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Tune-Yards’ Nate Brenner Dishes on His New Side Project Naytronix

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Naytronix Dirty Glow, Dirty Glow review, Nate Brenner interview, Nate Brenner,Dirty Glow, Naytronix reviewNaytronix – Dirty Glow


Released: Oct. 9

Our Rating: 3.5/5

Spec Recs: “Hangin’ Out,” “Robotic,” “Nightmare”

In one word: Inventive


Naytronix‘s Dirty Glow is an electronic-infused album with intricate detail throughout each song. It allows the listener to pick up on some nuance with every play. For someone who isn’t accustomed to singing, Nate Brenner does a fantastic job at matching the music to his own unique voice. It seems that using any other main vocals for his songs would not do them justice. The subtle harmonies thrown in, specifically in “In the Summer,” create an almost alternate mindset. Brenner’s ability to throw in sounds of water rushing, glass tinkling, and the like is commendable and works so well with his experimental style.

To me, his approach to composition is shown best in the song “Hangin’ Out.” Opening with bells and slight jingling sounds, the seemingly simplistic song embodies an exceedingly chill vibe while still having moments of strange and  intense climactic chord changes. Brenner’s vocals in the piece are profound in their effortless nature. The overall energy of the album takes command of one’s attention.

The progression of each song is worth mentioning. Tracks that start off in a searching manner, develop and end with a slightly explorative sound that is excellent.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Robotic.” The pure unadulterated voice of Brenner brings character and unity in the piece’s mechanical sounding nature. The jazz influence in this one is quite apparent — what sounds like a cacophony of improvisation can be heard throughout and the synthesizers add a space-age echo. The track may be a new guilty pleasure that allows me to perform my rather horrendous robot dance moves.

The smorgasbord of sound, technique, and vocal styles blend perfectly to create Dirty Glow’s catchy and almost non-human ambience.

The Spec had the opportunity to interview Nate Brenner of Naytronix, read what he had to say about touring, creating his own music and the un-appreciated sounds of life…

The Spec: Any significant or interesting story behind the name?
Nate Brenner: It was kind of a play on my name, Nate. I was thinking of at first doing “Naytron” or something. I don’t necessarily want it to represent me as a person; I’d rather have it represent the band. But it definitely started out as “this is my band, this is my name.” It’s my solo project, but I didn’t want it to be just “Nate Brenner.”

TS: Is this your own project? Is all the music written by you?
NB: Yeah, it’s all written by me, but now I’m about to go on tour so I’ve put together a trio composed of friends of mine that I’ve played in other groups with and I really want it to feel like a band. I want them to feel like they can bring in their own ideas and recreate the album for live performance instead of it being a solo show, like one man with a laptop set. I want it to be able to stretch out. In front of the audience, maybe we’ll play a song faster or something.

Recording wise, it’s a solo project too and I played a bunch of the instruments on the album, but then I’d also have people come over and overdub horns, guitar, and some back-up vocals and such. It’s my project and my music, but I’m not close-minded and I’m always open to working with other people.

TS: Did constant touring and recording of other albums with different artists impact the music of Naytronix?
NB: I think it definitely had an effect. Playing in front of a lot of people affected the music by making me want to write music that was more, kind of, accessible. In the past a lot of the music I helped produce was for my group called Beeps!, which was a kind of an avant-garde jazz trio. With that band, we didn’t want to play in front of a lot of people but more in underground jazz clubs and the like. I think when I started touring a lot with Tune-Yards I realized, oh, you can have both; you can play really creative and experimental music and still have fans for it which I never really thought was possible before. I mean, we’ve seen bands like the Dirty Projectors and even at festivals bands like Animal Collective would be headlining and they’re playing really non-traditional music. So I figured out it doesn’t have to be one way or the other, and when I started making the Naytronix album, I wanted to make music that was both creative and kind of pushing boundaries genre-wise that could still be performed in front of an audience. It’s yet to be seen how it will work, but that’s the idea.

TS: What gave you the drive to start and follow through with this project?
NB: A lot of it was just the personal drive. For the record, a lot of people have been asking me why I left Tune-Yards and I just want to be clear that I haven’t. We’re just taking a break from it. And I think it was knowing that we’d have a really long break at the end of this album cycle and I didn’t just want to be sitting around waiting for the next album. But I also didn’t necessarily want to join another band playing someone else’s music, and I also didn’t want to be in a collective where maybe every ten songs they’d play two of mine.

It became really clear I wanted to make an album that was all my own music and then try to tour a bit with it. The touring thing came later. This started as just a personal goal and I didn’t even know if I could do it since I’d never tried it before. I was thinking I’ll just make a solo record and take it from there. Within the process, there was a lot of troubleshooting and teaching myself different recording techniques, and basically teaching myself how to sing too, which luckily I had Merrill [Garbus] to help me with. Originally, I was trained as an upright bassist and I decided I didn’t want to play just the bass anymore; I wanted to play other instruments as well as my own music. It was a big personal growth/experiment to see if I could do it. After doing it…I think next time it will be a lot more fun, I won’t have to question everything as much anymore.

TS: How do you feel about being able to play music that is primarily your own creation on this upcoming tour?
NB: I feel good about it. I’m not as nervous as I thought I’d be, probably because I’m so used to performing. Also, it helps that I’ve already played in the venues I’m going to play in and I’ve made a lot of friends with the workers there, like managers and bartenders, so it doesn’t feel too out of my comfort zone. I think it will feel really natural.

TS: You seem to have used a lot of every-day sounds as instrumentation in this album. What type of music, or sounds in general, influence you as an artist?
NB: I definitely listen to a lot of jazz and kind of non-pop music. More like classical, jazz, different stuff that’s not on the radio. Old records too. But I also love turning on the radio and listening to some classic Stevie Wonder and some ’70’s pop. I’m really into that whole era of Sly Stone, Funkadelic, and kind of the dance-funk disco era.

Regarding sound, I was thinking of random noises around the house, like if you’re frying an egg, turning on the water, or something like that and then recording it and putting it on the album. I guess I was interested in that level of experimentalism where I’d record a sound of walking around outside and then put it in the background of a track. I think it was a way of making it feel more connected to that time of my life so that in ten years I can be like “that sound was recorded from my apartment in Oakland,” and maybe I wont be in Oakland anymore, so it’s more just engraving the music with these personal mementos that I can reflect upon later.

TS: Which song from the album was your favorite to record?
NB: They were all really fun to record. Some were me by myself and others were with different friends. The first track I recorded was “Evil Dancer” and that one has a lot of people on it. On almost every track there were different people and different memories. The ones I didn’t have fun on I didn’t put on the album.

Let me give you an answer though, I think “Are You Ready for a Good Time” was my favorite to record. The intro has a bunch of funny sounds I found. That was one that I felt the best about in using those weird water and clicking sounds. The first one, “Hanging Out,” was also really fun. I was basically recording a bunch of songs and at first I wasn’t trying to judge myself too much and I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to make an album, because at first I just wanted to make songs. With “Hanging Out,” I told myself I was going to go in and write a song and record a song in about an hour. Then that came out and it’s one of my favorites from the album. There were no questions, just the first ideas that came to my head. I recorded the drums, bass, keys, melodies, and that was the fastest ’cause some of the other songs took months and so I think in a lot of ways its cool that it happened so fast and I think it came out well too.

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