Interview: Nathan Amundson (Rivulets)

The message behind We’re Fucked seems to partially derive from what you refer to as a “vapid cultural/musical landscape”. Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by that?

Well the label were doing their promotional stuff, and they asked me to give them a blurb. I wrote that little paragraph in five minutes and sent it off, and people have really reacted to it. I’m not sure if it’s a thing in the UK where the nail that sticks up gets hammered down, but I didn’t intend for this to be a big statement record; It’s just the way I feel. I still feel that way. I don’t know anything, and I don’t think anybody else knows anything. I’m not trying to position myself as someone who’s going to try and tell us the way to go, because I don’t know. “We’re fucked” is just how I feel about the culture, music and where the world is at right now.

So how does this materialise in the music?

It’s just a phrase that kept coming into my head as we were making the songs. I’ve always had a theme in mind for the albums prior to this but this time I didn’t have anything. The only idea was to make a documentation of this particular live formation that we’ve had for a few years – Francesco Candura (bass) and Nathan Vollmar (drums) have been my touring band for the past five years, but they haven’t been on any Rivulets albums.

In the process of making this record, that phrase just kept coming up in my head and it seemed as though it fit the mood. The album is more frustrated than any of my past stuff has been, and in many ways I was more frustrated that I’ve ever been. So when it came to naming the record, I initially had a really generic, milquetoast title for it, and then I thought that was a total cop out. So I told the label that I wanted to call it “We’re Fucked” and asked them if they were going to have a problem with that, and they were totally on board with it. They said that they felt the same way. Whether it’s the economy, or just the vapidity of the fucking TV and music out there; the shit that people are expected to gobble up…the title worked for me, and no one said that they were going to have a problem if we called it that, so we just went for it.

How was the experience of working in the Sacred Heart Music Centre?

It’s cool, man. We did our second album there back in 2002 or so. It’s just an old mini cathedral basically – the sort that you don’t really find in the US. It was a church to begin with, and then a couple my friends in Duluth turned it into a studio. It’s got a really cool vibe; I think you can hear its unique reverb on the albums that people do there, and you can tell that it was done in that particular space.

How did the addition of Francesco and Nathan affect your approach to the writing process? Were these songs written with the other two players in mind, or were they just songs that you later decided to “enhance” by adding bass and drums?

It’s a mix. If you’ve seen us live, you’ve probably seen several of the songs once or twice already, so we just wanted to get them on record. Then there are other things…there’s a song that was written the night before we recorded it, and there’s some stuff on there that I did just by myself. The overall aim was to get those songs down that we’ve been playing live for so many years, along with some new stuff.

Would you say the live environment helps in terms of evolving these songs? Or are they in their final form once you bring them to the stage?

Well hopefully they get better! For the songs on the album with me and the other two guys, that’s pretty much what you would hear live if you went to see us as a band. But the other side of that is that I do a lot of Rivulets shows that are just me, and I’ve done a lot of stuff on the new album that represents that too.

Where do you envisage yourself going next?

I’m going to be doing some solo shows in Spain, Portugal and France in February. It’s a little bit of work getting the band together, as we all live in different places – in fact, the bassist lives in Italy. So getting us together to rehearse and go out on tour is a puzzle, but we’re always working on it. I like the freedom of playing solo, but playing live with these two guys is really fulfilling for me and I’d like to do it again.

How much say are they permitted during the writing process? Are they free to contribute as they see fit?

They’re totally free. I mean I write the songs, but…how Nathan plays the drums is his decision, and I’ll say “take it in this direction”, but by and large that’s up to him. And Francesco is a wonderful, super-melodic bassist, and I give him pretty much free reign too. So I bring the songs to them, and then the joy for me is seeing what they do with it. That’s what makes it exciting.

 

Rivulets website – http://www.rivulets.net

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