Silver Spring, Maryland’s Lionize has a motto… “Go Hard.” A simple, yet fitting 2-word description for a band that has been doing just that for quite some time. The 4 (sometimes 5) piece group bring a dirty rock-reggae mix to the table, lush with soulful vocals, lurking grooves, and a touch of psychedelia to pay homage to their heroes while celebrating the new style.
Currently on the road supporting their 2011 release, SUPERCZAR and the VULTURE, I got in touch with guitarist/vocalist Nate Bergman during their tour stop in Syracuse, NY to talk about their tunes, how the tour with Clutch has been going, and what their plans are for the rest of 2013
G- What’s up Nate, and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five!
N- Thank you. Thanks for having us.
G- Definitely. This will be my first time seeing you guys, and for some of our readers who may not have heard of you guys yet, can you introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone and what do they play?
N- Yeah. I’m Nathan and I play guitar and sing. Chris Brooks plays organ, sings, and keys. Henry Upton plays bass, and Mel Randolph plays drums.
G- Dig it, and apparently you have a 5th member sometimes, as per your digital media…
N- Yeah. We have Tim Sult from Clutch. We’re lucky that he sometimes he wants to jam with us. He’s kind of in and out, he doesn’t often get to tour with us, but we get to play with him live and tour together, so it’s a treat.
G- Now how did that all come about?
N- It kind of came naturally from playing shows together and supporting Clutch. We were interested in recording and wanted another guitar player, and we ended up going to Jamaica to record a record in 2007. So, we asked he wanted to fly down to Jamaica with us and make a record, and he did.
G- That’s pretty awesome! That must’ve been an amazing time!
N- It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a bad time.
G- Now, speaking of Tim and Clutch, this is one hell of a tour you’re on! This is the tail end of the run…
N- This is, hands down, the best rock and roll tour going in the country, for show. In the world!
G- I’ll agree with that, and the Clutch crowd is a mighty loyal bunch, and it’s no small task taking the stage before those guys…
N- To be honest, Clutch fans have been the most open-minded and embracing fans than any tour we’ve been on. We’ve toured with punk bands, and pop bands, and metal bands, etc, and Clutch fans are seemingly the most intelligent and open-minded, as a whole. You have your rough spots everywhere you go, but…
G- Well, you know…
N- On the whole, touring with Clutch is a privilege and a pleasure for us, for sure.
G- Excellent. Now, tell us about the band’s history… When did you really start sensing Lionize click?
N- I think we flirted with it from 200-2005, before we had the idea of playing bars and parties and stuff. And when Mel joined the band in 2006, that’s when we started to focus on touring and recording and trying to find a sound.
G- Right on. Now, you are currently touring in support of your release, Super Czar and the Vulture, correct?
G- And that was 2011. You recorded that with J. Robbins, right?
G- Tell us about that! How was it recording with that guy?
N- Well, we did Destruction Manual, which was the record before that that we did with J.
N- Recording with J. is awesome, for lack of a better term, He is very prolific, he’s very humble, his ear is exceptional, very easy to get a long with, not necessarily very self-imposing. He doesn’t impose his will… It’s a more natural, organic process with J.
He is full of great ideas, and he’s one of the best engineers for getting detailed sounds in the country. There’s not many people that do it to 2” tape, as well, and do it as well.
G- Right? And that was in 2011… Do you have any other plans to go into the studio in the near future?
N- We are writing a record right now.
G- Nice! How many tracks deep are you so far?
N- Uhhhh, I think we’re close to 13 tracks deep. We’re gonna get close to 20, and then put them to the chopping block.
G- Right on! And any plans to head into the studio or a potential release date?
N- We’ll say 2014 at least there’ll be something on the table. We’re going to continue to tour for the rest of this year.
Now, Lionize encompasses several different genres, the reggae, the rock, the psychedelic… Give us a couple of the bands that you’re currently listening to, or maybe some of the bands that you think we might want to know about.
N- Umm, we listen to an exceptional amount of jazz in the van. Recently, it’s been a lot of Coltrane, Duke, Ellington, Miles Davis. We’re all very big bad brains fans, so that always comes into play on the play list. Captain Beyond. We listen to a lot of classic rock. We listen to a lot of Fela Kuti, and we’ve been listening to a strange amount of Fishbone lately.
G- Nice! Which album?
N- Give a Monkey a Brain, and He’ll Think He’s the Center of the Universe.
We’ve become inspired by a lot of bands that are genreless. I won’t lie… We listen to a lot of Clutch.
G- Why would you lie about that anyway?
N- You know, when you’re being interviewed and bring up a band you’re on tour with, you might naturally say ‘this band,’ but we really do. We’re big Clutch fans, and we’ve been listening to a bunch of Orange Goblin because of the tour. I think we’re inspired by bands that do what they do really well, or defy pigeon-holing and do whatever they want to do. I think that’s probably our biggest strength and weakness at the same time. Our passion is to try to defy what those tell us we can’t do.
G- There’s no reason to pigeon-hole yourself. There’s so many different styles, and we cover all types. If there was only one type of music, we’d be boring, awful people.
So, what I’d like to know is do you have a favorite song you have ever written and recorded with Lionize? Or, for those who may not have heard of you, if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
N- I’d say check out, from the newest record, check out “Trustafarian” or check out “Dr. Livingston.” I think those songs kind of incorporate what the band is about. We like heavy riffs, and we like funk. We like so much stuff, I think those songs are the most blended.
G- Now, you’re on the road with Clutch. You’ve played shows with Murder By Death…
G- Larry and His Flask…
G- Well, if you could pick out 3 bands for a feasible dream lineup for Lionize to be on, who would you want?
N- I feel like like al the bands we’d want to do it with are dead, or don’t exist. Classic bands, and I think a lot of the bands that toured today that we’d want to tour with, we’ve toured with. We’ve toured with Bad Brains and, I hate to do it again, but it doesn’t get much better than touring with Clutch.
G- Right on.
N- I think we’d like to tour with The Black Crowes. We really just don’t care who it is. We just want to tour with that are really passionate about what they do. It’s definitely monotonous to tour with bands that are phoning it in. You want to see something really organic onstage every night.
Last year, we got the privilege of touring with Lucero, and that was definitely a very memorable experience. I think if we were to go out again, it’d be great to do a Bad Brains, Clutch, Lucero, and us. I think you’d get a lot of punk rockers, reggae heads, and weirdos. I think that’s our scene.
G- I dig it. Well, to finish up today, you’re a touring band, building, and playing some great shows…
G- And making it happen. There are a lot of bands and kids who want to start playing music, and they look up to you guys and want to do what you’re doing on the road… What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and do what you’re doing?
N- 2 things I think are good advice. The first thing is do it because you love to play music, and you want to create something fun and fresh… Something you’re excited about doing. Money is not the focus, you know. If that’s why you want to get into it, you’re wrong. It’s the wrong reason.
Also, I think most people who do want to do it and are excited because they think it’s an easier or glamorous way to live, I think you should probably just stay home and don’t do it, and save the space for bands that are trying to grind it out.
And, if you take somebody’s advice who says stay home and don’t do it, you probably have no business being here anyway.
G- Very true.
N- That’s not very Rock n Roll.
G- You’ve gotta put the time in, folks. It’s not all champagne, cocaine, and limos. You gotta grin it out.
Look, I want to say thank you again…
N- Thank you very much.
G- Travel safe, tour safe, play well, and I look forward to seeing the set.
N- I hope you enjoy it, man!