Interview: Producer Naytronix

By December 11, 2015

Music. Leeds.

[Photo courtesy of Ginger Fierstein]

Photo credit: Ginger Fierstein

An impressively-quiffed Californian clambers on-stage at the Brudenell Social Club, watched by his long-haired accomplice. A projector, perched between two monitor amps, is switched on. It illuminates a complex array of cables, synths, pedals and controllers, and, set off to one side, a gleaming bass guitar. The accomplice is holding a controller of his own, and, with a twist of his wrist, the stage flickers with a slowly-strobing arrangement of black and white blocks. The Californian checks some samples, then dawdles over to his bass and picks it up. a single note is plucked, ‘The Nod’ is given, and the strobes intensify; he’s ready.

Nate Brenner, a.k.a. Naytronix, is nearing the end of his UK tour leg. He’s touring his sophomore album Mister Divine – a nostalgia-soaked township of glorious electronica sounds suffused with undeniable bass groove – with a skeleton crew of three, and only himself on-stage. “So far it’s been really good,” says Brenner, the two of us having stepped outside into the fine rain of early winter to chat. He is wearing a duffel coat with a faux-fur-piped hood, and I am feeling bad for making him sit on a damp bench. “It’s been a challenge to go from a full band with Tune-Yards [Merrill-Garbus-fronted indie band, for which Brenner writes and plays bass] to a solo set, and then from headlining big rooms to playing smaller venues or support acts. The first few shows, I was a little shocked. After that, I got used to it, and really enjoyed it – I embraced the challenge.”

I asked him how he felt about performing solo, and if it closer reflected his initial ideas for the Naytronix project. “When the album was finished, in my mind it turned into more of a rock band. The two singles, ‘Mr Divine’ and ‘Back In Time’, both feature guitar, and I don’t play guitar. Playing solo live, it’s making a remix out of them.” Brenner measures his words carefully in response to each question. The result is a set of well-thought responses, and collection of pregnant silences within a few of which I silently worry about the weakness of my questioning. He continues: “In January I’m going to have a full band in the US, and in December I’m going to have a percussionist play with me. I want to just, like, slowly expand, as the budget allows, and keep it sustainable.”

Naytronix isn’t circumscribed to performance, or even writing, as a music project. Brenner is a producer, cultivating a homely environment out of the various sounds and progressions at his disposal for the listener to be immersed in, even live in, for their durations. These homes seem so complex and multifaceted, to have been designed so immaculately, I wonder how he goes about creating such bespoke and particular environments from scratch.

“I don’t have a set formula for writing,” he says. “I tried it for a while, and it felt like the songs weren’t exciting, they were just too predictable… ‘Mister Divine’ was the first song I started recording, and it started with just the bassline for the chorus, and then I just pieced it together. I knew I liked the chorus, and then I was like ‘Ok how do I get between each chorus?’ I’d look at the big picture, the entire song, and how to fill in the empty spaces.”

I ask him how he might feel about producing other bands under the Naytronix moniker. “I’ve definitely thought about it a lot, and I think right now, I’d prefer to be producing my own music. In the long run, especially if I don’t wanna tour any more, as I get older, I’d love to produce other peoples’ music. Since I’m still enjoying touring, I don’t have time to produce other people’s stuff.”

In summing up Mister Divine from a production perspective, Brenner chuckles. “Every song’s different. And it’s a lot of overdubs,” he says.

With that, the skies darken with yet more rain. I elect to leave it there, and let him get back to relative warmth. We shake hands, and he’ll have nothing of my rain-related apologies.