Photography by Ebru Yildiz
Nebraska-born, Brooklyn-based indie rock group Navy Gangs first came to our attention back in 2016, with their brilliant self-titled EP. Their eagerly awaited follow-up, Poach, comes out August 3 on Modern Sky. Delicate Steve, who worked with Navy Gangs on their last release and has collaborated with Mac DeMarco and Paul Simon, resumed producer duties for Poach. The 14 track album is sprinkled with the band’s signature energetic riffs but also offers doom and gloom in songs "Dark Days" and "Vampire."
We chatted with lead guitarist and vocalist Matt Tillwick and bassist Wilson Keithline just before they headed out to shoot the music video for their latest single and Poach opener “1Alone.” The track is one that Tillwick says is "a song I wrote in my first New York apartment 1A... [it's] about the FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling, and how to embrace it."
AdHoc: I love the single you released, “Housekeeping” and the video with the cute little cardboard cut out of you. Can we expect the rest of the album to have a similar vibe?
Matt Tillwick: No! The album is pretty dark—that’s probably the happiest song. It’s pretty widespread of an album; it has light and dark throughout and really ties in to all of the moods of being alive.
How long have you been working on these songs?
MT: Some of them are a couple of years old, and some of them are a couple of months old. We decided to record a bunch more songs than necessary and just pick through those.
What was the recording process like this time around?
MT: This recording process was a lot more efficient; we had more of a plan rather than before, where we were just recording to record. We actually recorded the album twice! The first time we recorded it with a different drummer, and it sounded weird, and then by the second time we recorded it we knew what we were gonna do, and we knew we wanted Noah [the band’s guitarist, Noah Kohll] on drums. The vibe was better and everything went really smooth.
Like a practice run, and then you polished it up?
Navy Gangs: A very expensive practice run! That’s the best way—just do a practice album and do the real one. I think that’s how Prince did it.
Yeah definitely, I think he’s famous for that. They called him “two recording sessions Prince.” When he changed his name to a symbol, that’s what it stood for!
MT: The artist formerly known as “two recording sessions Prince.” I was feeling bummed out about it, and my dad was telling me how Janis Joplin had like five separate recordings, studios and producers.
I guess you can’t really go in a third time now though—might be a bit excessive?
MT: Yeah, too late now. I think the record is really good, though! It’s cool to have something that you’re happy with, and it doesn’t sound like a demo, which I really like. That’s all [Delicate] Steve. Steve is the best!
How did the recording process work?
Wilson Keithline: Matt does demos at home on Garage Band, [though this time we] loosened up on any of us having any creative control, which helps. We were just in two tiny rooms with one producer all laying on the floor, like, “That sounds cool; that doesn’t sound cool”—and it was a lot easier. It was great. Then Noah laid down his drum parts, and I put down my bass parts. Basically, Noah and Matt went in alone for a few extra days and knocked it out. It was so quick, it was nuts. I think that’s when I really started getting into coffee!
Were you recording in Brooklyn?
WK: Yeah! We recorded in this cool little studio by the Lorimer stop, L train. I love me an iced coffee; I like it cold.
I’ve never been to Nebraska. What was it like growing up there?
MT: In Omaha, where I grew up, everyone is in a band essentially, and it’s a huge friend group of people in bands and everyone is in each other’s. So there’ll be like 10 different bands with the same people. So I’ve just been going to shows all the time for like the past 10 years.
It sounds similar to Brooklyn!
WK: It is, but it’s so much sweeter! I’m not from Omaha, and I didn’t know what to expect coming from Providence, Rhode Island, but you need to be a very talented musician. That blew me away. Everyone’s got home studios, and everyone’s recording on each other’s records.
What are you most excited for in 2018?
MT: We gotta write! When we get back from tour, it’s time to write and record Poach 2 — definitely a working title.
WK: Matt has been playing some of these songs for like seven years!
MT: They are great songs, but we just gotta add to that. Time to start tinkering around on GarageBand. I actually just upgraded to Logic!
What do you like to do in your spare time? Any TV to catch up on?
MT: Personally, I watch mainly anime, so I’m definitely going to do that!
Any big things to tick off the list next?
MT: Trying to travel a little bit! We’re talking to people in the U.K. and Australia—maybe [we’ll] go out and hang out with our friends Big White there and do some festivals. Amazing!
Got any other news to share with us?
MT: We’re shooting a new music video for the second single off Poach! It’s very Inception, or for you anime fans out there, Paprika, this crazy animated movie where people are entering people’s dreams and turning them into nightmares. I guess that’s where this aforementioned darkness comes in! Matt: Sometimes I’ll just sit in the dark and watch really sad anime for days on end.
I don’t think you’re alone in that, which means there are a lot of people who will like this album! MT: Yeah. Hopefully, it resonates.