Destroy Nate Allen on Andrew Jackson Jihad, Touring and Not Allowing Indifference

Destroy Nate Allen is a folk-punk duo, made up of married Christian rockers Nate and Tessa Allen. The pair's music is a strange thing -- acoustic guitar anchored and melodically reminiscent of Social Distortion as much as recalls groups like Dogbreth and Andrew Jackson Jihad (the band has played with both).

To make make sure things stay strange, the group rarely performs on stage, marching around venue floors, involving (sometimes) unwilling audiences in the group's singalong style performances.

We caught up with songwriter Nate Allen as he drove through Oklahoma, to discuss the music making process, the band's friendship with AJJ, and not allowing indifference. Destroy Nate Allen is scheduled to play The Trunk Space on Friday, August 5.

Up on the Sun: It's been a few years since I've caught you guys play. What's new? What have you been up to?

Nate Allen: We've been touring. We tour about half of the year, and the other time, I'm in school and Tessa does taxes. So, when we're home, we're busy with school and taxes, and we're on the road the rest of the time. It goes back and forth.

What releases are you touring on?

Our latest full length is called Until My Ankle Gets Better. It's mostly a solo record of mine. I wrote and recorded it around the time Tessa was in the hospital last year. Her appendix ruptured. So, we were planning on going on tour, and I ended up recording this, which is kind of my reflected record. We also have a three way split out with Insomniac Folklore and Self Proclaimed Narcissist.

You guys have been touring together a couple years. What's it like touring with your wife?

It's so much more fun. I like to think she makes everything better. Music is simpler and 10 times more fun with the two of us. We have more fun playing, and I think audiences feed off that, and we feed off each other. It's great, I get to hang out with my best friend all day, and meet new people, and we both fit pretty well to the lifestyle, it's not really stressful.

You guys are far from a traditional band; you don't just stand on stage, you are all over the place. Do people get weirded out by that?

Yeah, people run out the door sometimes. 95% people are super into it, the other five tend to leave or pull away as far as they can. Sometimes audiences are hard to read, and we don't know what we are playing to. We just do our thing, and maybe by the end they will get into it. Sometimes people run away, but we are okay with that.

Danielson Famile had a quote years ago, that people either "love them or run out the door screaming." Either way they don't allow indifference - and we don't allow indifference, either. You either have fun and get into it, or it's not your kind of thing.

Your lyrics focus on your faith, but you spend just as much time playing with secular bands, sometimes with bands who are probably not a big fan of your message - I assume that's a conscious decision.

It's a super intentional thing. In Nashville a couple nights ago, and we've played a couple of times there for Christian group, and they are always cool. But this time we played a DIY house, and none of those kids came to that show. We don't feel super comfortable playing in that scene, and the majority of the time we play with people who don't see things the same as us. We intentionally do that.

We're not the kind of band that a youth pastor is going to book and like. I mean, he may like what we do, but...it can be a little strange playing in places were people have totally different philosophies, but we are a lot more comfortable playing house shows or anarchist DIY places than we are churches. We're kind of unconventional for a punk show, but we are really unconventional for a church .

It's easier to be creative when you don't play to the people who are always going to support what you do. It's good to throw yourself out there.

With this band, there are hypothetically easier roads that we could have taken. I've booked tours for bands that are bigger than we will ever be, but I think our band is how it is because we've chosen a route and built the intensity. The DIY kids are more likely to get what we do.

You guys play with local heroes Andrew Jackson Jihad a lot.

[We were gonna play with them this time, but ] Sean is moving to Chicago, and he didn't know he would be in town.

I assume there's a sense of camaraderie between you guys and them.

We get a long with them really well. We enjoy how authentic their lyrics are, and enjoy them as people. We liked their music before we met, and we hang out as much as we can with them given touring schedules and life.

A lot of their lyrics are similar to what you are singing out - but almost from the opposite spectrum. There are a lot of differences, but a lot of similarities, too.

Yeah, we like what they are singing out. I totally get where they are coming from when they sing something like "I wish I had more money" -- that's one of our all time favorite lyrics -- 'cause we are like man, I'd really like to be able to pay the bills. And we like that they say things that aren't "cool," because that's something we always do.

I guess it takes a lot of guts to be uncool.

Yeah. [laughs]

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.