We interviewed Nate Merli from Heyrocco to inquire about whiskey vs. Mexican ashtrays, alleged frying pan murders, and the benefits of taquitos and gas station pizza.
Your latest EP is called “Mexican Ashtray.” What’s your drink of choice?
Nate: Whiskey. But for a while, we were having a lot of Mexican ashtrays. It was just kind of a phase.
Have your neighbors ever retaliated against any of your rehearsals?
Nate: Not really. Our landlord lived above us for a couple years. He was actually very supportive. He didn’t like it when we threw things off of the patio, which happened a lot, I suppose. For the most part, we’re pretty OK with the neighbors. Our neighbors right now are a Taco Truck and a driveway, so. We’re pretty solid for the quarantine practice now.
What’s been keeping you busy during quarantine?
Nate: I’ve been doing a lot of gardening, actually. I’ve got a little garden set up outside. I’m growing my own basil, cilantro, stuff like that. I suppose cooking really. That stuff’s kind of nice, you go pick your basil leaves, cut ‘em up, throw ‘em in the pot and stir. I was running for a little while there but I kinda bailed on that. I guess that’s about it. Some traveling. Yellowstone National Park was a lot of fun. Montana was cool, went there for a couple guys. We picked up and moved out to the West Coast a couple years ago. So, I hadn’t seen a lot of Utah, Salt Lake City, the desert, you know. We’re kinda going through a big Joshua Tree kick right now. I really just like the Yucca Valley, y’know? But, that’s pretty much it.
You’re originally from South Carolina and relocated to LA. What’s been the most different after that big move cross-country?
Nate: I think it’s become a little more clear that we’re pretty country at heart. I think that our Southern upbringing really stands out here. Musically, we’re just going back to our roots. We did our whole Sublime thing, that whole rap-rock SoCal thing. Other than that, musically, I really appreciate the health-conscious way out here in California. There’s a lot of healthier options to eat and feel better. Plant strong.
When you’re on tour, what’s your go-to gas station order?
Nate: For awhile there, I was kinda hooked on…There are a lot of little 7/11s downtown, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I would have a piece of pizza there sometimes, on the move. I haven’t had that in awhile. Taquitos, that’s a pretty popular one in the group. I know Chris liked to drink Naked smoothies—even though they’re all sugar, he doesn’t know that. I guess that’s it. Gasoline maybe.
Where do you hope to see yourself this time next year?
Nate: Ooh, that’s a good question. Maybe in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Or, this place we just moved into next to the taco truck I like a lot. It’s kind of like a warehouse that we’re building a little studio in. I’d like to see that place come together a little more. It’s got a lot of instruments, a lot of gear. I’d like to see myself in a pickup truck, I’m looking for one like crazy, but I can’t seem to find one. You got any leads?
Mexican Ashtray is about murdering a girl with a frying pan. What inspired that?
Nate: Whoa, this is getting deep. It’s a story that passed along in my family a long time ago. That did happen. But I’m not the criminal. Supposedly, someone died from a frying pan in a hallway a long time ago. In rural South Carolina. Really dark. So, I guess that inspired that line people seem to ask me about. But yeah, cool you guys picked up on it.
What does your writing process look like?
Nate: Right now, it’s pretty ugly. I guess it just depends. I usually start writing a song, and then if it’s really happening, I start laying down everything. With the quarantine, it just depends who’s around. Drums, bass, whatever. Then I’ll just drink a bunch of whiskey, and the song is really happening, and then all of the sudden I fall asleep. Then I wake up, and I go back and listen to it, and I’m like, “Shit, this is amazing.” Then, I guess that’s it. Then I either play it again, or never think about it again. And the ones that come back up seem to be pretty worth the time, I suppose.
What were your first impressions of your bandmates when you met?
Nate: Taco and I met a long time ago. We were friends before we were even in a band. We’d just do a lot of skateboarding. He actually played drums, so I kind of wanted to play guitar. I had actually already been kind of interested. But then, when I first met Chris, I didn’t know what to make of him. I thought he was pretty greasy [laughs]. He just kind of hung out in the backseat of this car we were in for awhile, didn’t really say anything. And he had really baggy jeans, which was kind of against the curve of little tight pants, when that was a thing. So, I was certainly intrigued by his individualism. I feel pretty much the same way about him now as ever. And maybe vice versa. We’re all pretty good friends, we’re kind of our own little family out here. It’s kind of just nice.
What upcoming plans do you guys have?
Nate: I really wanna go to Joshua Tree, like all of us together. That’s one plan. We’re doing a Livestream show early December. We wanna put out some music, so we’re just trying to find the right studio. There’s a few in the desert, there’s one I want to go check out. Right now, we’re working out the kinks of a new sound, some new tunes. That’s about it, I guess. I can pretty much only think a few months ahead at a time, because who can really predict the rest. Our new spot is very cool, that’s kind of a goal that took a while to find. So we’re done now, we can just relax, I guess.