Artist Interview: “Milktooth” by National Service

Q: I really can’t say enough good things about “Milktooth” and your band. It has such a unique sound, yet it also takes me back to early 2000s emo rock bands like Brand New and The National. What was your guys’ favorite part in creating this track?

NATIONAL SERVICE: The way the drums and bass interlock – anytime we start playing ti, I immediately start bopping along in my own little world. It’s the reason the end of the song is just bass for 20 seconds – if it sounds good, leave it alone.

Q: Can you tell me how the three of you got together and began to create music?

NATIONAL SERVICE: We’ve been playing together in various guises over the years – Matt and I were in our first band together in Year 7 (RIP This Way Up). I met Iain at uni and we got on like a house on fire – I think it’s so important when you’re playing and writing together that you feel comfortable with the people in the room so we’ve always been friends first and band mates after that. That way, there’s no hard feelings when someone snubs your idea – it’s not about egos, it’s about letting the song do the work. While we all share common musical influences, we also challenge each other musically as well so it keeps everything fresh and interesting.

Q: The vocals in this track are so captivating and honestly like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Who are each of your biggest inspirations?

NATIONAL SERVICE: Vocally, my first love was Julian Casablancas of The Strokes – I thought he was the epitome of cool. I went through various phases from there. I’d incessantly listen to people and unashamedly copy and steal the bits that I liked about them: Orlando Weeks from the Maccabees, Tom Smith from Editors, Morrissey and The Smiths, Bono, Thom Yorke, Paul Banks from Interpol and of course, Matt Berninger of The National. We shared a studio with a band To Kill a King for about 7 years too, so their singer, Ralph Pelleymounter, rubbed off on me a bit as well. A lot of singers let the lyrics dictate the vocal journey. I think lyrics are important, and shit lyrics make everyone cringe, but to me, the right melody and phrasing is much more important. I ache and pain over rhythms, syllables, vowel sounds, hard and soft consonants, assonance, rhyme and how one words glides into the next. From my perspective, it’s a mistake to think that lyrics give the song meaning; the rhythm, harmony, counterpoint and performance can completely transform the atmosphere.

Q: I’m interested in your music journey; do you remember when you each fell in love with music? Was your family musical growing up?

NATIONAL SERVICE: I come from a large Irish Catholic family, where everyone was expected to be able to bash out a party piece. Most of it was shite but there was a few professional musicians in the family. My parents both love music, though neither of them play anything themselves. Really, I wanted to be a professional dancer until I was about 13 so I just loved the energy in music and it’s ability to make you feel something. I had a bad injury during PE in Year 8 and that put me out of dancing so I just threw all my passion into music instead. 

Q: “Milktooth” has such an emotional vibe to it, and I read that part of the track’s meaning is about the lost (and often scared) feeling of growing up. What do you hope listeners take away from “Milktooth”?

NATIONAL SERVICE: It’s difficult to say really – I’m a firm believer that when you publish art in any form, it’s no longer yours, and people have the right to make of it what they will. I want it to evoke a response, however small: a sense of catharsis, joy, anger, reflection. I think it’s important to be in touch with your emotions.

Q: Can you walk me through your writing and production process in making “Milktooth”?

NATIONAL SERVICE: It was one of those songs that instantly clicked; I wrote a verse and a bit of a chorus and when Matt came in with the drum beat it just made sense. Originally it was all guitar laden but we decided it was more powerful to strip it back to just bass. We’ve been through phases of ‘kitchen sinking’ it and were conscious to let the song speak for itself this time.

What do you guys want to say to your fans out there?

NATIONAL SERVICE: Thanks very much for all your love and support. There’s a real sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing something you make, impact others. It’s still insane to think that someone we don’t know spent 3 minutes out of their day, listening to something we created.

Tell everyone what’s next for you guys! Any big gigs or projects in the works?

NATIONAL SERVICE: Single number two… and then the full Milktooth EP. After that it’s the next EP – the both of them together were going to be an album but we felt that a bit too indulgent for a band no-one’s really heard of.

Interviewed by Melissa Cusano







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