Natural Child

Reefer Madness!
Natural Child Learn to Drink and Party Better

If you let it, the inherent energy of youth can give you a generous edge on being productive, maybe even prolific. But when you challenge that vigor with full-throttle, relentless partying, sluggishness is inevitable – for most. In the slim percentage of twenty-somethings who are unaffected by beating up their bodies with unhealthy behaviors rests Natural Child. But, of course, they’re not resting at all.

In their third year as a band, they’ve already released a handful of 7-inches and EPs, plus two full-lengths, the latest of which is April’s For the Love of the Game on Burger Records. The Nashville-based trio is as outspokenly pro-weed as Willie Nelson, but their day-to-day is likely faster-paced than Willie’s early exploits. Somehow, between the dizziness of bong rips, they’ve done more than just spew out mindless releases. They’ve managed to elevate their sound from the commonplace amped-up garage of their early singles to a complex level that’s more accurately likened to classic rock fused with country and blues.

“It’s changed some, yeah,” bassist Wes Traylor says of the band’s sound. “We’ve really just gotten better at playing. We’ve always been shooting for the same thing.”

Where Natural Child have ended up is a place that surpasses the rest of the players in the hub of Nashville buzz bands, where five-minute jams spotlight twangy old-school riffs blended with psych-style intricacy. Even the guys of guitar-driven JEFF the Brotherhood, who run Nashville’s Infinity Cat imprint – which is responsible for several Natural Child releases – get a run for their money in Natural Child’s complicated handiwork. Their lyrics often defy the content and density expected of them, too.

On “White Man’s Burden,” a bluesy, psych-laced tune from an early 7-inch bearing the same name, frontman Seth Murray sings, “I don’t know what to do about the white man’s burden/ I guess I fit the skin I’m in but I just keep searching/ I try living different ways but it’s not my culture/ I just take it anyway like a soldier of fortune.” Maybe it’s not academia-level exploration of the theme, but at least there’s a hint of thoughtfulness.

For the Love of the Game boasts a choice cover, too: Country staple Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” It’s one of Hall’s best tracks, and they do it justice by altering little besides adding a second layer of vocals.

That’s not the only slow-truckin’ song they’ve got either. They’ve penned a few of their own: “No One Writes Sad Songs Anymore” (FTLOTG), the aforementioned “White Man’s Burden” and a soon-to-be-released track they say is their slowest yet.

“It’s the slowest song – the quietest, slowest song maybe ever written,” jokes Martin.

Still, a giant pot leaf is the focal point of Natural Child’s M.O. Everything seems to be an extension of or at least partly fueled by getting high. They released FTLOTG on April 20 and posted footage of their antics daily as a lead-up. One is just the guys pouring beer into the mouth of and talking to a skull. Another video involves a 40-ounce beer, a pitch and a stick. Nobody was injured, the band reports, in that shot or any others.

“All of those videos are kind of accidents,” Traylor laughs. “I don’t know if you saw the one of me puking, but that was an accident.”

“We just compiled all the footage of touring and partying that we had on our cell phones for the past year,” drummer Zach Martin explains. “We just compiled whatever we could find. We don’t document a lot of that stuff – but that’s just kind of what we do.”

“I can’t wait until we can get somebody to follow us around and film us, because then we’ll really get all the good stuff. All the really good accidents,” Traylor adds.

How these guys see through bloodshot eyes well enough to find the stage, much less slay guitar solos, is quite the mystery. Sure, the Rolling Stones – who Natural Child often channel sonically – were notorious for hard partying well into the middle of their career. (Although I don’t recall weed being their drug of choice.) For most bands known to fit the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle stereotype, however, it’s clearly noted by gaping holes in their repertoire that hangovers are halting productivity.

“We’ve learned to cope with the exhaustion,” Martin notes.

“You learn to drink and party better,” Traylor says.

“You learn that life is shit. You wake up every day feeling like shit. If you accept it, then it’s easy to accept. Once you’ve accepted it,” Martin laughs.

Because they’re so blatantly blazed, Natural Child often gets tagged as stoner rock. To be fair, that’s not the only reason. They do play the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that can loosely be deemed as such. Traditionally, the term has mainly been delegated to bands like Sleep and other heavy-on-the-sludge metal bands. But its reach in mainstream consciousness extends to Kyuss and its derivatives, too – namely Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age. And now Nashville’s Natural Child is in the mix, despite that they don’t really sound a lick like their alleged predecessors. So let’s not oversimplify. Natural Child isn’t a stoner rock band – they’re just stoners who play rock ‘n’ roll.

But sometimes they play reggae too. They dropped a little surprise in the latter end of FTLOTG. It’s called “Paradise Heights,” and it’s certifiably a reggae song.

“I really like it,” Traylor says. “Is there a problem with putting a reggae song on an album?”

No, not a problem, but it’s definitely a wild hair on a slick LP of like-minded songs. It’s about getting robbed, getting some codeine and a gun. (Always a good idea.)

“Did you listen to the story? That’s a true story!” Murray exclaims. “Except for going to jail on a weapons charge. That’s the only part we made up. The rest of it is a completely true story about where we live.”

“I thought everybody listened to reggae,” Traylor wonders. “It’s funny that people bring up that song like, ‘What the fuck is up with the reggae song?’ People are supposed to know we smoke a ton of weed, right?”

Silliness aside, it’s followed by “Faces of Death Blues,” which asks for life until 110 and the strength of 20 young men and ends with slow guitar solo patterned with handclaps. And then the next one picks up the pace and rips the Stones, complete with an introductory “woo!” It’s got an outlaw country vibe though – “I ain’t gonna stop/ Just because I get old/ Oh, I never been good/ At doin’ what I’m told/ I’ll be six feet deep/ Before I get cold.”

They’re not bluffing – they’re recording a third LP early this month (already dubbed Hard in Heaven), and there’s a live 7-inch slated for issue in July.

When asked approximately when in June it is that they’ll stop in Atlanta, though, the dudes get a little cloudy.

Collectively, they offer a drawn-out mutter: “Uhhhhhhhhh…”

Okay, maybe sometimes they’re a little too stoned.