Hard rock’s been begging for a shake-up, and that’s just what Blue Nation bring to the table. The Birmingham-based band blend heart-pounding vocals with powerful melodies, creating a sound that’s bursting with energy. Now with a debut album “Cross The Line & Decide” under their belt, the Brummie lads are ready to take the UK by storm. LSRadio’s Jack Graysmark caught up with frontman Neil Murdoch to talk about recording with Jon Rivers and the possibility of being upstaged by the support act…
You hail from Birmingham- how has that affected how the band has developed?
Neil: Birmingham’s got such a unique sound to it. You’ve got a lot to live up to if you say that’s where you come from! It helped because there were so many artists from here who influenced us when we were growing up- from Black Sabbath to Duran Duran! Now we’re trying to take those influences and do something a bit different.
In terms of songwriting, you say that you “stick to the truth” when composing. Do you find it easier to draw on your own life experiences?
Neil: Definitely, because that’s what hits home with people. They listen and think “that song means something to me for XYZ reasons.” We don’t want to make “throw-away” music; we want to give people something that they can hang on to. We want to write tracks that one day will make people think back to when they first heard it, tracks that make people sit down and think, “God that was when I was taking my GCSE’s” or “that was when I met my first girlfriend.” Music has the power to do that, and that’s what’s so amazing about it.
You’ve been in different bands before this one- what is it about Blue Nation that’s stuck with you?
Neil: I think it’s because we’re all on the same page. We all like totally different bands- Greddy’s really a funk man, whereas Jon came from a metal background- but we complement each other so well, and it just works. We all listen to a range of new artists too- we’re really into the new albums by Arctic Monkeys and London Grammar at the moment. It’s good to keep diverse because you can’t afford to be a music snob. Music is good wherever it comes from, although we draw the line at X Factor!
So there’s never any arguments about how a song should sound- it just comes naturally?
Neil: Definitely, we all get on too well for that- there’s no divas in the band! Sometimes I’ll write the full song, but other times it’s a riff or a lyric, and the guys will help me develop it. Sometimes, even if I have written the full song, Jon might come in with this different drum beat or Greddy will play an awesome bass line. We all let each other breathe- it’s never a case of me saying “right, this is how it’s going to go.” The simple fact is, you’re only as good as the team you have around you. At the end of the day, I would be very quiet without those two, and when they’ve contributed a bass line or a drum beat, I can’t say the song’s just mine. It’s certainly not mine once it’s out there too, because it then means different things to different people.
You’re releasing your debut album “Cross The Line & Decide”- how was the recording process and how does it feel to have the album out there?
Neil: We recorded it in two weeks, so really quick turnaround. We did it with Jon Rivers who recorded “Ghost Town” by The Specials, and Weller and all sorts, so you can imagine going into a place like that and seeing all the equipment they used! We’re happy with the final product, and if other people listen to it and they like it, then that’s the thumbs up I’m looking for!
How was Jon Rivers as a producer? Was he quite laid back, or was he throwing ideas onto the table?
Neil: The guy’s a genius, got a lot of love and time for the man. He threw ideas out that we thought it were going to sound rubbish, but most of the time ended up sounding insane! You’ve got to play to people’s strengths, and his is producing and getting bands what they want.
What made you choose the album title?
Neil: It’s a lyric in a song off the album called “Maybe Goodbye.” We were trying to come up with a title that meant something to us. It feels like we’re crossing a line with our debut album, and then it’s up to other people to decide if they like it. Hopefully that’ll be the case! It’s quite a career defining moment for us. No matter what you do, nothing’s going to take away that feeling of releasing first album!
You’re coming back to Liverpool on November 15th to play the Krazyhouse- what’s your overall impression of our fair city?
Neil: Well, we played Lomax previously and we instantly fell in love with the place. Mad Frank, the guy who runs it, was just brilliant! He was at the bar when we came offstage, and I can’t repeat what I said as there was so many expletives, but it was all complimentary and he bought us a few beers so clearly he was digging it. I love Liverpool myself. I’ve been out many a time there, and it’s like a second home for me. I’ve never been to the Krazyhouse, but everyone’s been going on about how great it is, so I’m really excited for it. We’ve been thinking about the setlist, and we really want to put on a high tempo gig for everyone there, really hit home with it.
Lomax and The Krazyhouse are unique, eclectic venues- they always provide a night to remember. Do you think playing these types of places compliments your music?
Neil: Yeah, the best gigs we’ve played are the ones which are a little bit off the wall, a little because you get such a great atmosphere. In places where walls are grey and the sound man’s a million miles away, it’s hard to get the gig going. But for me, we need a diverse range of live music venues as there aren’t enough at the moment. Right this minute, the next Beatles are waiting to be discovered somewhere, but the problem is people are sitting inside on a Saturday night, watching X Factor and Strictly, rather than spending a fiver going to see an unsigned band. Imagine seeing the next big thing! I get that it’s difficult at the moment, but between live music and Simon Cowell I know what I would choose.
Definitely! One of my favourite things about live gigs is discovering a support band that turn out to be phenomenal, or even upstage the headlining act.
Neil: Exactly! We had that when we went to see Athlete a few years ago. There was a real buzz about them, so we thought we’d check them out. They were alright, but then the support band were full of beans, prancing around with memorable songs. I found out after that they were called the Kaiser Chiefs, and a few months later they were massive! There’s nothing better than that, catching a band about to hit the big time- it just transcends music.
Has there ever been a time where your support band has threatened to upstage your performance?
Neil: (laughing) well, I don’t know who the support acts are yet for the Krazyhouse, but I like it that way for the element of surprise if they’re really good. If they do well, then that’s actually the best scenario to be in. You realise you have to raise your game, and it encourages you to be the best you can be. Without a doubt, live music is where it’s at.
Blue Nation play the Krazyhouse on 15th November. Their debut album “Cross The Line & Decide” is out now.
Jack Graysmark / @ZeppelinG1993