Ask Lionize frontman Nate Bergman to tell you about the band’s new album Nuclear Soul, and you learn pretty quickly that this isn’t your regular, earthbound stuff.
“A good amount of the story telling,” he says, “is from the perspective of an intergalactic fascist war-lord who has a direct connection into his brain to evil and blood-thirsty aliens who are controlling his thoughts and actions - their only goal destruction of the human race.”
So far, so intergalactic. Since forming more the a decade ago, the Maryland rockers have built a stellar reputation as a recording outfit — combining science-fiction themed albums with all sorts of other influences, from rock to funk, reggae and beyond — and an absolutely fearsome reputation as a live band.
Nuclear Soul is released in September (and can be pre-ordered from today), and the band have just released the first video from the album: Blindness To Danger is a 100mph chunk of snarling funk with more balls than the average bowling convention. The video, which stars pro-wrestler Almighty Sheik, was shot entirely on an Apple iPhone 7 by director Miguel “M.i.G.” Martinez, who chose the phone to demonstrate to his students how songs could be brought to life without expensive equipment.
We asked Nate Bergman about the new album. And about the band’s upcoming tour. And about how to fix rock’n’roll.
Over the last decade or so, you’ve become known (to many) as a reggae-rock outfit: what were you aiming to do differently with this record?
The reggae reputation started with an album we recorded in Jamaica, Space Pope and the Glass Machine. I feel the band has always been a rock’n’roll band that’s never shied away from experimenting with mixing different sounds into the music.
Growing up listening to and then touring with Steel Pulse and the Bad Brains was very influential on the sound as we evolved and grew - but the basis of the band was always heavy, funky riffs with rock and soul grooves. It’s funny because bands like Rush, The Police, Bad Brains - even Thin Lizzy experimented with the reggae sound but were never really pinned as a reggae-Rock band.
With this album we abandoned all preconceived notions of what we do. I think sometimes when you go to write a record you can become very conscious of outside influence and how that reflects back on to what you do as a band. With Nuclear Soul we abandoned all things that we thought we should or shouldn’t do and just wrote songs. We let our influences come out melodically and I think what you hear on this album is the truest nature of this band. Listening to it now - it sounds like all of our favourite records but it’s distinctly new, and it’s distinctly Lionize.
To what extent have recent political events in the US fed into the album?
This album is bigly influenced by the current political climate not only in the US but internationally. U.S. politics obviously hits close to home and has had a massive impact on our personal lives - but the band also spends a lot of time touring internationally so we are very keen to what’s happening around the world. Madness is the only way to really describe how it all feels and the tension in the air is very palpable. That’s going to have an impact on art everywhere. Lyrically we touch on varying emotions from hopelessness or anger at the lack of humanity to just an observation from someone who is sort of ushering in the apocalypse. I would definitely venture to say it’s an emotionally heavy album which is reflection of the times we are living in.
Your last UK show was in support of your friends Clutch, with whom you’ve toured extensively over the years. What are the best things you’ve learned from them?
The best things we’ve learned from our most humbling journey following Clutch around the globe is: everything. A lot of bands you go on tour with you end up learning what not to do. How not to act, how to not treat your fans, how to not treat each other, how to perform a half-assed live show and phone it in. With Clutch it’s always the most positive, professional and supportive you could hope for.
They are like older brothers to us. They are constantly looking out for our well-being and not a show goes by where we can’t watch them and learn something. They are the upper-eschelon of touring and recording bands so to be able to orbit that powerful of a nucleus is a privilege. We learned how to tour from those guys, how to get good merch deals, how to survive. As we continue to enjoy their company on and off tour, we get more powerful. They feed us knowledge and riffs like baby eagles. Each show we play with them our nucleus starts to grow, and like a rogue planet we’ve now broken away, glowing with our own brand of rock and soul. In other words, the best thing we’ve learned from Clutch is this: Always be true to yourself, always grow and seek to evolve and never give up. They are 25 years in and getting better every year. Thanks, Dudes.
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What can we expect from your upcoming headline dates here?
I would imagine you will hear a lot of new material. We will never ignore the older ones but for the most part we are very excited to perform the songs off of Nuclear Soul. This is the first album I think we’ve had in our career where we can play it all from front to back without wanting to cut one or two. Not playing the songs is the hardest part now. We will play for long time and we will play loud. No two sets will be the same - they will change from night to night with different orders and jams. I think it’s going to be the best shows we’ve done in the UK so far. Everyone at this point knows how much we love the UK. The feeling is starting to become mutual we believe.
What’s missing in rock’n’roll circa 2007?
I feel rock’n’roll is way more vital than the mainstream media would like everyone to believe. Just as Gene Simmons declares it dead you have the Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Royal Blood, Rival Sons, Blackberry Smoke, Black Star Riders - there’s tons of great active rock bands putting out great albums and touring stadiums and theatres. What’s lacking is soul and integrity. Lots of new music lacks hunger and strength, guts and grit. It lacks balls, to be honest. There’s not a ton of artists taking risks and pushing for something outside their comfort zone. Or they do something great and just repeat that until they become a self-parody. There’s a trend of bands trying to catch up with what’s trending. By the time they get there the world has moved on to the next thing. Instead of reaching and pushing for something great and unique and letting the world come to them.
Are you the people to change that?
Nuclear Soul is released on September 8, but can be pre-ordered now. Pre-orders come with a gratis download of Blindness To Danger.
Nuclear Sound tracklisting
- Darkest Timeline
- Face Of Mars
- Fire In Athena
- Power Grid
- Aint It A Shame
- Election Year
- March Of The Clones
- Let You Down
- The Mad Scientist Of Sunshine
- Nuclear Soul
- Blindness To Danger
UK & Ireland Tour Dates
Jul 28: Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
Jul 29: Ramblin’ Man Fair, Maidstone
Jul 30: The Flapper, Birmingham
Jul 31: Rebellion, Manchester
Aug 01: O2 ABC2, Glasgow
Aug 02: O2 Academy 2, Newcastle
Aug 03: Key Club, Leeds
Aug 04: 02 Academy 2, Oxford
Aug 05: The Black Heart, London
Aug 07: Voodoo, Belfast
Aug 09: Fibber Magees, Dublin, Ireland
Aug 11: Bloodstock Open Air, Burton-on-Trent