nathan oliver
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nathan oliver


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"Rolling Stone"

"your recordings sound great, you are such a fine young man, just wait until i show your father!" - Nathan's mom

"The Daily Tar Heel (Alphabets EP)"

"Nathan Oliver is a student in the UNC School of Dentistry. He is also the creator of some really good indie pop...

The EP, recorded at Pox World studios in March features Lee Waters from Work Clothes on the drum kit, and three really solid songs. “Black Ship White Sails” has a simple, but effective groove and a really strong viola part that almost sounds Middle Eastern. Just between us, it’s a really, really cool song.

If the EP isn’t enough for you, Nathan has a whole bunch of songs posted on his website. You can listen to them at [ ]"

Bryan Reed
Arts Desk - The Daily Tar Heel

"Southeast Performer"

SE Performer
May 2007

Nathan Oliver — Nathan Oliver
Recorded at Pox Studios in Durham, NC
Produced and Mastered by Zeno Gill

Nathan Oliver is the brainchild of Chapel Hill native Nathan White, who records and performs under the moniker with fellow North Carolinian Mark Lebetkin. This self-titled effort marks the band’s first full-length release following their critically acclaimed EP, Alphabets. Inspired by his own self-musings, White, with Lebetkin, recorded this release with the help of drummer Matt McCaughan (Portastatic, The Rosebuds, Mosadi Music) and Peter Vanlund on percussion.

Falling a little short of a full-length release on its own, Nathan Oliver also includes the three tracks from Alphabets. What follows from the band’s latest effort is a wholly remarkable mix of infectious post-punk gems and smart, self-conscious indie ballads.

However, this is not just a rehash of old Shins tunes; though influences of baroque pop bands like Arcade Fire and The Unicorns are prevalent on the CD, this is something more. There is an underlying awareness of Beatles-era pop and a quiet, Elliott Smith-esque singer/songwriter style.

Nathan Oliver is chock full of influences, from The Pixies to Silverchair, but remains dynamic and cohesive in its arrangements. The opening track on the CD, “Black Ship, White Sail,” has, not surprisingly, been gaining airplay in Raleigh, as it combines upbeat melodies with jangly guitars and that lo-fi garage-rock sound. “Greys and Blacks,” one of the more edgy tracks on the disc, pummels the listener with ethereal vocals and jarring melodic dissonance against sporadic, angsty drumming. The CD also includes a creepy rendition of Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants,” sounding more like Bauhaus than anything else.

The only complaint one would have to make about this must-have CD is its sad length; including the three EP tracks, the CD clocks in at a mere 27 minutes. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying this CD on repeat for days to come. (Pox World Empire)

-Charley Lee
- Performer Magazine

"Obscure Sound"

The dentist. A source of pain, misery, and harsh realizations. Even though I have never had a cavity in my life, I still despise the place like most others do. Maybe it is those sharp instruments being inserted into my mouth or perhaps it is the bright lights that shine in my eyes when I am placed in the hands of some unidentifiable professional with an unknown object in his hand. Either way, the dentist’s office certainly is not on my list of most anticipated places to visit every six months. I get a feeling that Nathan White knows this common feeling of detest. Even though he is a student of The School of Dentistry in North Carolina, White has another passion besides the admittedly vital profession of dentistry. That’s right, like most individuals featured on this site, he is also a musician. Whether it is his way of giving back something enjoyable to those who silently abhor his profession or just an escape from the stress of root canals, White clearly knows what he is doing both in the fields of dentistry and musical composition. He started rather atypically, performing in the commonplace high school bands and building upon his skills at an early age. Upon high school graduation, White pushed music aside momentarily and began to focus on his studies. It did not last very long though, as music returned to Oliver’s life in 2004 when he met Mark Lebetkin over a common infatuation with The Pixies. The two proceeded to play together for two years on and off, strumming their guitars and creating nonchalant melodies in their heads.

In March of 2006, the duo began to finally take their progressive musicianship seriously. Meeting with producer Zeno Gill (known for his work with The Rosebuds), the two expressed the desire to transform White’s songwriting into a polished set of studio-recorded songs. After enlisting the aid of drummer Lee Waters (who had previously played with Dan Bejar), the trio recorded their debut three-song EP, Alphabets. Going under the recording name of Nathan Oliver, the release saw a respectable amount of airplay, mostly on local radio stations around Raleigh’s (WKNC). Comparisons arose and immediately likened White’s impressive and unique songwriting skills to acts like the Arcade Fire and The Unicorns, with past influences of The Pixies and Nick Drake also showing a strong presence. Though much of Nathan Oliver’s material is laden with keys, synths, and excessive reverb, it can be best classified as an indie-folk album with several contemporary production elements. One of the most notable tracks on Alphabets was the stellar “Black Ship White Sails”, an exotic beast of a song that utilizes a distorted viola in portraying White’s overzealous melodic capabilities. Also on Alphabets, “State Lines Pt. 1″ is a catchy pop song that blends the whispering synths of The Postal Service and the emotionally cohesive acoustics and vocals of Elliott Smith, displaying White’s tendencies for drawing up a song that is both modern and creative in nature, never failing to keep the listener intertwined in a full state of genuine interest.

After Gill became impressed with the group’s effort on Alphabets, he agreed to produce their debut full-length album: the self-titled Nathan Oliver. Signing the band to his Pox World Empire label, Gill brought in drummer Matt McCaughan and the four individuals set out to work on the album. White finished writing seven more songs, with the ten songs on the album consisting of those new seven and the three on Alphabets. These ten songs on Nathan Oliver are consistent with White’s untraditional style of songwriting. While “Black Ship White Sails” and “State Lines Pt. 1″ remain the most enjoyable two songs on the album, each of the ten songs delivers provokingly in its own style. The dramatic strings and acoustics in the story-tale interpretation of “All That She Wants” is reminiscent of Nick Drake’s style, though White relays the song with an impressive collection of instrumentation in the key-oriented chorus. “All that she wants is another baby, she’s gone tomorrow boy,” White sings with immersed solitude, musing about human regret to the best of his experience. Softer and more acoustic songs like “I Lived In A Crater”, “Sleep Song”, and “Face The Cold!” are also expectedly enjoyable, with the latter being supplemented by an advantageous supply of orchestrated strings. The darker and more distorted songs in the vein of “Greys And Blacks” and “No Name” both prove to be lasting and memorable, with overlooked elements like the finger-snapping in “No Name” providing as excitable catalysts in an otherwise typical blend of indie-rock. Nathan Oliver’s full-length debut should supply listeners with a state of satisfaction, as the majority of White’s songs are unequivocally composed with genuine fervor. Even if his occupation is eventually as a full-time dentist, White should always take comfort in knowing that he gave many individuals pleasure through the sound of something other than teeth drilling. Nathan Oliver is one of those rare debuts that sounds like a band’s second or third album, soaking in past experiences and creating a sound that is unique to their own presentation.

"The Daily Tarheel (Nathan Oliver)"

Nathan Oliver
Nathan Oliver
4 stars (out of 5)

What separates indie rock from the rest of the music world is one very important notion: that anybody can be a rock star.

Even though it's still a guitar-based sound, indie is not so much a style as it is an ethic.

In that tradition of everyman rock 'n' roll comes Nathan Oliver.

When the record starts spinning, the fact that he's local, that he's a student or that he's anything becomes trivia. The music speaks for itself.

Oliver's self-titled debut is a surprising, multifaceted and ultimately great indie rock album.

With a mastery of dynamics and a willingness to break formula, Oliver's songs take on immediately identifiable individual characteristics, but somehow manage to flow together cohesively.

The opening track, "Black Ship, While Sails" starts off slow, but soon explodes with an ambush of upbeat drumming and an infectious string riff.

The track then flows into "Old Slow Poke," which abolishes any notion that this is another subdued indie record with its rollicking rockabilly rhythms, reminiscent of the Violent Femmes.

But just as willing as he is to rock out as on "Old Slow Poke," Oliver is ready to settle back into a casual groove, spawning songs that are downright pretty, as on "State Lines, pt. 1," and his disarmingly gorgeous cover of Ace of Base's "All That She Wants."

But regardless of the mood that Oliver sets for a song, he maintains a sense of urgency and emotive dynamic that is consistently masterful.

Nathan Oliver has created that rare record that feels entirely comfortable but draws listeners back time and again solely on the strength of its melodies and arrangements. - The Daily Tarheel

"The Oak Room"

Nathan Oliver's self-titled debut CD is a little gem of well-crafted, folkish pop songs. UNC dental student Nathan White enlisted a fine cast of musicians to flesh out his creations, including Lee Waters (Work Clothes), Matt McCaughan (him again -- Rosebuds, Portastatic, etc), and the production skills of Zeno Gill.

I'm not sure that the dental student thing is that relevant to the music, but I suppose that spending that much time staring into people's mouths might twist your perspective a bit. And there is something pleasingly off-center about this album, from the sonic quirks that make this more than generic guy-with-guitar rock (I guess that's viola on "Black Ship White Sails"?) to the obscurely dark tone of the lyrics. White ranges from quiet, acoustic numbers like "Sleep Song" -- mainly guitar, but still there's a noise in the background that complicates things -- to straight-ahead rockers like "Greys and Blacks". In between, he nods to the Violent Femmes ("Old Slow Poke") and reimagines the Ace of Base song "All That She Wants" in a bleakly haunting manner. But amidst all this, White has some lovely pop songs, and the two numbers that I'm featuring highlight that craft.

Nathan Oliver plays Sunday night (4/29) at the Cave in Chapel Hill, opening for the Trolleyvox. They don't have any more shows on their calendar after that, so check them out now!

"The Perm and Skullet"

When I heard Nathan Oliver's music, literally my first thoughts were, "where has this guy been?". How have I managed to overlook a great talent in my own backyard? ( Unfortunately I'm sure this happens more often than I like to think) Then I read his one sheet and the first line reads, "Where has Nathan Oliver been hiding all this time?" See I'm not the only one, but I'm glad I found him.

On his S/T release on Pox World Empire, Nathan creates somber/shaded pop-folk with just enough edge, just enough to get you moving and excited about what music in the Triangle area can be.

He belongs somewhere in between an Elliott Smith heart with a Shins/Spoon feel, scoring a Wes Anderson film, and underlying it all is something I've yet to put my finger on. That something that is waiting to break out. Who knows, maybe it has and I'm just not privy to it yet, but what I do know is that Oliver joins a growing cast of amazing troubadours living in the area and you just need to listen to the tracks below to hear it.

.: Black Ship White Sails
.: State Lines Pt. 1

Nathan will be performing tomorrow night (May 20th at 8pm) at The Blend in Chapel Hill with The Watchers (Chicago), Shakermaker, Betty and the Boys, and LA Toy.


Nathan White is a Chapel Hill dentistry student; Nathan Oliver is the debut LP of the selfsame fella in singer-songwriter mode working on incisive songs (vs. incisor teeth). Oliver (nee White) rounded up some of his friends who have played with Portastatic, The Rosebuds, and Destroyer, and recorded these 10 two-to-three-minute pop-rock gems. Taken as a whole, Nathan Oliver‘s 27 minutes explore dark territory. Opener “Black Ship White Sails” is a nuanced slice of eerie rock, where I hear Oliver’s best approximation of Conor Oberst’s voice and earnest delivery. “Old Slow Poke” follows, and is acoustic angst which initially echoes the Violent Femmes, but culminates in a screaming finale more reminiscent of pissed-off punk. “Greys and Blacks” mixes the dark texture of a New Wave anthem with a gritty bounce akin to the The New Pornographers. A neo-gothic reading of Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” is wholly unexpected, but easy to appreciate. -

"We Want the Airwaves Back"

We Want The Airwaves Back Nathan Oliver S/T (4 out of 5 Zoidbergs)

Young solo artist Nathan Oliver has the soul of a confessional singer-songwriter, but the brain of a pop tunesmith - think of a less morose Bright Eyes. He's meanwhile a dentistry student, but I promised myself I wouldn't make any puns. Oliver conjures a dark mood easily, aided by tastefully integrated doses of strings, but his debut is not a dirge-like affair, as he can just as easily craft an upbeat pop song that will stay in your head for days. The opening track "Black Ship White Sails" is one such song, its acoustic guitar chords bouncing along like a stone on water while a viola floats over the top.

The album's master stroke comes when Oliver's serious and whimsical tendencies fuse together for a cover of "All That She Wants" by Swedish early 90s two hit wonder Ace of Base. Oliver has taken the Morricone-isms only hinted at by the song's hook and turned the song from a ska-influenced dance number into a spaghetti western epic. His rendition trascends mere novelty cover status; when he sings about the song's protagonist in his sombre lower register, she sounds more sociopathic than shallow.

It's too easy to play "spot the influences" when listening to debut albums (Pixies, The Shins and Nirvana all pop up here) and not focus on what the artist makes of those influences. Nathan Oliver is a promising young songwriter who lacks the pretension and precociousness that mantle usually entails. He's a guy having fun making music and who just happens to be pretty damn good at it. And that's the tooth.
-Tom -

"Amplifier Magazine"

Amplifier Magazine

It’s great when an album begins as one odd mess of good rhythms, but you can’t really pinpoint where exactly it might go next. On Nathan Oliver’s self-titled debut album, the young UNC dentistry student methodically confuses the listener with a lo-fi acoustic opener, “Black Ship White Sails,” that then leads to the very Dropkick Murphys-inflected “Old Slow Poke.” As if that wasn’t enough, he covers Ace of Base’s timeless pop hit “All That She Wants,” regurgitating ‘90s Swedish gold in a sort of subtle, tongue-in-cheek, Jens Lenkman type of understated hilarity. Though much of the album seems to follow a Bright Eyes trajectory, White (Oliver is his very clever pseudonym) crafts enough interesting, original folk-pop, like the ukulele driven “I Lived in a Crater,” to keep away from being a Conor Oberst copyist. It’s mostly just fun and quirky, but White really begins to shine on the Arcade Fire-inflected “Pray Tell” that sees him taking his simple, basic instrumentation to a higher sonic plateau. It’s lovable acoustic pop that’s far better than most acoustic solo work, and just clever enough not to fall into the mainstream.
– Wes Barker
- Amplifier Magazine April/May 2007 Issue 59


Cloud Animals (2009, Pox World Empire)
Nathan Oliver (2007, Pox World Empire)
Alphabets EP (2006, self-released)

"All The Pretty Girls Go To Sea" Compulation Volume III: Songs from North Carolina (2009, Pox World Empire)
"Oh, The Winter" Holly Raleigh Christmas Volume III (2008, Sir Walter Records)

Nathan Oliver releases have seen rotation on WKNC, WXDU, WXYC, WIDR, and more; and spins on WSOE, WCOM, WTJU, Radio K, Breakthru Radio, WUNH, WRVU, WVKR, WRUV, SCAD Radio, WMBR, WOBC, WRSU, KWUR, KSCL, KZSC, KGLT, and more.

Selected mp3s are on several music blogs, including Ear Farm and Largehearted Boy.



Our relationships to our favorite bands, in many ways, parallel our relationships to people—at least in trajectory. First we meet, and if that introduction is friendly, we dig a little deeper, seeking further acquaintance before we can find an adequate label. Is this an acquaintance? A friend? A soulmate? And so it continues until one party sours the relationship (which any fanboy'll tell you can be accomplished with just one dud LP), or dies, leaving us to treasure our artifacts, nostalgic for the better times. Or we simply lose touch, each party's oppositional drift widening the chasm where a relationship once stood.

But what of those uncertain times immediately after that first friendly introduction—the stellar debut that opens us to a sophomore album, about which we can't possibly be certain? If nothing else, it provides inspiration enough for Cloud Animals, the follow-up to Nathan Oliver's striking 2007 debut.

Since the self-titled LP, the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based project has evolved, but retains its defining sonic characteristics—a balance of Pixies dynamic and Elliott Smith melodicism. The difference is in the approach. "This one is more aimed toward character profiles, rather than schizophrenic moodiness," says the band's central figure, Nathan White. "Some of it's still moody, but it's more directional." That direction, it would seem, is to treat each song as a new interaction. Most of Cloud Animals' 11 songs were recorded with different collections of area musicians—among whom we can count Reid Johnson (Schooner), Billy Alphin (Schooner, The Rosebuds), John Harrison (North Elementary) and Wes Phillips (Ticonderoga). "Each person was pretty deliberately chosen to play on particular songs," says White. "Mostly, I thought they would get the song."

Additionally, Cloud Animals was recorded in pieces between August of 2007 and the end of 2008. Says White, "It was to allow room to have more spontaneous sounds and noises. To have some of the creativity be more spontaneous." But even as it's more spontaneous, the songwriting has grown more deliberate and complex, the arrangements, tighter, more punchy. Certainly, the band itself has evolved, even as its personnel changes—a sign of maturity gained from sharing the stage with, among others, Neil Halstead (Slowdive, Mojave 3), Bombadil and Des Ark.

Perhaps, its surest sign of maturity is the album's steady theme. White says, "There's a lot to do with how two people meet or how two people are drawn together…it's supposed to be like the interactions between people before they become friends or whatever." Fitting for a sophomore disc that, far from slumping, opens a new chapter in the relationship between Nathan Oliver and its growing fan base.

press inquiries: please contact Rachael Oehring at needleinthehaypr [at]