Faker, back for real: how Nathan Hudson fought off fear to make his “celebratory” new album

The man behind ‘This Heart Attack’ on how time, travel and tenacity led to Faker’s return to the stage and a new album that’s “more celebratory of queerness and love”

In partnership with Yours & Owls

It was in the last few days of November 2013 that Faker came to a brutal end. Months earlier, the Sydney-native pop-rockers had relocated to Seattle, holing up with the legendary Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) to record their ambitious fourth album, which would have been the follow-up to 2011’s glittery, dream-pop-adjacent ‘Get Loved’. But it was a bust – the band found that the material didn’t have a place in the Faker canon, and the record ended up being permanently shelved.

In a bid to escape the crushing malaise of the music industry, Nathan Hudson – vocalist, guitarist, pianist and, by then, the only founding member of Faker remaining – packed up his instruments, darted off to the US, bought a mid-’90s BMW sedan, and hit the open road. On one grey and gloomy afternoon, zooming through the ominously named New Mexico town Truth Or Consequences, Hudson’s car spun out on the icy road and collided with a guard rail, flipping to a dramatic – but also anti-climatic, per Hudson’s report – end.

It was in the moments following the crash, when it clicked for Hudson that he had survived, that he came to a definitive conclusion: Faker was done.

Faker had always been tumultuous – it took them nine years to mint their full-length debut, 2005’s ‘Addicted Romantic’, during which time Hudson cycled through six bandmates and just as many touring players – but he’d never considered throwing in the towel. In their later years, though, worn down by harsh touring schedules, creative stagnation and mounting anxiety, Hudson’s heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

“The car accident was just the punctuation mark,” he tells NME now. “It was a relief at that point, to not be in Faker anymore. I’d spent so long trying to convince people that this was something worth caring about, but at that point, I didn’t know whether I even cared about it.”

“Faker has always been celebratory”

In the seven years that followed, Hudson attempted to recapture the spark that sent him down the rock ’n’ roll rabbit hole to begin with. “I would meet with people and kind of try to put something together,” he admits, “but I just couldn’t. I had a bunch of these weird fears that had built up, and they wouldn’t let me follow through with anything.” He eventually settled for a busker’s life, trekked to New York City with just $300 and an acoustic guitar to his name, got a job in a vintage eyewear store, and spent whatever spare time he could playing for passersby in Washington Square Park.

Looking back, Hudson doesn’t see that time in his life as the limping aftermath of Faker fizzling out, but rather the start of an altogether new journey. “I kept travelling,” he says, “and I ended up living in lots of different places in different parts of the world, getting appropriately lost and confused, and then kind of finding my way into what it means to try and live as an artist, and try to make stuff that I care about.”

Faker interview new album Nathan Hudson
Nathan Hudson of Faker. Credit: Clayton Boyd

Somewhere along the line, Hudson came full circle. “I don’t know exactly what changed,” he says, “but I felt like I was ready to make another record.” It was midway through 2020, COVID-19 had decimated the industry, and Hudson – now based in Los Angeles – was seeing out the last few weeks of a relationship “that just wasn’t making sense”. He’d already accumulated a handful of new tracks, and anxiety, angst and heartbreak only added fuel to his creative fire. As for why he rebooted Faker and didn’t just head out as solo artist – especially considering that Faker is now, at face value, a solo project – Hudson says he “wants there to be a continuum between who I was then and who I am now”.

After all, the new songs he’s written “answer questions that other songs in our repertoire have asked”, particularly with regard to themes like self-destruction, self-empowerment and queer love. They were themes Hudson couldn’t avoid, he says, because “I grew up, as lots of young queer people do, being pretty extremely bullied and going through a lot of stuff that really messed with my self-worth. And it kind of left me not trusting or believing in myself – even after having a hit song and tapping into an audience.

“So I ran off to New York, and when I landed there, I was scared to call myself a musician. But I find that if you leave that kind of stuff undone forever, and you just keep changing the subject, you don’t learn anything.”

So: there’s a new Faker album. It was recorded over a whirlwind year of exploration – internally, creatively and literally, as songs were tracked everywhere from Seattle to LA to Mexico to Brazil and all the way to Hong Kong. Hudson won’t tell us what it’s called, and he’s cautious to commit to a timeline, lest his plans get shaken up once more. But he’s in the home stretch: the 14-track effort is currently being mixed, and a 2022 release is, if not guaranteed, at least likely.

“I’m super passionate about telling queer stories and making music that is malleable to people’s experiences”

Sonically, Hudson describes Faker’s fourth album as both a culmination of the band’s past and a bold leap into its future. It sounds like “the first three records if they all had a conversation”, melding “some of the layered, kind of textured guitars of the first record” with “some of the directness of the second record, and then some of the pop-like melodiousness of the third record”. Hudson cites a broad range of musical influences: David Bowie and The Cure for “those emotional songs that you can still dance to”, but then “a little bit of darkness” à la Joy Division, and “a little bit of passion and aggression” that he gleaned from PJ Harvey.

Ultimately, Faker’s new album is about celebration. “Faker has always been celebratory,” Hudson asserts. “Early on, producers would be like, ‘You guys are really enthusiastic… That’s weird.’ But we were, and being called Faker kind of gave us the licence to be, in some way. I really want to maintain that celebratory side of Faker, and make it even better.”

In particular, the new Faker material is “more celebratory of queerness and love”, for which Hudson credits working with ex-CSS drummer, bassist, singer and guitarist Adriano Cintra. “Part of the appeal of working with Adriano is that he’s quite outspoken, fantastically candid about and in touch with his sexuality, and the impact that it has on his local environment. I love that, because I’m someone who can sing and dance and be something onstage, but I’m also terrified of karaoke,” he emphasises. “I’m a bit self conscious, but I’m super passionate about telling queer stories and making music that is malleable to people’s experiences.”

While the new music is still some ways away, Hudson’s focus for now is dipping his toes back into the live realm. He was initially due to play the first Faker show in nine years at Yours & Owls, billed high on the Wollongong festival’s line-up in tandem with the likes of Hilltop Hoods, Flight Facilities, Peking Duk, Violent Soho, The Jungle Giants and Benee.

Just days out from kicking off, though, the fest was cancelled due to flooding; now, Hudson’s sights are set on a free gig at Sydney’s intimate Vic On The Park, where he’ll debut a new tune or two alongside a litany of Faker classics – including, yes, ‘This Heart Attack’ (which turns 15 this year – stay tuned for a celebratory announcement on April 8).

Faker’s line-up will exist in a perpetual state of flux, Hudson says – the upcoming album was made with no less than “three or four different drummers and bass players” – but for the time being, fans will see the singer flanked onstage by guitarists Kat Ayala (Forces & Fury) and Ben Fletcher (Sarah Blasko), bassist Courtney Cunningham (The Buoys, Good Pash) and drummer Astrid Holz (Forces & Fury, Hayley Mary). And regardless of who he plays with, Hudson will always be as authentic to himself as humanly possible. He has to be, he explains, because otherwise there’s no point in performing.

For a case to make his point, Hudson looks back to four months in 2009, when Faker supported P!nk on the Australian leg of her ‘Funhouse’ tour. “I remember overhearing a conversation that she was having with somebody about being numb,” he says, “and how to perform and to go through it all, she had to disconnect from the music.

“But I never felt like that was my experience. I very much have to connect with the song, and it has to be visceral – and maybe that’s the difference between something that’s more theatrical and cabaret, and a rock ’n’ roll performance like Faker’s.”

Faker will perform a free show at the Vic On The Park in Sydney tonight (April 1)