It’s been examined so many times since COVID-19 changed our lives last year, but adjusting and improvising has become a major part of the artist’s lifestyle during the pandemic. The audience is virtual, the material is digital and the work is often done remotely. Much like every other band and musician, The Naticks from East Greenwich have been navigating their own path during these crazy times. They’ve done live streams, they’ve released singles and they’ve even been writing a blog. They were doing some of these things before the pandemic hit, but without the opportunity to consistently play live shows, these outlets have become the band’s primary creative avenues.
I recently had a talk with guitarist and co-vocalist Ross MacAndrew about how much has really changed, what the band has in common with The Beatles, his writing about the songwriting craft and the band’s looking to play more shows this summer.
Rob Duguay: To reflect on the past 13 months, how much has changed for you and the rest of The Naticks due to the pandemic?
Ross MacAndrew: In the days leading up to it we were planning more gigs, more writing sessions. And 2020 didn’t put everything at a stop, but we had to shift gears in a lot of different directions. We weren’t playing out as much over the summer, but we found ways to keep staying motivated. Instead of playing out, we started doing a bunch of live streams and then that kind of waned after awhile. We’ve been really spending our time since then with writing, recording and putting out some tunes on their own. We started playing out a little bit more in the fall, but the winter was pretty dead, and now we’re gearing up for shows this summer, which we’re a bit more optimistic about.
It looks like we’re going to be playing more acoustic style shows at this point than full band stuff. Otherwise, everyone in the band has been doing different things. I’ve had to pick up several jobs — gigging was my primary source of income even though I worked during the week doing odd jobs here and there. I’ve had to put more time into those jobs to kind of square away bills and everything else. Everyone else is kind of in the same boat and we’ve worked remotely with a lot of stuff. It’s been a strange time, but we’re staying as optimistic as we can and as productive as we can be regardless of the circumstances.
RD: That’s a good outlook to have — it’s better to see the silver linings than being down in the dumps while not making an effort to make the best of what’s going on. On March 20, The Naticks released the single “Now That It’s Over” that’s been a staple of your live set for the past few years. Is there anything particular about the timing of this release? Did you feel the need to put out something to stay relevant without there being any live music? Or did you put this song out because you wanted to finally record it?
RM: Kind of all three. One of the things that we’ve been really trying to work on is increasing the amount of music that we put out. We have a bunch of songs that we haven’t recorded yet, and it can be tough to get set up to get those done, so a lot of them have been on the back burner. We’ve been itching to get them out, and we’ve been working on a lot of them over the past year. Since the beginning of the year we’ve been trying to get a new single out every month. We’ve released one each in February and March, we’ve been a little behind in April but we have one coming out in a couple weeks.
It’s actually an acoustic cover that we’re doing, and we’ve been tracking and recording other songs. We’re currently figuring out whether to keep releasing the singles every month or group them together for an EP, an album or something like that. For us, it’s all about dedicating the time to put these songs out during this time where we won’t be hindered by having to play out and about. We want to reach more people online while putting new recordings out there.
RD: How were you able to get the single mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London? That’s pretty wild that you were able to make that happen. Did you reach out to them on a whim?
RM: I think it was through our bassist Drew Croll. I’m not sure exactly how, but the mastering got delayed during the end of last year, which is understandable because everyone is wicked busy with recordings. We just started Googling around places where we could get the track mastered, and Drew looked up Abbey Road. We sent the track over not knowing what the rate was going to be or anything, but we ended up getting a really good deal after getting the single back in a week or two. It was cool to have them involved.
RD: The Naticks have also been writing their own blog, so how long has this been going on for and who had the initial idea for it?
RM: We’ve been doing the blog for two years now. After we created our own website we were figuring out a way to draw people to it. Much like with recordings, you have to put out content and material to keep people coming back — otherwise they’re just looking at the gig schedule and whatnot. We started a podcast, which was fun, but it was a little aimless I’d say. I’d like to get back to that at some point, but we then started the blog as a side piece to the band. It kind of explains some stuff. Going into songwriting is what I do a lot on it, while trying to get some of the other members into it, whether they’re the focal point of the song or the main writer.
I really try to pull them in to understand the process or where the motivation comes from and stuff like that. I try to be consistent with it while coming up with new ideas for different topics related to music. It’s a good way to reach people and it’s a good writing exercise for me; I enjoy doing it.
RD: What are The Naticks’ plans for the summer? You’ve kind of alluded to it with the monthly single releases, but outside of that, what else does the band have going on?
RM: We’re kind of in the ready position while trying to figure out which direction we’re about to go in. We’d like to go out and play a lot more this summer than last year, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing things the right way so we don’t run into the same problems we dealt with in 2020. We do have a couple shows booked along with a couple wedding gigs. We’re playing at One Pelham East in Newport on May 1 for an acoustic set, and we’re going to be at The Patio in East Greenwich on May 16. Acoustic music is going to be the majority of what we do for the summer, but if things do open up a little bit more, we’ll definitely do some full band stuff.
We’re also going to be performing at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich as part of a live CD they’re putting out in May, which should be fun to do. Other than these things, we’re just playing it by ear. If we can’t play out that much we’re going to be writing and recording a lot while keeping things in a positive direction.