FROM HIS EARLY YEARS GROWING UP ON A CATTLE RANCH
in a small Kansas town, Nate Harold knew he would one day pursue music
and make it his life. After studying piano for a few years, his love of Pearl
Jam’s Jeff Ament led him to buy his first P-Bass at age 13, and dedicate his
time to learning the instrument. In his late teens, Harold moved to Lawrence,
Kansas, a place he still calls home, where he plunged into the emoindie
scene and took over the bass duties for the Get Up Kids and Koufax.
In 2008, his mutual friends Nate Reuss, Andrew Dost, and Jack Antonoff
asked him to join their new indie-pop project, fun., knowing that he was
the bassist they were searching for. Harold agreed, and four years later the
group is playing to sold-out venues, performing on Saturday Night Live,
earning six Grammy nominations, and making everyone hum their hit
single “We Are Young.”
Already exceeding his lofty childhood ambitions thanks to fun.’s 2012
breakout album Some Nights, Harold is adjusting to the widespread notoriety
by expanding his abilities in a band that features thick layers of keyboards,
four-part vocal harmonies, and skillfully picked driving bass lines.
Was it difficult finding your place in a band that utilizes keyboards?
A lot of my lines are competing with synth bass lines, so it’s all
about finding a happy medium to sit between
the percussion and the keyboards. It was a little
intimidating at first, knowing that I had to battle
a Moog. I just focused on filling out the low frequencies
and making my lines fit the songs as
much as possible.
How did producer Jeff Bhasker record your
Jeff is a hip-hop producer, so there were no amps
in the studio whatsoever; I went straight into the
board. Usually when I track we use a DI,
mic an amp, overdub parts, and sometimes
re-amp my lines, but this time was
really straightforward. It was something
new, but I love the results.
Have you always been a pick player?
Actually, I only started playing with a
pick leading up to playing with fun. My
friend Rob Pope plays with Spoon, and
he gets an amazing tone that I love, so I
developed my own version of that. I keep
my pinkie across the strings at the bridge
and use that as my muting technique. If
it’s a slower song I’ll pick closer up to the
neck to get more low end.
Describe your ideal tone.
My favorite tone comes from a vintage
Fender Precision Bass through my
1976 Ampeg B-15N flip-top. That’s ideal,
but I can’t get that sound everywhere.
I don’t take much vintage stuff on the
road, because it gets used and abused
every night. I try to keep my bass present
in the mix, and I like the low mids to
stand out most.
Describe one of the band’s shows
from your perspective.
Most of the time our shows are a blur.
Some of the shows are so exciting and so
big that I almost black out. I have one shining
moment in the set on the song “All
Alone” where I have a fantastic bass feature
at the end, and that’s where I have to
face my fears and walk to the front of the
stage in the spotlight and play that part.
It’s terrifying every night. I just think,
“Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.”
fun., Some Nights [Fueled
By Ramen, 2012]
Bass Fender ’62 Reissue
Rig Two RCAB Audio
50-watt heads, four
RCAB Audio 2x12
Harmonix Big Muff,
Boss DD-3 Digital
Deluxe Memory Boy
Delay, JHS Pulp ’N’
Strings Ernie Ball