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Interview: A Catch-up with Nactus Kunan

20 July 20 interview: Dan Bonnington

Sitting on lots of newly released material but with no imminent chance to share it live with fans, we caught up with Jack and Joe of local alternative four-piece Nactus Kunan to see how they've been keeping busy...

Where does the band name come from?
We wish it was an interesting story or had a deep meaning. The truth is we wanted to play our first gig and needed a name, so we used Wikipedia’s random page generator and stumbled on this page about a newly discovered gecko called ‘Nactus Kunan’. We thought it sounded cool, so rolled with it!

How have you been spending lockdown? Have you been using the time to write some new material?
I’d like to say we’ve used this time productively but there’s something about being in the middle of a global pandemic that hasn’t really got the creative juices flowing for me. I feel like lots of people had big plans for learning new skills and being super creative during lockdown that never really materialised - maybe there’s too much pressure to do something productive. There’s something about having an abundance of free time that makes me think, maybe I’ll have a go at writing something in a bit, and then you put it off again, and all of a sudden three months have passed. Haven’t died from coronavirus yet though, so that is fairly productive in my book.

Who would you say is your main influence?
There’s quite a broad range of influences that make up the Nactus sound, musically I think a lot of British pop bands from the 1980s like New Order, The Blue Nile and Prefab Sprout tend to come to the fore, and generally there’s the spectre of Paul McCartney looming somewhere over everything we do. More recently the irreverent lyricism of acts like Matt Maltese and The Rhythm Method have definitely had a degree of influence on our writing, and we always have the video of Robbie performing Angels at Knebworth in the back of our minds when trying to craft that generation-defining banger. Sadly we’ve not really come close to that yet, though not for want of trying!

Your brilliant new single Jonny Wilkes recently got some airtime on BBC Radio Nottingham. I have to ask, is it written about Robbie Williams' Soccer Aid-playing best pal?
Yeah, it is sort of! More generally, the song is about a faded popstar or D-list celebrity who continues to earn a living as an after dinner speaker even though his fame is subsiding (that’s where the title of the EP comes from). It’s sort of a tragicomedy, though we have a certain level of respect and admiration for the likes of Jonny Wilkes because he’s got further in showbiz than we have to be fair! Hopefully he’ll hear it and invite us to join his Soccer Aid team.

You recently released your new EP After Dinner Speaker, how has the response to that been?
It’s been a bit of a strange situation with lockdown really. We did have a big launch show planned for April where we were hoping to generate a buzz and shift some 10” vinyl copies of the EP. Unfortunately, we had to delay things which made the release strategy a little bit disjointed. We’ve still had some nice feedback and people buying records, but it’s probably going to be a bit of a slow burn over the coming months to keep pushing it as the live music industry gets back on track.

What's the best gig you've ever played?
One that sticks out, especially at times like these, is a couple of years back in our early days when we released our World Cup single Exit at the Group Stage. We had a release party at Rough Trade, one of the many carefree balmy summer evenings of those glorious few weeks in 2018 - spilling out into Broad Street with all our mates after the show, World Cup fever in the air. It was Tony’s birthday and he did the John Barnes rap for the cover of World in Motion we did. Two days later we smashed Panama 6-0 on a blazing hot Sunday afternoon. Heady days.

Headlining Glastonbury or winning the Mercury Prize?
It’s got to be Glastonbury, hasn’t it!? That’s probably our biggest dream, we’ve all been going together for the past ten years so it would be very special. To be honest we’d take the opening slot on the smallest stage there, we’re not fussy. It would be cool to win the Mercury Prize for the prestige and artistic credibility it brings, though. Have always wanted to do an interview with Dan Walker on BBC Breakfast having not been to bed.

You guys have a new video coming out soon, tell us a little bit about that.
We’ve recently discovered our iPhones can shoot in 4K, so we decided to make a lockdown video for Jonny Wilkes from the comfort of our own homes (and gardens), as well as filming bits from the socially distanced beers we’ve been having – quite nice to have a visual record of these strange times. We were drinking cans in Tesco car park, kicking a ball about, it felt very much like we were 16 again. Getting all the footage is the easy part, mind - it’s certainly giving me a new-found respect for people who do video editing for a living.

What are your plans for the coming months providing live music gets the government go ahead? Can you see gigs being allowed to go ahead before the end of the year?
It’s pretty hard to have any concrete plans at the moment - I don’t know what I’m doing for the rest of the week, let alone the rest of the year. Especially when you consider live music will be one of the last things to get back to normal, we’ll probably just play it by ear like everyone else. The main plan at the moment remains not contracting coronavirus if we can at all help it. Fingers crossed.

Check out Nactus Kunan’s latest EP and other news over on their website.

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