Nato Coles discusses new band, upcoming releases

Nato Coles has been involved in the Midwest DIY scene for several years, first gaining notoriety with Milwaukee's Modern Machines before moving to Brooklyn and recently settling in Minneapolis. In his first year in the Twin Cities, Coles has established the "borderline" solo project Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band. While they play along the punk circuit, Coles' songwriting draws strongly from Americana and blue collar themes, owing as much to Springsteen, the Jam, and Tom Petty as he does to the Replacements or The Clash.

We caught up with Coles to ask him a few questions about his new project and his move to the Twin Cities.


Gimme Noise: Do you consider Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band to be a solo project?

Nato Coles: It's a borderline solo project. We play Nato Coles songs, and I've definitely stepped to the front of artistic and creative direction like I never did, but always wanted to, in previous bands. While I may be the leader--I may write the songs and set the tone--it's also a collaborative effort to a large degree. I'm not just barking orders at band practice like a Johnny Ramone dictator asshole. Everybody in the band plays what they play better than I could ever play it, and everyone helps shape the way the songs ultimately come together. The Blue Diamond Band has definitely taken on its own sound in the last few months that would be hard to duplicate with completely different people.

Does it feel any different on stage when you are the namesake of the band?

Yes, it feels good and, in all honesty, it's probably something that's a couple years overdue. Ask my ex-bandmates who occasionally had to remind me that "This isn't the Nato show." I've never been uncomfortable in the lights, even when I don't look so pretty.

How much does the lineup of the Blue Diamond Band vary?

Kyle, Ross, and Mike are the three core members of the band. If one of them can't play a show, I'll ask someone to sub, and it's still the Blue Diamond Band. But recently we did a tour with just me and Mike, down to Gainesville Fest. Kyle and Ross couldn't do the tour--we're not rockstars and don't make lots of money, and some people have school and work, you know? So our friend Sam from in town here (who plays in Dingus and Bumfilter), played bass and my friend Mario from Brooklyn actually flew here to play guitar. We whipped up a quick setlist by the skin of our teeth and that was the lineup for ten shows. I felt it was too different from the Blue Diamond Band to use the name, so I came up with the temporary and awful name Nato Coles and Sane Ass for that tour. Kyle did fly to Gainesville to play our Fest show, which tipped the scales back to Blue Diamond Band-ness for that one night only. Maybe that's why the cops came.


My favorite thing to do is travel. I'd rather spend a weekend or a month in a cramped van on the road with my friends than at home, watching reruns of Scrubs. There's not enough time in my life to live in all the places I'd really like to. I think maybe the rambling doesn't affect my music, so much as it's inextricably intertwined with it in the stories I tell and things I sing about. One thing I do have to add is that, when I lived in Brooklyn and was making that Radio Faces album with Jimbo from Bent Outta Shape, I learned a few things about songwriting that I hadn't figured out in Milwaukee. I'm grateful to him for that. But mostly, it's been a solo learning process, a war of attrition against my own lazy songwriting instincts, an attempt to make each song better than the last one, conducted in several time zones over the course of many years with no end in sight. And my song about the Milwaukee Brewers is now two cities old. I need to get working on something for the Twins or else I'm gonna get way behind. Moving around affects my baseball-themed songwriting very much, actually. "Don't Call Them Twinkies" was great in 2010 but it's time for a changing of the guard in the new decade. Delmon Young has a Misfits tattoo--maybe I can work on something on that theme.

The band is still relatively young. What comes next?

We recorded a demo this past fall, to send to some labels and sell for a few bucks at shows so people can own our new songs and not just have to remember them from the drunken party fog. I've got a 7" coming out in the next few months on Repulsion Records from Milwaukee, but that's actually three songs I recorded just before I left NYC. The Blue Diamond Band should appear on a split 7" with the old Gainesville band King Friday, and I think another 7" coming out on a San Francisco label that my friend Avi runs. If anybody reading this wants to release a split 7" with us and our friends the Annandale Cardinals, get in touch before we save up enough money to do it ourselves and thereby pocket the massive profits from it! I've written an album, but me and the band are still working it out at practice, so that's further down the line. And shows, shows, shows. A tour in March and a tour in the summer to get the blood flowing again. Both will be awesome.

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band play at Triple Rock Social Club on Friday January 7, 2011 with the Slow Death, Annandale Cardinals, and the New McCarthy.