Music and fashion have an undeniable connection, from the iconic (think Jane Birkin or Debbie Harry), to the more questionable (by which we mean Lady Gaga’s meat dress). Los Angeles-based band Early Morning Rebel knows and appreciates this more than anybody, and they’re building a unique niche for themselves as the favorite band of the fashion world.
Early Morning Rebel made a splash across the pond during London Fashion Week this year, playing at several shows and events. You also might have heard their single “Life Boat” on Grey’s Anatomy, or seen its fashion-inspired video. Given the seemingly magical way that Grey’s Anatomy discovers and launches new artists, we’re taking note.
“Life Boat” is a stark, haunting song with a stripped down feel. But that’s not all that Early Morning Rebel can do – they also know how to generate a powerful rock sound. Their music is magnetic, and impeccably constructed. Their songs stick with you, in a hauntingly beautiful way. Kind of like a timeless design.
Check out our interview with Nathan Blumenfeld-James, vocalist and founding member of Early Morning Rebel, below.
Crushable: Could you give me a brief history of the band? How did you guys get together?
Nathan Blumenfeld-James: Dustin and I have been friends since we were about 14 years old here in L.A. We went to high school together, actually. We’ve been playing music together ever since, and have produced albums for other people and ourselves, and morphed different projects into one another. About eight months ago, we decided to start practicing and start a new project. We’ve been really involved in the fashion and art, TV and film world here in L.A., and surrounded ourselves with what we’re interested in and what inspires us. And we obviously know a bunch of musicians here, so we kind of recruited a bass player and a drummer and started.
You’ve played at a bunch of fashion shows, including several at London Fashion Week. How did you get started with that?
Dustin is a photographer, and like I said, we’re kind of inspired by, or more just wanting to align with these creative mediums that we love. So fashion is one of those, and photography is one of those, and film is one of those. We really feel like there’s a great marriage between fashion and music. I’ve also seen it even further in my own experience of being around a lot of designers, and seeing a lot of shows, and watching lines develop and evolve. It feels like there’s a really close relationship between how music is made, how albums are made, and how a complete line is made. So we obviously love fashion and love photography, and we kind of wanted to be surrounded by that stuff. So we wanted to have this stuff be partnered up with our brand and our band. So we deliberately went out and found a team that could put us at London Fashion Week. We were really excited about going to the U.K. We talked about it and kind of put together a game plan and made it happen. And the cool thing about it is that it was something we really wanted, and the amazing thing and the brilliant thing was that it really resonated there, and there was a great reception. So it felt like the right thing to do.
What was it like to play at London Fashion Week?
It was really cool. It was our first trip to the U.K. playing, obviously, because we’ve only been around for a little bit. It was really cool. We got to go see a lot of the up and coming designers, which was awesome. Just seeing them with their avant garde looks and their over-the-top stuff, and being in awe of their creativity and their artistry. So that was just amazing, being at the shows. And then when we played our music at some of the shows and events was it really, really good. We had some really amazing reception, and we played a launch party, we played an MTV event, we played an On/Off event, and a few others. And it was really good. We did it acoustic, it was kind of sit-down. We usually do full band but we did two guitars and a keyboard. And it was really good, very intimate. Kind of stripped down, not quite that rock quality.
Would you say that U.K. audiences are different from U.S. audiences?
I think when you come from another place, especially if you’re from L.A., when you go out into the world, or even out into the Midwest, or abroad, there’s a little bit of a romantic quality that people associate with L.A. Even if maybe if they kind of judge it, there’s a romantic thing about Hollywood and Los Angeles. The music is also really important. It felt like there’s an importance to the music there, so the reception to the music was really good. I don’t know if I could specify that there was actually a huge difference. I mean, we’ve played all over the country, and every crowd is a bit different. Which makes it so cool.
The video for your single “Life Boat” is out now. The song has a very stripped down, raw quality to it. Could you tell me a little bit about what inspired it?
When I wrote the song, I wrote it in a very deliberate way that I wanted it to feel stripped down. I wanted it to feel intimate and to feel the intensity of the rawness. It’s really hard to do that. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard because there’s just less going on, but it’s kind of tough to be authentic in that way. The lyrics and the song came about with my own personal experiences of loss and heartbreak, and the feeling of trying to save something that’s not really savable. That hopeless feeling, in a way. So I tried to do that. And then when we produced it we tried to keep it really sparse, so the lyrics would be there and feel kind of naked. When we were shooting the video, we worked with a friend here who has kind of inspired our brand and some of our aesthetic. She’s in the fashion world, and she’s kind of our muse. We wanted to have kind of a fashion video, a montage of shots of her, creating that mood with just film, without actually getting too descriptive on a story or anything. So that’s how the video came about. We got on Grey’s Anatomy with that song, and we decided to shoot this music video right away. So we put it together in about three days, and Dustin directed it, and I produced. We just put it together really quickly. We wanted to create this somber mood and this intense vibe with some imagery without going too much into story.
Who are a few of your favorite artists to listen to?
It kind of depends on my mood, but I’m really versatile and it really ranges for me. I grew up listening to the Beatles, and the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan and all that stuff with my dad and my mom. I went through punk rock, and then I got really into hip hop, and that whole time I was really into soul music. I’ve been listening to a lot of ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s old soul music. Like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, and all that stuff. As far as bands now, I listen to tons of indie stuff, and tons of pop stuff. I’m listening to a lot of M83 right now, and everything from Radiohead to Arcade Fire. My main influence and really what speaks to me is old soul.
What would you say has been your biggest moment so far as a band?
I think that Grey’s Anatomy is kind of huge. I know some of the people at the show, some of the directors and supervisors, and it’s kind of a holy grail for music. It’s not something that I just stumbled upon. I had been cultivating and wanting to do that, because they use music so well. They really care. You can go and watch the show and really listen to a song and be into it, and you may even go and buy the song even if you’re not a huge music lover. They actually introduce music to the world. That was probably the biggest break and exciting moment. Not to mention the fact that there’s like 11 million people that watch the show. It’s one of the huge moments for exposure. But the fashion stuff has been really great, and London Fashion Week was really cool, too. That was a really close second. The way they used the song was really cool.
Do you have any dream venues you’d like to play, or another show you’d like to see your music on?
Obviously I’d love to do more Grey’s, and move into the feature film world. I really am a firm believer that song and score really, really compliment TV and film. I’d love to start working on music in feature films and big films. But as far as venues, my dream is to do the huge, huge venues. Play the Coachellas and the Lollapaloozas. And also headlining tours I think would be great. And we have the full band and could make it a great show and really put on a big thing.
What’s next for you?
We’re actually headed to New York soon to play at Soho House. And we’re doing a Soho House show here in L.A. Then we’re going to do about 7 days in New York, some press stuff and hanging out and playing a little bit. We are working on our album, that’s going to be out later this year. We have a few singles coming out in the next few months, and those will all have videos attached to them. And hopefully we’ll be jumping on a tour with some bands we love. And then the dream is to do New York, London, and Paris fashion weeks back to back next year. Which would be really cool.