs above a guitar shop. And at nighttime the whole shop’s closed, so we get the whole warehouse to ourselves… The whole band went in there and we all kind of did it in the one room, which is really weird cos it’s not your traditional kind of studio setup. I really liked it being like that because that wasn’t how I envisioned the whole album being recorded. Well, I guess being in there all together in one room, live tracking was just such a great experience. And you know, like no isolated booths. We were all in there feeling each other’s – it was just like this collective energy that you could feel in there and everyone was just connecting through that mutual vibe. And it was like this Beatles-style kind of – all the tracking was done just live and together, in the same room. And if someone fucked up, we’d have to do it all over again.

I used to be a full time lawyer and I’m no longer that now… it’s been challenging in some ways not working full time.

You were saying that being in a new city and being away from home was able to fuel you creatively. How do you fuel yourself when you’re not escaping Melbourne and living in North America?
I feel the circumstances have changed a lot now. I used to be a full time lawyer and I’m no longer that now. So coming back to Melbourne has been different. It’s been challenging in some ways not working full time, but it’s been a really, really good transition. And yeah, I feel differently about it now. I feel excited to be here. I think it’s one of the music capitals of the world and it’s just a really amazing community… I wasn’t as excited before I went to Canada, just simply because my memories and experiences of being here was all tied to that really stressful job. But I love being here. I think there’s inspiration around every corner. Even in the littlest things. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Well speaking of escaping, we’re all in lockdown and isolation now. Maybe there’s a whole lot of creative people who are escaping life to some degree, but unintentionally. How do you think that’s gonna play out when lockdown’s over? Do you think there’s going to be a massive outpouring of creativity, or do you think people will just be in shock?
I hope there’ll be a huge outpouring of creativity. I mean like, people being in isolation, being alone, having time to reflect, to regain your mental clarity, that hopefully does something to people. I think being in isolation was a chance to kind of reset, for the world to be able to get away from, you know, like people no longer needed to be somewhere at some time and had so much information all the time, every day, just in your face, just, you know, so much incoming into your brain kind of thing. Sorry, that sounds really vague. But I think yeah, being able to be alone and have time and space for yourself is always a really, really good thing. And I think that’s where some of the best creative works come from.

Do you think there’s added pressure on musicians right now, during isolation? A lot of people talk in terms of “You’ve got all this free time, you can write that album that you’ve been meaning to”. I was talking to someone recently who was saying that during a crisis you can’t do anything. It’s not until afterwards when everything’s fine again, that you can reflect on what’s happened. What are your thoughts?
For me personally, I’m so busy rolling out this album that I haven’t really had much time to think about that or write. But when [the pandemic] first hit, I started writing straight away. There was just so much I felt like I wanted to say about it, but obviously, yeah, just not the right time and then all the sort of album prep got in the way.

It’s just been a really shit time for musicians… This industry was like the first to go down, probably the last to recover as well.

Yeah, that’s great. It’s all stuff for album number two.
(Laughs) maybe. But I’ll have time to reflect on that later on and determine that and see if it’s just all a crock of shit (laughs). But yeah. I think, yeah, you’re right. A lot of people probably will feel that pressure, but probably shouldn’t give in to that or feel like they need to write just because it sounds like an ideal time. But maybe something will come out of it later… It’s just been a really shit time for musicians as well. This industry was like the first to go down, probably the last to recover as well. Artists are going through a shit time, I dunno if a lot of people are in a good head space to write and to do creative things. Not that you necessarily have to be, but when you’re just like worrying about whether you have bread and toilet paper for the next week, writing a song may not necessarily be the first thing that comes to mind.

How do you think the music scene will change when this is all over? Do you think it will change? Do you think everyone will just go back to how it was before and be like, “Oh, hallelujah, we can go back to The Tote again,” or do you think there’ll be some major changes?
I really hope that it’s not going to be like the way it was before, in the sense that I hope that people don’t take the art and music community for granted. I think, I hope – I’m not really sure because of the international border situation. If international artists aren’t going to be coming here anytime soon, I think that’s a chance for the Australian music scene to really revive and I think it’s up to the fans and the industry people to drive that as well. So I think there’s potential for that change. Depending on how the situation rolls out, like with the international borders and stuff, if the Michael Gudinskis and the Michael Chuggs of the country step up their game – and it would be probably in their best interests now to just reinvest in that scene and bring it back to the days of like The Angels, where the Aussie scene was bustling, was growing, people were really coming out, really supporting that… I hope it comes back stronger than ever. And I hope a lot of these venues, just survive this crazy time, long enough to see artists come back to the stage. Hopefully they’ll still be able to keep trading.

Yeah, it’s really uncertain. Do you think you’ve changed much during isolation or have things just been the same for you?
I think things have largely been the same, just because I’ve been so preoccupied with all these livestream gigs and just rolling out this album.

How’s the live streaming going? You’ve done quite a few of them now, haven’t you?
Yeah, I’m really enjoying them. I didn’t think I would before this whole iso thing. I probably would have never considered doing one just cos, you know, the convenience of just walking down the street and going to Northcote Social Club or just like, you know, booking a gig at The Tote or something like that would have been – you need to get that face to face and the live energy and all that. I just didn’t really think live streaming was a thing. And also I guess I was a bit skeptical about it and I was like, “Who’s gonna tune in really, like what if you do a set and there’s just no one there, there’s just one viewer and it’s really awkward.” And it’s awkward enough because there’s no one in the room, you’re just like filming yourself and you have to talk a lot more between songs to get that engagement up I feel. So it’s been really weird but it’s been really good.

Okay, last question. We always ask this. If you could collaborate with any artist in any medium, who would it be and what would you create?
Oh, it’s weird because I don’t know about like, people who have passed away. There’s so many to choose from. So I often tell people that if I had to collaborate with anyone it would probably be – I don’t know, I can’t really choose between these two…

Oh, they can all be in the room together. It’s fine.
Cool. I love this (laughs). Um, well I like the idea of collabing with artists that have a very distinct style and have sort of traversed a lot of different genres as indie musicians. So I was thinking someone like Will Toledo from Car Seat Headrest or Marika Hackman. I’m a fan of both of them and I guess Will Toledo from Car Seat Headrest has been quite influential in my songwriting and approach to recording my first EP. And just because I think we have like a similar love for really old sounds and old gear and that kind of DIY ethic… and I think he’s just got a really amazing way of channeling old classics and making them his own without chasing trends necessarily. So I think it would be cool to write something really Beach Boys-y or synthy with someone like him. And I think Marika Hackman just cos, I don’t know, she’s just this – she’s just so devoted to her art. Like there’s this one song, I think it’s from her debut album, it’s called “Drown” and she actually tried to drown herself to write the song.

That’s nuts.
I think she might’ve even put herself in a tank or something, some weird thing like that to do it. But it was like in a very controlled environment. Honestly, like if someone thought she might die, they’d probably like empty it. But yeah, she’s just got this really kind of like Gothic-inspired harmonies and just this real playfulness about it. I think it’d be really fun to write with someone like that. I think she’s got a lot of these kind of Nirvana-esque riffs and this kind of sleepy cowboy desert thing going on. Some of the songs on my current album kind of share those themes as well. So yeah, I think it’d be really cool to do something with her.