February 14, 2017 Interview – Nate Blasdell of I Set My Friends on Fire
There are many obstacles every band faces which could make or break them. Florida based I Set My Friends on Fire are no exception to this rule and in the course of a few years the band has gone from Vans Warped Tour to highly charted albums to several lineup changes, before a period where they were completely independent of a label.
On a proverbial roller coaster ride through it all, they live to tell the tale moving forward into the future. Led by founding Vocalist/Songwriter Matt Mehana, the shiny and new I Set My Friends on Fire includes Lead Guitarist Nate Blasdell, Rhythm Guitarist Jonathan Rosell, Drummer Chris Thompson, as well as Bassist Connor Mitchener, a cohesive unit ready to make an impact.
Signed on with Tragic Hero Records, the experimental band set their sights on the release of the brand new album Caterpillar Sex and a forthcoming tour bound to excite their core followers. Recently we caught up with the Blasdell to talk his joining I Set My Friends on Fire, the work behind their new music, the struggles they have faced, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – I Set My Friends on Fire initially came together a decade ago, touring and building a strong name for themselves. You joined the fold back in 2015, how did you become a part of the band?
Nate Blasdell – It’s a pretty long story. I was originally in another band called The Bunny, The Bear (TBTB) that toured a lot through 2012-2014. While I was in that band, I just met a lot of people along the way, one of them being Matt from I Set My Friends on Fire (ISMFOF) and we connected on Facebook. After getting to know each other and becoming friends, I started talking to him about bringing back ISMFOF to the touring level and such back in early 2014.
He had just fulfilled his contract with Epitaph, one of the old members who left, had owned their van, and the rest of the members of the band had left, so at the time, he had no band, no van, no trailer, no gear, no label, no agent, and no manager. He was kind of at a stand still on how to get it back rolling again. I had made a lot of friends through TBTB and since we were constantly rotating members, I got to meet a lot of people with touring experience. I owned our backline, I owned our van, I owned our trailer, and I had experience with managing a band when I was younger, so when shit kind of hit the fan with TBTB and I was ready to move on, I offered to manage Matt, put a band together and get ISMFOF back on the road. It took a lot of convincing and was a work in progress for almost a year, but eventually it all worked itself out. Been history ever since.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is quite a story. I Set My Friends on Fire certainly travelled a long road. Making an impact with 2008’s You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter and 2011’s Astral Rejection, in the years to follow, the band found themselves without a label. Now you have signed on with Tragic Hero Records. How excited is the band to be partnering up with the label?
Nate Blasdell – Oh man… You can find interviews of us from a year ago, vowing to never to sign to a label again (laughs). So if that tells you anything, they had to be pretty damn special to change our minds. We are so excited, we love the whole staff, they love us. They care about more than just the band and putting a dollar sign on us, they care about us as humans, as we do for them. It’s a great relationship. They have done so much for us already in such the early stages, we are so excited to be part of their roster.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is very positive. Prior to signing up with Tragic Hero Records, I Set My Friends on Fire actually were out touring completely independently. What was that experience like, and what were some of the most important things you learned from it all?
Nate Blasdell – Where do I start? (laughs) I personally started touring independently while I was still in high school and joined TBTB shortly after graduation. Doing the whole, work any and every job for a month, so we could afford to go out on tour for two months after that. Luckily, ISMFOF had always been in a solid enough state, even when we were touring independently, that we didn’t really have to worry that much about finances, but it was certainly a little different. Having to front plane tickets, merch, recordings, all stuff the band never had to do before. A lot of our money was going into paying ourselves back every tour. It was like a never ending game of catch up, especially considering we’ve done so much overseas as of recently, those plane tickets are expensive. I learned a lot from it, mainly on how much goes into running a business like this on a bigger scale.
The rest of the band certainly learned a lot too. Probably mainly that gross is way different than profit. (laughs) We kind of cried at the end of the year when we saw how much the band generated and how much the band actually made after expenses. It’s like, where the hell did that money go? But after adding it all up, it made sense. I’m not going to say how much we generated total, but we easily had $100,000 in expenses just last year, between having to buy a new van, a new trailer, all the merch, all the plane tickets to Russia, Europe, Australia, etc. We played 154 shows last year alone, so we brought in a good amount of money, but in the end, a lot went towards that. We didn’t lose money though, so that’s still a blessing that we got to do all of this stuff, and didn’t really have to come out of pocket. At 21, and dealing with finances and costs like that, it’s certainly a wake up call to how brutal the industry really is, but we certainly made the best of it.
CrypticRock.com – Well it is extremely positive these lessons did not break the band. In many instances, a band will pack it up and go home with so many tribulations.
Nate Blasdell – It has certainly taken a while and a few test runs to get it running smoothly. Honestly, the financial thing was a huge test to everyone. It’s a lot for someone to digest as to where the money goes. Not only that, just the lifestyle change was pretty drastic for some of the members as well. I mean, we had certain members going from playing in a local band, to playing sold out shows in Russia as their second tour ever. The band is certainly on a bigger scale than most of the projects that the members have been in previously. More popularity, more money, more problems. (laughs) It’s just all about how you deal with it.
Also, touring so extensively, you really have to be able to get along with people to do this. Something some previous members just straight up couldn’t do. There’s gonna be days that are rough, there’s gonna be shows that are below expectations, and most importantly… Shits gonna happen at home while you’re on the road. You gotta leave behind girlfriend’s, family, real life, you’re gonna see your friends graduate, get salary jobs, get married, and you just kind of have to accept that you get to do this awesome job, and tour the world, but it comes with its downsides. Certainly hit some people harder than others.
CrypticRock.com – The hard work is all paying off, so congratulations. Seeing yourself and the rest of the band are essentially an entirely fresh, new lineup surrounding Matt Mehana, how has the chemistry been working for the band?
Nate Blasdell – I can confidently say things have never been better. We all love each other, we all work well together, all of us are very laid back and low tempered. I feel like the biggest thing with all of us is trust. No one hides anything from anyone. You can tell someone if you have a problem with something that you did, and we all respect each other enough to sit down and talk about it. No problem ever lasts longer than an hour. (laughs) Something I’ve never had with bands I’ve been in.
I brought Chris and Connor into the band and have been touring with them through different bands since 2012. Matt brought Johny into the band and they grew up together, so it’s definitely a close knit group of people; we really know everything about each other. No surprises anymore. No “this guy seems cool!” then get out on the road and learn they have hella daddy issues and are a completely different person than they originally seemed. I can confidently say that I’ve never been happier with a line up and consider all of these dudes family for the rest of my life, regardless of where the band winds up.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear, above all, you want to get along with those you are working with. The band is actually preparing to release a brand new album, entitled Caterpillar Sex. What can fans expect from this new record?
Nate Blasdell – This is completely on Matt, but I can say… As my best friend, Matt is probably the smartest, weirdest, random person I know. He’s an incredible writer and it’ll all be worth the wait. There’s gonna be something for everyone.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, well it will be exciting to hear it once it finally is released. Back in December, the band released a video for the song “My Uzi Holds Hundred Round Conscience.” Would you see this is a good sample of what to expect from the full-length?
Nate Blasdell – Confusing enough, this song actually won’t be on Caterpillar Sex. This is gonna be on our fourth record. Caterpillar Sex is gonna be much more electronic based, but the fourth album will definitely be more band based.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, so there is plenty coming up then. Seeing this was the first record you have worked on with the band, what was the experience like writing and recording the material?
Nate Blasdell – “My Uzi Holds Hundred Round Conscience” was the first song that I was ever a part of the writing process for ISMFOF. It was a blast, Matt has so many great ideas and we grew up listening to a lot of the same bands like Armor For Sleep, Boys’ Night Out, Hidden in Plain View, Glassjaw, so we really wanted to pull from those influences. It’s been an amazing experience.
CrypticRock.com – That paints a great picture for anxious listeners. Helping ease some of that anxiety, the band will be hitting the road in February for a month-long string of shows. Picking a set list can often be a challenge for any artist, can fans expect to hear a mix of new songs for this run?
Nate Blasdell – Absolutely! New shit, Old shit, and everything in-between all of that!
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic! Being the band’s guitarist, what are your personal musical influences?
Nate Blasdell – The Dangerous Summer is my favorite band of all time. (laughs) Also, I grew up on bands like The Early November, Armor For Sleep, Glassjaw, Hawthorne Heights, Finch, a lot of the Drive-Thru Records era.
CrypticRock.com – That is a solid mix of bands. My last question for you is pertaining to films. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your favorites?
Nate Blasdell – My dad’s a huge Sci-Fi fan, me not so much. I don’t think you can classify Star Wars as Sci-Fi, but that’s my shit. (laughs)