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Spirit Adrift’s Nate Garrett on Leaving Gatecreeper, Positivity and Power Trip

Last year, Nate Garrett faced down what would be, to most, one of the more enviable musician problems — dealing with the success of two bands. As a member of Arizona-based death metal juggernaut Gatecreeper, Nate and mastermind Chase Mason were on a roll, logging dates with bands like Cannibal Corpse and making one of the most well-reviewed and beloved LPs in Deserted. Meanwhile, Nate’s solo project, Spirit Adrift, was taking off on its own. After much negotiation and finagling, Garrett opted to separate himself from GC to focus on his own work.

Garrett’s latest LP with his now sole project Spirit Adrift is Enlightened in Eternity, a full length (out now from 20 Buck Spin) that recalls classic doom and heavy metal, touching on favorites that range from Trouble to Judas Priest with stops in between but without ever feeling dated. Like previous works, it’s a soaring and powerful record, but this time around Garrett’s overall sound and tone strike a more uplifting note, as opposed to the dark and downtrodden atmosphere from efforts prior. We spoke to Garrett about his decision to leave Gatecreeper, the new SA effort, his recent work as part of the Two Minutes to Late Night ensemble and some of his favorite LPs of the year.

So you recently decided to leave Gatecreeper and focus on Spirit Adrift as your primary vehicle, with Gatecreeper frontman Chase Mason also leaving Spirit Adrift as well. In addition, you recently relocated to Texas from Arizona. How much of you leaving the band had to do with location?

I never really intended personally for the two bands to be so interconnected, because I kind of had a feeling from the get go that they would both be pretty successful, and I was right. But we were all buddies already and had the same schedules obviously, and were kind of used to touring and stuff. And so we ended up sharing three members between the two bands, which I definitely never really intended on.

We’re super comfortable with each other on tour and everything, so it was just very easy. But then for years, both bands were having to turn down really incredible opportunities. So it wasn’t fair to the other members of both bands because they would be stuck at home just waiting for the rest of us. Gatecreeper was having to turn down tours that would make you cry, and similarly I think that Spirit Adrift would be a lot bigger than we are right now if we had not had to turn down so much shit because of the conflict of interest. So, we decided that we needed to solve this issue.

Spirit Adrift was on tour in Europe — we confirmed the Corrosion of Conformity tour. On that European tour last September, we finally had a talk and we got Chase on board with it. He really wanted to be in both bands because he had set his life up for a maximum amount of touring. So he was kind of opposed to the idea at first, but eventually came around and we all realized it was the best situation for both bands. Back then, I didn’t know we were going to be moving to Texas this year. You know, I grew up in the South and I’ve been in Phoenix for nine years and for about eight years of that, I wanted to move back to the South.

So we had a tumultuous beginning of the year and we had to put our dog down. It was fucking awful. But the silver lining of it was that it kind of gave us a push to make the Texas thing happen, which we did. And now we’re here.

So it’s kind of a weird reset button for you in a lot of ways. A new life in another city, a refocused and revitalized band. Now that there is more focus on Spirit Adrift, do you think you’ll fill out the rest of the band?

You know, it’s always been a very unconventional set up for a band. It started as a solo project and then people wanted us to play live, so I put a band together. I just kind of take one thing at a time. It’s definitely safe to say that Marcus is the drummer of Spirit Adrift. He’s the only other person that’s played on the last two records and some on Curse of Conception. I was still playing a lot of the drums on that record, but we started integrating him as far back as 2017 in the studio.

He’s the only dude that’s played every Spirit show besides me. We kind of look at it like a Satyricon situation where I would be Satyr and he would be Frost, but like the redneck version (laughs). We’re fortunate to have a lot of good friends who are really good at playing music, but as long as it’s me and Marcus, it’s Spirit Adrift.

It would be cool to have a band. We’re onto something with the way that we write and record, but I want to play all the string instruments and do all the vocals in the studio. So I don’t see us changing the way that we record. And as far as the live situation, whoever wants to do it that we enjoy being around, can do it.

So one of the most interesting things about the new LP is that the overall tone is brighter. It doesn’t feel as downtrodden as previous efforts.

Yeah, that’s intentional. That was the genesis of the whole approach to this album. So to start, I wanted the album to have the alphabetical title thing, the double E. I was fooling around with the word “evil,” with titles like evil is eternal and goofy shit like that. And I was like, wait a minute. That’s not how I’m feeling right now.

I wrote this summer of last year, so I had given the Gatecreeper guys notice that I was no longer going to be in the band. Things were really good and that was like a weight lifted off me. It’s nothing against those guys, I just was really wanting to dedicate my energy fully towards Spirit Adrift and also my personal life.

So things were great in my personal life and everything was cool. And I was feeling great and listening to a lot of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Pantera, and all these records by Dio, Dio-era Sabbath which have this mentality of us against the world. Overcoming adversity, self-empowerment and believing in yourself. I feel like people nowadays have a defense mechanism where they want to label all that as corny. I feel like people feel guilty about feeling happy.

So, I thought there’s no reason for me to bullshit and try to make an album that’s all depressing again because that’s not how I feel. And classic timeless metal has this uplifting energy to it, so I kind of went in that direction and that’s where the title of the album came from. The last album was literally all about darkness and death and anger. So it was hard for me to make, so I wanted to have fun making music again, so I went literally like the opposite direction. Fuck all that suffering and pain and shit, let’s figure out how to overcome that.

So the bulk of the writing was last year. Was any of the record affected by the pandemic?

Not really, actually. We set January for the recording date and October for the release month. A lot of people think that this album was inspired by the current state of the world, because it seems that way, but that’s just a weird synchronistic thing that happened where I made an album about overcoming an oppressive, torturous reality, and trying to figure out how to survive that. Then this pandemic hit and it just seems totally fitting.

So you knew Riley early and saw his band’s ascension early on. What was it like to see a band like that ascend to playing some of the biggest festivals in the world?

I could talk about Power Trip for years. Maybe I would say them and Lynyrd Skynyrd are the two most inspiring bands to me in my life, and of those two obviously they are the only one I got to see from early on and watch them climb up. Even if I was just a fan and not a musician, it would be awe-inspiring. But being a dude that plays in metal bands, they are like the shining example of how to do it and how to do it right. How big a band can get and still maintain their integrity, quality of their songs and their soul while playing on every level.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw them. My old band was playing South by Southwest and we showed up to the convention center to get all of our credentials. Then I saw that PT was playing right down the street, so I ran over there by myself — I couldn’t get any of my bandmates to go. They were playing in some parking lot and I managed to get up on side stage. This is before I knew any of them personally. Riley came out and he said something to the effect of “we’re not here to like promote our band, we’re not here to network, we don’t care if you’re an agent or a social media mogul or anything like that. We came here to watch a bunch of our friends fuck up a bunch of random strangers.” So he said that and they kicked into “Soul Sacrifice” and my jaw hit the floor. It was literally like a riot. It was one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen, period.

I ended up becoming friends with them and touring with them. So to watch that ascension was amazing, especially because some bands maybe didn’t earn it with blood, sweat, and tears and there was some back backdoor politicking going on. There was none of that with them. They earned it. They clawed and fought for every bit of success they got and deserved all of it. I love that band with all my heart.

You’ve been doing these covers with Two Minutes to Late Night and a bunch of other musicians. Has anything unusual come out of any of these partnerships?

I’ll tell you, Jordan is like one of the most brilliant musical minds I’ve ever worked with. I know it’s like, his whole thing is humorous but I’m kind of like an elitist prick when it comes to who I consider a real musician. I will admit I’m an elitist asshole about that. And I respect Jordan as much or more than most guys in really successful bands nowadays. He’s totally brilliant. I feel like we have a very similar approach and I think we’re both able to visualize an entire composition, every instrument, every section, every verse, every quick note — we can really see the big picture. He’s like the busiest dude on the planet, so I don’t know if that’ll ever happen.

What are your thoughts on doing streams and stuff like that? Do you think you’ll ever be involved in another stream other than the one you did for the album? Does it have to be the right kind of idea to do it?

Like you said, we did an album release stream and the current lineup is spread out between three different states. So obviously we didn’t have the resources to get together and do it for real. We did it for the fans and the response was great. So it was worth it, but it was one of the most like excruciating fucking projects I’ve ever done. It sucked. It was one of those things I got so deep in it that I just fucking hated it by the time it was over even though it turned out great.

So if we ever do another one, it’s going to be real. We’re going to meet up either at a venue or at a practice space and play a real set. Anybody that says they like doing the live streams is full of shit. Everybody would much prefer playing a real show, but it is what it is. You got to pivot, you have to adapt.

What are some records that you’ve been listening to?

As far as newer stuff, my three favorite metal records this year are Sweven’s The Eternal Resonance and the new Malokarpatan LP. Something that’s really not my usual cup of tea that I like is the new Ulcerate album, Stare into Death and Be Still is insane. It’s so ominous, intimidating, tragic and truly evil. Great record. Anybody that knows me, knows I love country and Sturgill Simpson just put out a bluegrass album. That’s probably my favorite record of the year. Also that Choir Boy record is fantastic. So that’s probably my top five favorite albums this year, so far.