It’s been nine years since we last heard anything from Chicago alt-rockers Madina Lake so, when the band returned with a new single, “Playing With Fire,” along with news of a new EP, The Beginning of New Endings, V13 connected with lead singer Nathan Leone to find out where they’ve been, what their plans are, and what Madina Lake will offer alternative music in 2020 and beyond.
Thanks for your time, these are exciting times for Madina Lake and fans. What was the reaction like from fans to your return?
Nathan Leone: “After 9 years, we had no idea if our base would still be out there, but when we popped our heads up and released ‘Playing With Fire,’ the reaction was insane. Needless to say, we are thrilled and grateful.”
It’s been nine years since your last album; what are your ambitions for Madina Lake in 2020?
“We wanted to test the waters with the new EP to see if people still connect to our general message and the vibe of our band and have it serve a bridge from 2011 to today. Given that we can’t tour yet, we’ve hunkered down to work on another new record called Superbia. We’ll spend the rest of this year making it the best record of all time.”
You dropped the first single right at the start of the pandemic, how have events affected you?
“It’s been difficult. We had just been added to a major UK festival this year which we were going to tour around but of course, was postponed so that was frustrating. We’ve been able to do some virtual chats and record some quarantine videos and of course, write so, all things considered, we’re in a good place.”
Onto the new single, what was the reaction like to it from fans? How did it feel to have new music out?
“We’ve had to relearn the music industry a bit as it’s quite different now. It feels generally splintered but when we released ‘Playing with Fire,’ our core audience showed up immediately and that was inspiring. We’ve also been able to reach a whole new generation of fans. Mental health has always been an important aspect of our music and that’s helped us build a bridge to younger audiences.”
On the subject of new music? Why now? Why was now the right time for Madina Lake to get back together?
“When Madina was on tour constantly for like 8 years, we felt like our best selves. When that was removed from our lives, it left a giant hole. That hole finally became big enough for us to get back in.”
What has been keeping you busy during the last nine years?
“Mateo and I were in LA writing for movie trailers, commercials and pop songs for other artists. Matthew devoted his life to giving back to those that helped him after his accident. In 2017, he and I launched Charity Bomb, a 501c3 that raises money for mental health service organizations and Strange Twins, a production company that produces fundraising rock shows called Strange 80’s. We get a bunch of major artists/musicians to team up and play 80’s covers, then donate the proceeds to orgs like 320 Changes Direction (Talinda Benington’s mental health org). We’d expanded to LA, Chicago, and Nashville before Covid.”
How did the conversations go about writing and working together again? Who initiated them?
“Mateo and Matthew started bugging me about it a couple of years ago. I resisted only because the first round of song ideas didn’t kill me. Then Mateo sent me the music for ‘Tiny Weapons’ and I was all in.”
Nathan, you have talked about struggling to adapt to “normal life,” did being in a band with your brother then all of a sudden not performing make that extra difficult?
“Entirely… I think we had to go through it. We had to go our separate ways and get our footing individually before we could get back together as a band. That took quite some time and wasn’t easy but it was well worth it. We’re all in a really good place personally which allowed us to strip down and get back in the pool. As they say… nowhere.”
Onto the new EP then, which is due out next month, can you explain the meaning behind the title?
“After Matthew got hurt he needed rehab for 9 months. When he was ready to get back on the road we went on this long stretch tour through Australia, Japan and UK/Europe. He was getting really tired really quickly and I pulled the plug. It always felt like an unceremonious conclusion to Madina Lake. It felt like we were forced out, not on our terms. I struggled with that so The Beginning of New Endings is our chance to start a new closing chapter on our terms. We’ll leave that door ajar so we can decide on our own terms when we’ve had enough.”
Have there been discussions about music beyond this?
“We started working on a new record called Superbia. If the first 3 records were a trilogy, this will be a new concept in one record and I for one am pretty excited about it.”
What do you think the new Madina Lake music offers the alternative music scene in 2020?
“That largely remains to be seen. We will do what we’ve always done and write genuine, honest music that helps guide us through turbulent times. We can only hope that it will help others in the same way.”
A lot has changed in the last nine years; what are your thoughts on the changes (music streaming, downloads, social media etc) in 2020?
“We’ve had to relearn it and re-engage. I tried to stay offline as much as possible since Madina ended, so we have to essentially start from scratch.”
Thanks for your time and good luck with everything. Just to finish, the pandemic has put everyone’s plans on halt for now. When some form of normality returns what can we expect from Madina Lake?
“As soon as live music is a thing again we will likely start with a festival in the UK and tour around it. Then we’ll look to play some festivals in the USA and go from there. Thank YOU for the time and energy, we appreciate it more than you know!”