FAIRBANKS – Destroy Nate Allen doesn’t sound like the name of a band that would perform uplifting, energetic folk-chant music. But with all the energy and intensity that frontman Nate Allen puts into it, maybe it is physically destroying him a little bit.
Known for his aggressive, in-your-face performances, Allen usually performs as a duo with his wife, Tessa. But Allen will be solo when he visits Alaska next week.
Allen is more than a full-time student, taking 26 credits at two Portland, Ore., schools, trying to complete bachelor’s and associate’s degrees at the same time. This week is his spring break, and he’s using it to perform.
“I’m leaving my laptop at home,” he said on the phone, while walking to class in Portland.
Allen has toured in the Lower 48 with bands like The Builders and The Butchers, Mythological Horses and The Scurvies, based out of Alaska. It was The Scurvies that convinced Allen he should come to Alaska.
“They keep saying ‘come to Alaska,’ so I decided to take charge,” he said.
Allen started his music career as a solo act, playing soft, acoustic music. He later realized that a lot of his solo stuff was based on foundations that were rooted in bitterness and fear, even if the music didn’t actually speak to those things.
So he decided to focus on that bitterness and fear and on his “personal brokeness.” His music morphed into what it is now, and since he went by “Nate Allen” he figured he needed a new moniker.
“Destroying his band name,” he said about his new name. “It’s very flippant and spunky.”
The change in the name also represented a change in his performance style. He had been standard acoustic folk. But after he did a solo U.S. tour in 2007, he realized that in order to make enough money to get to the next city, he had to stand out.
It didn’t help that he developed pneumonia days before the tour started. His natural style was already quiet, so he had to up the ante if he wanted to continue.
“It was not intentional, but I thought ‘If I have four songs to win this audience, what can I do?’” he said. “Climb on something? Or go stand on them?”
So that’s what he did.
Always a fan of pop songs, many of his tunes are inspired by three-chord hooks. That plays into the catchy nature of his folk chants.
He said that his solo show is generally just as high energy but with songs that are more introspective. His song selection is broader, too. When he performs with his wife, they have a set list that they tend to stick with.
But even if the show is unexpected and even a little crazy, he hopes people leave feeling good.
“It’s guaranteed to show you a good time,” he said. “What I really value is making people feel like they’ve spent their time well.”