February: Nathan Asher & The Infantry | Band of the Month | Indy Week

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February: Nathan Asher & The Infantry

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On the Web: www.nathanasher.com

Friday, Feb. 2, 9 p.m.
The Lincoln Theatre
126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh
821-4111, www.lincolntheatre.com

Nathan Asher describes himself as a folk musician and, with a wry chuckle, the Infantry as the guys who take what he does as a folk musician and "convert it to something that approximates the modern attention span a little more."

We'll find out a little more about Asher below, but how about these five fellow 20-something Infantrymen who do the conversion work? Here's a quick look, more or less in Asher's words. Drummer Dan, or "the Danimal," just bought a drum set that's a replica of what John Bonham pounded on in 1972. He's the power and the heart behind a lot of what's going on. His brother Nick smoothes things over like a bassist is supposed to. His favorite onstage joke: "You know what's great about bass? It's the only instrument that has its own button on the radio." Turner, one of two keyboard players, is the wanderer and free spirit in the group, the band shaman. Lawson, the other keyboard player, used to play with the symphony, got burned out on coming at music from that angle, and then decided that he wanted to play rock 'n' roll. And guitarist Chris, in addition to playing "sweet riffs" (those are exactly Asher's words), is the best bartender in town.

OK, before the questions start, Asher wants to make an important announcement: At their local shows, the band always likes to have an after party. Pay attention at the show for details. On with the Q&A.

Independent Weekly: Let's start with some firsts. I'm going to hit you with three of them, starting with when did you first decide that music is something that you might like to try?

Nathan Asher: I was 13 years old, and I was at a bar mitzvah. I was a very fat kid. I knew this kid named Max, and he was dancing with this girl. You know when you're younger and the guy moves his hand down to the girl's butt? He was doing one of those. I knew this kid Max played guitar, and I was over here eating the food and not dancing with the girl. At that point I vowed to learn how to play guitar.

IW: OK, when was the first time that you thought this music thing might actually work out for you?

NA: I need to think about this one for a minute. [Proceeds to think about it for a minute] I was sitting in front of North Hills Mall, sitting on the curb with a friend of mine. We both played guitar, and we were about 14 and a half. A girl came up and said, "Hey, can you play 'Brown Eyed Girl?'" My friend played "Brown Eyed Girl," and I had no idea how to play "Brown Eyed Girl." I had been working on a song; I had written about three songs at that time in my life, and they all had the same couple of chords. I said, "You want to hear one of my songs?" And she was like "Sure." I played it, and she said "Hey, that's pretty cool." That's when I realized I was really on to something [laughs].

IW: Last one. When did it first become clear that it was going to work out for you and the Infantry?

NA: We were invited to this big building where all the record labels are, and there were security guards. I had tried to sneak into this building when I was 17, pretending to be a reporter, so I could leave a demo on a desk. This time, we were invited into the building, and the guard had our names on his clipboard. So we took the elevator to the 25th floor. We sat in a room and looked out over New York City, and they gave us this big selection of sandwiches. And they said, "We're very interested in your band." To me, that was one of those moments that I'd seen in movies.

IW: Reading the press on the band, I come across such descriptive terms as "unironic," "larger than life," straightforward," even "over the top." I suspect that you wouldn't argue with those and, in fact, might say there's not enough of those things in a lot of music these days.

NA: I want to answer this correctly. Let me think about it for a second... I feel like with indie rock--and obviously it's a really broad term and there are bands that are labeled "indie rock" who I think don't do this--this idea of post-modernism or music that deconstructs itself, kind of tongue in cheek and making fun of itself, sometimes can be the equivalent of a guy who's self-conscious about his weight or his acne or whatever kind of making a joke about it. It gets a chuckle, but it doesn't really do anything to help move him forward as far as I'm concerned. Gosh, I'm not answering this the way I want to... We will put ourselves out there. We're willing to do that.

IW: The names Springsteen and Dylan come up in the press frequently, and they're acknowledged inspirations for you. I'm wondering who a couple of inspirations or influences are that might really surprise people?

NA: I'll give you a surprising influence, or maybe it's an obvious influence. I, in particular, have been just oversaturated with fast-moving media. Let's just say video games. I played a ton of video games as a kid, and I still feel like I have a very hard time sitting still or focusing. And I think there's an element to our music that's constantly building tension and maybe a little bit of anxiety and a cramming of words into small spaces. The influence for that isn't necessarily an artist like Ludacris or Dylan, but a life spent playing a lot of video games.

IW: You mentioned how you're a folk musician at the core, and the rest of the band expands it into something that the short-attention-span generation can digest. How does that work?

NA: Well, it's kind of like RZA. I would be RZA, and they would be Wu-Tang. That's the only way I can answer without giving away our secrets [laughs]. Fair enough?

--Rick Cornell

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