Nate Laban was born to rock and roll. He’s been an integral part of the Seacoast music scene for more than 20 years, always with a contagious smile on his face. His career has spanned a multitude of solo incarnations and bands including Brook, Bear and The Elephant, The Frosting, and Wallos. Over the years, he’s done it all, from anti-folk to skate punk to country; his quirky storytelling works in most any genre. When ex-Satan’s Teardrops drummer Jason Lara steered Sam Hill, their newly formed group, toward playing metal, it was a natural fit. Their debut album, “Sonja,” is a fresh throwback to metal’s classic days of mythical creatures and tales.
It’s not surprising Laban’s vocal stylings and pop know-how work well over galloping riffs and Tony Iommi-influenced solos. His powerful voice and registry have always been suited for metal. Never one to settle into a genre or project for long, Laban indulges in this chance to let loose a torrent of epic songs. The result is an inventive alchemy of an accomplished songwriter’s take on a new genre. Recorded by the band, “Sonja” has a slightly lo-fi sound that gives it a nostalgic feel — think “Day of Reckoning”-era Pentagram meets newer Saint Vitus.
The opener, “37 Rings,” is a stoner metal jam that chronicles a tree being cut down in winter; it doubles as an introspective story and features a chorus that shows off Laban’s hook-y aptitude. “Scourge of the Warm Blooded” displays his writing chops in an epic about a frozen giant who has come to destroy man: “He has had as much as he can take, enormous the patience, equal in rage.” And their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” is spot on. In Sam Hill, Laban has found a transcendent medium for his harder-edged endeavors. Let’s hope it lasts
Seacoast Rep Theater
Spotlight: What got you into playing music?
Laban: My mother bought a piano at an estate sale for $50 when I was in third grade. She brought it home and tried playing it for a week and then it just sat there unused with a red book on it that said, “How To Play Piano.” So, I read the book and tried to pick things up. I still have the piano and it’s one of few instruments that I have a good relationship with.
Spotlight: You’re like the punk rock version of Elvis Costello. That said, I want to know who and/or what actually influences your writing/singing/playing.
Laban: I am most influenced by sincere compositions either in rock, pop or R&B, but lately I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Black Sabbath and Red Fang. I also listen to a lot of female songwriters across a lot of genres.
Spotlight: Besides music, you seem to like to fish a lot. Is fishing a more calming release than hammering away at power chords? Any funny fishing stories?
Laban: I fish to honor my father. Fishing is the only thing that has ever completely satisfied my curiosity when it comes to nature. Story? When I was a small boy I was fishing in the Salmon Falls River that ran behind my childhood home in Rochester. I hooked a big lamprey eel but I didn’t know it until I yanked its whole body out of the water. The eel hit my bare leg and wrapped around it. I screamed and started running dragging the eel and my pole several feet before the eel rolled off onto the ground. I found the biggest rock I could find and beat the thing to death with the hook still in its mouth while I cried hysterically.
Well, I think that’s a funny story anyway.
Spotlight: You’re a relatively new “proud poppa.” How does parenthood change your perspective on things, artistically or otherwise?
Laban: My daughter Ernestine is three now. She has completely changed my perspective on music. I don’t write autobiographical songs anymore. I wrote those for years and years … very serious tunes about my own problems or social problems or whatever. After Ernie entered the picture, I write more using people I see or meet as characters and dress them up in situations I dream up. Of course, on the other end of that is Sam Hill (the metal band) where we tackle topics such as ice giants, serpents and stuff like that. It makes me feel like I’m a teenager again. I feel incredibly lucky that way. I don’t feel old.
Spotlight: Father John Misty. I hear you’re a massive fan. How’d he catch your ear? What’s he doing right?
Laban: Eric Ott turned me on to him and we went to see him in Boston the other year. He opened up the night by playing drums for the opening band without introducing himself. I thought that was pretty great and then he came on and killed it. He kind of has the whole package: Great lyrics, sincere songs and he is a funny performer. His first record I would put on my top five favorite records of all time list and the latest one is almost as good. He is a strong representative of our current 25- to 35-year-old generation and is saying things in his songs that are part of the casual national conversation, such as the over-prescribing of medications, student loans, drug use, unequal distribution of wealth, as well as poetic love. I think this has endeared him to a lot of people. Couldn’t recommend him enough. Especially to those dopes who say music isn’t any good anymore. Man, I hate that. What a bunch of lazies.
with Mr Personality
Fury’s Publick House
with The Landladys
75OL-189 Nate Laban & Sam Hill – Self Titled CD
$8.00 S&H Included
$8.00 S&H Included
2 Autumn on a Beach
3 Hometown Shame
5 Shoot for Victory
6 Garbage Town
8 Good Life
9 Fat Camp
11 Insufficient Funds Since 1975
Nate Laban & Sam Hill is the debut release from the band. It is an 11 song introduction. The songs are a collection of stories and characters from every day working class New Hampshire (from which they hail). There are songs about genuine alien abduction, teen struggle, real fat camps, as well as fat camps of the mind. In this record Nate takes on The Devil, which is Sam Hill and all the things he is able to conjure. What is to come, and the sound the future holds depends on the outcome of this battle. Listen carefully.
You can read the article here.
“Nate Laban & Sam Hill” by Nate Laban & Sam Hill, natelaban.bandcamp.com: On the cover of Nate Laban & Sam Hill’s self-titled debut, a small, bespectacled man with a guitar fends off a huge, menacing devil. The artwork (by local illustrator Matt Talbot) doubles as a mission statement for the album itself—Laban and the band standing together, fending off all the demons, both minor and major, that life throws at them. “Nate Laban & Sam Hill” is, at its heart, a fun album, but buried underneath the rousing choruses and blazing guitar work is some serious grit. It’s also an album about small-town life, with songs that double as character sketches (“Hometown Shame”) and short stories of attempted redemption. “Autumn on a Beach” is a great, bitter break-up song set on a boarded-up beach boardwalk, while “Garbage Town” is a folk-punk love letter to a rundown city. Many of the songs, like “Shoot for Victory” and “Pills,” use driving drums and guitar to bring to life the conflicts that happen when a person tries to make positive changes in their lives. But Laban never gets too serious—“Fat Camp” and “Insufficient Funds Since 1975” are just awesome punk anthems, loud, brash, and punchy. “Nate Laban & Sam Hill” proves there are few problems so serious that a good song can’t help solve.
Nate Laban and Sam Hill, with The Wheel of Awesome.
Benefit for Portsmouth Halloween Parade.
The Coat of Arms
Nate Laban plays a solo set at Noon on the songwriter’s stage
Apple Harvest Day
You can read the review here.