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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Psycho Flute, Retro Sounds

Daniel Nathan brings the flute back

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  Today’s bands need a hook. The hook could be a number of things—novel influences, Halloween masks, a highly publicized substance abuse problem, whatever—but they’ve got to have some panache and an inimitable shtick. The Daniel Nathan Band has both. The Milwaukee-based band is a self described psychedelic soul trio, its tunes undeniably inspired by the ’70s and stewed in Southern blues. It’s not the well-crafted songs or Nathan’s mannish boy vocals that make the boldest first impression. Instead it’s what Nathan calls the band’s “procedural weapon”: his flute, “the psycho flute.”

“The flute is another trick in the bag for us,” Nathan says. “It leaves us room to mix it up and it adds a whole other tone to what we are playing.”

  Nathan was introduced to the flute in fifth grade. He stumbled upon the instrument in his home and studied the basics through grade school, then attended a music-based high school in Houston, becoming a classically trained flutist.

  During college, however, his predilection toward music changed and Nathan tried his hand at guitar, focusing on rock ’n’ roll. He put the flute on the shelf—sort of. “When I first started playing guitar, people would egg me on about playing flute,” he says. “So I’d get it out. That’s where I learned to improvise.”

  Improvisation is a big part of The Daniel Nathan Band’s shows. Nathan keeps the woodwind close, ready to incorporate an improv flute solo to keep things interesting. He points out thatwhile it’s hard to stand out as a guitar player, the flute turns heads.

  “When I first bring (the flute) out, people say, ‘What’s he going to do with that?’ and I get a lot of Ron Burgundy jokes,” Nathan chuckles. “But people dig it. They’d say, ‘More flute, more flute.’ ” The masses have forgotten the flute’s place in rock music. Some of yesteryear’s greatest songs featured the flute: “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and The Papas, “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus and, well, just about anything by Jethro Tull. “I think people have forgotten those songs,” Nathan says. “The flute’s been around rock music for awhile. It’s some thing people think is a bad idea, but most of them are like, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea.’” Coming off the solid six-song Voodoo Magic, The Daniel Nathan Band is “writ ing songs and keeping busy.” Nathan says the band is stepping away from the standard song progression and taking a more rock, less bluesy approach for upcoming live shows and future releases.

  “The new stuff is heavier, more than the typical blues stuff we’ve done in the past.” But, don’t worry. Nathan’s not ditching the flute.

  “The psycho flute is here to say,” he says. In support of their new CD/DVD, Live at Mayslack’s, The Daniel Nathan Band plays the Up & Under Pub Aug. 2 with Whiskey Bound and Mike Willis.