Like pages ripped from a journal, Naturalist makes music that is as direct as it is cathartic. Based in Oklahoma City, the emo/indie band has been tapping into wells of guilt, brokenness, and personal crises for a few years. This has allowed Naturalist to connect with audiences on a raw, visceral level through both its moody recordings and its energetic live shows.
Since 2015’s volcanic yet intimate Friends EP (reviewed here), the band’s sound has embraced its simmering instrumental balance between alternative and post-rock. Meanwhile, the frontman’s grizzly vocal shouts have grown more restrained, unleashing into only the choicest moments. 2016’s tape release I Miss Everyone I’ve Ever Met was pivotal in this sense, allowing the band to truly expand into the brooding soundscape that is its first full-length effort, Everything in Rotation.
Released last summer, that album included a number of sensitive passages, and that includes highlight “Saudade”. This week, the band dropped a new music video for that single and it’s one that comes from an especially personal place. Naturalist’s frontman Ashton Prescott made the following statement about “Saudade”:
“I’ve struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since I was a teenager and it has, in one way or another, affected my entire adult life. “Saudade” is a very personal song to me because it is, in a way, my first time speaking publicly about my struggles with this terrible disease.
It’s popular these days to be quirky and awkward and more often than not, we brand our awkwardness by declaring we are “so OCD.” But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder isn’t a simple set of quirks and it isn’t being a “clean freak,” it’s a debilitating disease that wouldn’t allow me to leave my room for months on end, it’s a lonely disease that asks you to push away the people you love, it’s a disease that makes you afraid of everything, including yourself. It’s frustrating to hear so many people belittle a disease that is so real and debilitating. I’ve heard it best described as “Having OCD is like being allergic to life – every waking moment is spent in a state of mental hyper-sensitivity” and I couldn’t have said it better myself.
It is my hope that this song and video help to shed light on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and that others who also share my struggle can find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Through hard work, I am happy to say that I am able to live a (somewhat) normal life now and I want you to know that by having a strong support group, finding the right therapy and by reaching out to the correct organizations, you can also find hope and healing. Whenever I was having a particular rough day, my family used to tell me “It’s not you. It’s your OCD” and I want you to know the same goes for you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, you can find help by visiting the websites below.”
“Saudade” is a prime representation of the kind of openness Naturalist has with its listeners, and on Everything in Rotation, those listeners even responded in kind.
Answering to an open call posted on social media, fans submitted audio recordings of themselves sharing personal stories and philosophical takes to be featured in the new album. These stories are woven into the thoughtfully laid fabric of Everything in Rotation, which is itself arranged so that every track bleeds into one another.
This weekend, Naturalist will be connecting in person with concertgoers for a couple of dates in Texas. The group plays Saturday at Denton’s ironically named House of God and Sunday in Austin at The Sidewinder.
Read on for Cellar Door Music Group’s interview with Naturalist.
Naturalist has been putting out music for a few years, but this is the first full-length album. How did your band decide the time was right for Everything in Rotation?
We all sat down and discussed the themes and ideas we had after writing a few songs and we all felt like the story we wanted to tell just wouldn’t fit on an EP.
What is it like to be distributed by a record label for the first time?
After touring consistently, we wanted a label that shared our vision for the band, and Third String Records has been awesome. They’ve helped us maneuver obstacles we couldn’t have on our own. We’re really fortunate to be working with Mike and his crew.
Everything in Rotation seems to be mellower than some of Naturalist’s earlier EPs, especially from a vocal standpoint. What led to this artistic choice?
We saw a natural progression within our EPs leading up to this record and we wanted to see how deep that could go. We wanted to show a more vulnerable, but mature side of ourselves while still holding true to our message and integrity.
Did you draw inspiration from any other bands or albums with this project?
We consider ourselves lucky that we all listen to different styles of music and can bring various styles and flavors to the table. We’re most inspired by each other and things in our lives.
How did the album artwork come about?
We explained the themes of the record covering life, love, and loss to our close friend. We sent him the record and basically just asked for a visual representation of what he felt it all meant. We’re very pleased with the results. He’s always done fantastic work for us.
How did you come up with the idea to have fans submit recordings of themselves talking on themes that are reflected in the album?
We’ve always tried to include the people that support and inspire us into our artistic process. Those themes are so vast and different for everyone, we didn’t feel we would do them justice speaking solely from ourselves.
Did you write music to fan stories that you received, or did you find stories that fit music you had already written?
We had the songs written before we asked for the dialogue. We had over 4 hours of stories to wade through and we did our best to respect the content given to us. A lot of it was so personal.
Naturalist seems to have a loyal and enthusiastic fanbase. What do you attribute to that?
We’re so lucky and fortunate for that. We want to be genuine and honest through our live performances and our music. If that resonates with one person, that’s all we can ask for.
How has tour life been for Naturalist since joining a record label and putting out a full album?
It’s been fun! We spent last summer playing all new markets and we were surprised by the support we saw in those cities!
What are your live shows like?
We like to have fun. We hope the sincerity in our music comes through in our performance, but we just want to enjoy ourselves while giving everyone watching and listening something to enjoy.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We have a video for our single, “Saudade” out now, so give that a watch! We hope to see you at a show coming soon! Thank you!
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.