A while ago, I sat down for a Zoom call, as you do in the age of COVID, to have a conversation with Nathan Feinstein, lead singer and guitar player for one of my favorite reggae bands currently out right now, Iya Terra.
The band had just gotten off the road after a successful nine-week summer tour, opening up for genre icons 311.
Iya Terra is also currently enjoying the spoils of their latest album, Ease & Grace, which was released back in the summer of 2021. Below are Nate’s thoughts on touring during a pandemic, the success of the new album and what Iya Terra holds in store for the future.
So, ‘Ease & Grace’ has been out for months now and Iya Terra just finished a pretty serious tour. How was it finally getting back out on the road?
- NF: It was awesome, man! A little intimidating, because of the state of the world, you know? Starting the year in January, thinking we weren’t going to tour at all, I had made peace with the fact we weren’t gonna tour till 2022… so, when we got this 311 offer in like February or March, whenever, I was like, “HOW?? How are we gonna do this?” But, we just went with the flow. There was no promise of each show, so we just made the most of it.
Speaking of the state of the world, what kind of challenges did COVID-19 present and how did you guys overcome them?
- Stick to the band bubble. Nobody backstage for the whole tour. There was a rhyme and reason to it. It can’t be the same as every other tour, because you would just increase the likelihood of someone testing positive. If you’re willing to tour on this massive of a scale, you kinda have to be willing to adapt… or be willing to cancel shows. That’s the sacrifice: be willing to have less fun and be more secluded, or be willing to cancel shows.
- Personally, I had a great time. It’s admittedly less fun… you don’t get the friends backstage, you don’t get to meet new people. One thing I thought was cool, though, was I kind of thought it brought our band together. We pretty much did nine weeks straight with just the nine of us — and the Traeger grill. Grilling, playing a ton of video games… I’m really proud of everyone for exercising and staying healthy. We were one of the few tours that didn’t have to cancel any shows. No one even got a cold! All in all, dude, I had a fucking blast. To play live music again, I’d almost do anything. That last negative test, everyone must have thought we were insane. We were just stoked to have completed the whole run with no issues.
That’s a great mindset to have doing what you guys do, I’m glad you guys made it all across the country and back home safe and sound. How was it performing with legends like 311?
- There’s a couple of bands in our world that are the staples of who you would want to tour with. Some that also serve as a bit of a ‘rite of passage’ for younger, up-and-coming bands, like the Good Vibes Summer Tour with Rebelution, the Slightly Stoopid Summer Tour or [touring with] Dirty Heads or even 311 — the amphitheater tours. This was our first amphitheater tour ever. Getting that from any of those guys would have been sick, but to get 311, they’ve been around for a long time, you know? And, for me personally as a guitarist, I always thought that if those guys heard our tunes — specifically Tim Mahoney, their guitarist — they would dig them. I subconsciously am so inspired by that guy. [He’s] the first guy to really incorporate riffs into reggae. He watched our set at Red Rocks from front of house and hit up a mutual friend and was like, “Hey man, I’m really digging these guys, I’m glad they’re on tour with us.” And, that was so cool.
I bet you were so stoked when that happened. Transitioning from this last tour to the new album, overall, how has the feedback been?
- It’s all been really good, man! There’s been a lot of excitement for the headlining tour, the album release tour. We’ll be able to play a little more of the new album than we were able to on this tour, just because of time, you know? But, yeah man, there’s a lot of songs on this album that are gonna slap live!
Do you personally have a favorite song off the album? Favorite song to play live?
- Honestly, I think my favorite song is “Future”. I know it’s kind of ballad-y, but to me, it’s really sentimental. We walk a fine line — our albums usually have an odd mixture of pretty and heavy. I love the heavy, the “Mind Control”, the “Your Wars” and the stuff that pushes boundaries. But then, I also love the ambient and deep vocal stuff. So, “Future” has my favorite lyrics and I’m excited to play it live. “Mind Control” is going to be a fun one, too! We have a crazy idea that we can’t wait to show everyone!
Have there been any breakout songs from the album? Any songs you didn’t expect for people to be as crazy about?
- Not really… it’s happened pretty traditionally where the singles are the most popular. Actually, you know what?! I lied. It was a single, but I didn’t think it would do this well, our song with Trevor Hall “We All Walk Our Own Roads”. People love that one! I think if you look in our Spotify, that’s our number two song. It’s already got 1.5 million plays. “Outer Space” is number one and “We All Walk” is sitting at number two.
I can totally see that, but I definitely wouldn’t have called it. So, at this point, with this new awesome album out and just completing this successful tour, what’s next for Iya Terra?
- TBD, man, I really think I wanna just enjoy this album cycle. Everyone is feeling really accomplished coming off a successful album release and this nine-week amphitheater tour, so everyone just wants to get back into their home routine for now. No one is totally in a rush. We all just want to live life right now. Our drummer is about to have a baby, the first band baby, so everyone is really excited about that.
- Formally, what’s next is our headlining tour promoting the album that is coming up. I’m currently finishing up producing a full-length album I’m doing for a good friend of mine, Mihali from Twiddle. You know, for me, as a songwriter, I don’t want to write about the same stuff I’ve already written about, so the number one goal is to live life, make new memories and have new experiences. I’m always writing, everyone in the band is always writing, but I’m not in a rush to slap anything together in the next year — I’m gonna let it happen naturally. Everyone is feeling really happy and we just wanna bask in it.
Well, I’ll be the first to say I think you guys have definitely earned it, especially with this latest album. It’s been a real joy to watch Iya Terra grow from a small band playing a midday show at the side stage at Cali Roots to where you are now. I can’t wait to see what your band has in store moving forward.
- Thank you, man! Even that side stage was a huge dream for us to play there!
Purchase or stream ‘Ease & Grace’ album:
Cover photo by Alicia Hauff; thumbnail photo by Sean McCracken