Soul Sensations Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats Interviewed

Thanks to their rowdy gigs, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are the live act on everyone’s lips. A seven piece party band, they’ve blazed a trail with their high-octane old school soul sound and raucous live show, which has seen them pick up fans in everyone from James Bay and Laura Marling to Britney Spears.

Picture: Scott Ellison

The Denver, Colorado natives have just played a short, rip-roaring tour of the UK, in support of last year’s self-titled debut album, and have now announced a new run of dates for this autumn, including a date at London’s O2 Academy Brixton, set for November 15. Last month NME joined them on the road in San Francisco as they played two sold-out nights at the city’s famed Fillmore venue.


Outside, female fans are brandishing homemade signs bearing emblazoned with the phrase “Nathaniel makes my night’s wet”. Inside, things are a little calmer. In a room covered with posters from the venue’s most legendary gigs (Janis Joplin, the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, The Who) NME finds the band’s soft shoe shuffling frontman showing off a stick’n’poke tattoo on his hand given to him the night before by a member of the support band Paper Bird. After taking a sip of whiskey he settles down to talk about his band’s rapid rise, their weird and wonderful admirers and fantastically sweary breakthrough single ‘SOB’.

On the importance of live performance
Nathaniel Rateliff: “Making a record is what it is, but I feel like live performance is how someone who’s fallen in love with an album really gets to take it in, and experience it. What I wanted to do was have the energy of Otis Redding – which is hard, because I’m not in very good shape – mixed with a southern, sort of twangy sound. We try our best to keep it good every night. You need energy and the right amount of drinks, which is just a couple. Everybody in the band has a different poison, but mine is bourbon and water.”

On Britney Spears using their single ‘SOB’ to soundtrack an Instagram striptease

“I just saw it on social media. Britney Spears used our song to dance to and then tagged me in it. She put up three videos. I was like, what?! I don’t know why she used our song – but I appreciate it! I thought it’d be fun to respond – so I got a bra and a blonde wig, and did some slo-mo dances as well.”

reposting @britneyspears thanks for making the sexy video of our song #SOB ❤️-ON.

A video posted by Nathaniel Rateliff (@nathanielrateliff) on

On his former career as a folk singer-songwriter

“I was making Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt type stuff and more upbeat acoustic Americana. Back then I’d just be standing still at shows, but now I’m dancing and moving around – it’s completely different. There’s a lot of hip movement. I danced at the first Night Sweats show and immediately people went crazy. Who knew?! I thought ‘I’ve loved to dance for years, I should have done this a long time ago!’”


Picture: Scott Ellison

On lending Ed Sheeran a guitar at Latitude Festival

“My manager ran into him in east London and found out he was a fan of mine from when I was doing the singer-songwriter stuff. I was like, ‘who the fuck’s Ed Sheeran?’ because I don’t listen to radio, I don’t watch MTV. He was just hanging out at Latitude – we had some drinks and partied a little bit. Then he played a surprise show on the Other Voices stage and I loaned him my guitar, a shitty vintage Gibson!”

On the booze-induced breakdown that inspired breakthrough song, ‘SOB’
“I wrote it over two years ago, to make light of a bad situation. I was in London, staying at a friend’s house, and I’d screwed up a bunch of stuff back home because I’d been drinking too much. So I quit. But I’d been drinking a lot, every day for a long time, and I went into withdrawals and had delirium tremors. Like a lot of the songs on the record, it’s upbeat but with heavy lyrical contents.”

On releasing their debut album on legendary soul label Stax
“I found out that my label Concord took over the catalogue for Stax so asked if we could put the record out through them. Everyone was wishy-washy about it at first, but finally we got it to work out. Stax and Motown were the main homes of soul and R&B. Stax was home to Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and Issac Hayes back in the day.”

On appearing on TFI Friday and making pals with Daniel Radcliffe and Florence Welch
“That was the oddest, wildest show I’ve ever seen. When we were soundchecking they were dropping tennis balls onto timpani drums from a balcony. I was like, ‘what the fuck is going on?’ I walked up to Flo and Daniel Radcliffe and said, ‘excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude, but your name has been fucking my name up for a while’. He laughed. I think we’re probably distantly related. Rateliff would have been Radcliffe at some point.”

On wondering who the hell The Libertines were at Later… With Jools Holland
“I thought, ‘those guys seem like real fuck-ups for a new band!’ Someone then had to tell me that they’d been around for a while. One of the singers just came out of their dressing room and mumbled something I couldn’t understand in my ear. I don’t know if they smoked heroin in their green room… The Weeknd were also on and said ‘fucking great song’ to us.”

Catch Nathaniel Rateliff on tour

Brighton Concorde 2 (Mar 7)
Bristol O2 Academy (9)
Manchester The Ritz (10)
Glasgow O2 ABC (11)
Southampton Guildhall (Nov 9)
Leeds O2 Academy (10)
Glasgow Barrowlands (11)
Birmingham O2 Academy (14)
London O2 Brixton Academy (15)
Leicester De Montfort Hall (17)
Manchester O2 Apollo (18)
Bristol Colston Hall (19)
Norwich UEA (20)