Indie Mixtape 20: The Natvral Finds Wonder Amid Chaos On ‘Summer Of No Light’

After spending a decade fronting the dreamy indie pop group The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Kip Berman wasn’t ready to leave music behind. The group disbanded in 2019, but it didn’t take long for Berman to turn to solo music. Finding a place for his own music to live, Berman created the solo project The Natvral. Following up on his 2021 debut solo LP Tethers, Berman embraces heartland rock (with a healthy dose of country twang) on his latest release, Summer Of No Light.

Berman began writing the songs on Summer Of No Light during the early stages of lockdown, so thoughts of climate crisis and raising children in a time where the world seemed to be ending was front-of-mind for him. To clear his head, he picked up a guitar and let the music flow out of him. “After putting my children to bed, I spent many a late night in the basement with my guitar and let my mind wander to the places where I could no longer go,” he said in a press statement. “Initially, a lot of the songs were about getting as far away from the reality of my moment as possible.”

To celebrate the release of Summer Of No Light, Berman sits down with Uproxx to talk Belle and Sebastian, Lewis Capaldi, and crying to Coco in our latest Q&A.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

I’d happily trade the latter if it insured the former. But if anyone finds this someday, know that I was a singer of songs, a road dog, and a merch man.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

Wherever will have me.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

I see my Grandpa — he’s 90 now, and like a dad to me. He used to play Viola in the symphony when he was younger, but left that a long time ago. But even though it’s not his work anymore, he still practices every day. He loves it, not because he’s preparing to perform – though I’ve been lucky many times to hear him play, and he plays beautifully – but he is just animated by making music, it’s essential to his being.

I know the kind of music I play is different – but I never want to stop feeling the way he feels — that music is never finished, that there’s always something more to learn, express or share. Maybe it sounds a bit naive – but I want to play with an absence of expectation, to play for the music itself.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

A BEC on an everything bagel and a cup of coffee from Peter Pan in Greenpoint… Any time I’m back that way, I always make sure to stop by.

What album do you know every word to?

Maybe Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister or Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

I remember seeing Belle and Sebastian on September 11th (2001) and it just so happened that I was there with the person I’m now married to. That seems significant, right? They opened with “Turn, Turn, Turn.” But there are many others that stand out: Cat Power backed by Dirty Three at an old laundromat (17 Nautical Miles) in Portland, Leonard Cohen in New York with my mom (it was her old tapes that got me into him), Titus Andronicus at the Hate Shack in Glenn Rock (it was just the back shed at Ian’s parent’s house and I still suspect my old bandmates and I were only invited cuz we were old enough to buy beer), The Prids anywhere, and Dear Nora at the Magic Marker house countless times.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

Layers, lots of ‘em.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

While I don’t know a lot about memes, jam bands, or psychedelics – I feel somehow an expert in all three thanks to the tireless work of @Fad_Albert. “Lock him in the van.”

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

It’s been a bit since I’ve been in a tour van — but perhaps my most spun record of the last couple years is Tele Novella’s Merlynn Belle. Their new one, Poet’s Tooth, just got announced and is sure to be a favorite as well. Oh, and Florry – a band out of Philly on Dear Life Records is first rate. The latest Dear Nora, Human Futures, (Orindal Records) is tremendous as is all Katy’s work.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Checking… ok, here: “who is Lewis Capaldi?”

What album makes for the perfect gift?

The Orange Juice record with the dolphins [You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever]. I almost named my kid Edwyn — the man is a genius. You can’t not love his voice, his perspective — they were probably the first and best indiepop band, though really anything from Glasgow seems to have that proper balance between dirty and sweet.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

There’s been more than a few. There was a cat urine-stained and scented carpeted floor in Columbus, OH once. I remember thinking, “Well, if anyone ever doubts my realness, I’ll someday have this story…” and here I am, so real.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

I haven’t got any.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?

I’m lucky ‘cuz where I live I got a great college station, WPRB. They were playing Roxy Gordon a little while back and I had to pull over and just take it in. A label called Paradise of Bachelors just reissued his stuff, which was new to me. Truly a one-of-a-kind artist, I’m grateful to have a station like that in my backyard.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Well, this is just a small thing, but it’s stuck with me. When my old band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart was starting out, we were on tour in Spain with Bradford Cox / Atlas Sound. We had gone from playing to 12 people at Cake Shop to doing these big shows in Spain within a year, and I was pretty bewildered. For context, there were ads on the sides of city buses for the shows.

I didn’t think we were worthy of all that – I thought about all the bands that I loved who inspired us (The Pastels, Aislers Set, The Wake, Exploding Hearts) and how most of them never got to do anything like that, and I just felt elevated in a way that was both a dream come true and one I didn’t think I deserved.

Well, I couldn’t sleep so I was down eating cornflakes or whatever at the hotel at 5:00 am, and the only other person awake down there was Bradford. And he just sat with me and we talked – and he was just really nice, really understanding of my situation– and encouraging. I dunno, I mean – maybe that’s a small thing, but it helped me get through that time. He was a sweetheart, a real good egg for sure.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

I used to think you had to be monomaniacally devoted to the muses – to the exclusion of all other human relationships or experiences – to win their favor. But it turns out, the muses find that sort of thing a bit annoying. So yeah, just live your life and the songs will probably follow. But don’t try to live your life for ahhhhrt.

What’s the last show you went to?

SRSQ + Frankie Rose at TV Eye. It was AWESOME. I actually met Kennedy (SRSQ) in Santa Cruz in 2015 (?) when we played with Tony Molina, who of course rules. Kennedy wasn’t even at the show, just at a goth dance party next door. But she was like, “I’m in a band called Them Are Us Too, you should listen to it,” and, you know — I did. And it was truly great, tremendous in ways you couldn’t even expect when a stranger hands you a piece of paper. And Frankie, Frankie is one of my faves ever – I’ve done shows with her loads over the years. She’s a true lifer who has made every project she’s been a part of better. I’m always curious to see where her music goes next.

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

If I watch a movie at home, it’s usually just with my kids and I cry for reasons they don’t really get. Moana is first rate for that, and Coco really gets me too. I mean, an unheralded musician dad who struggles even in the afterlife to let his daughter know he loves her? I know I’m a bit of a sap, but that one really just wrecks me.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

Ha, my talents seem to remain hidden — even from me.

Summer Of No Light is out now via Dirty Bingo. Find more information here.