I’m Natalie Smallish! Birth name (Natalie Martinez) I’m a second-generation Cuban/American musician and have been playing bass for alternative rock band The Haunt since 2018. I’ve played in bands in the Miami, Florida scene since 2003. I was raised in that scene and heavily influenced by it at the time. I was the only one playing in an all-girl punk rock band at the time (think Bikini Kill, Jack Off Jill, Team Dresch). I’ve played the legendary CBGBs twice (in NYC) and those are some of my favorite memories in music. That style of punk rock just doesn’t exist anymore. My influences are very broad. When it comes to playing bass I have never really tried to play bass like anyone else instead I like to tap into the emotions certain bass melodies try to convey. A current band that’s really inspiring me is Khraungbin, I am completely obsessed with them. They are a prime example of melodic driven bass with vocals that just tug at your heart strings. I’m also heavily into my culture so my Spotify playlists are pretty much all Afro-Cuban/Latin, minimal house beats. I have much of it on vinyl as well.
When I’m not touring you will catch me at Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, doing everything involving vinyl records. I DJ only vinyl at some low-key spots around town. When I was younger, my inspiration to play bass were bands like Nirvana, No Doubt, and Nine Inch Nails. That phased out and I grew a love/appreciation for older music and toured with a band called Beach Day. That got me into Motown girl groups like The Shirelles, Supremes, Ronettes, etc…
I just literally listen to everything now. BUT I’d also like to strongly note New Order, Depeche Mode, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), pretty much melodically and rhythmically are to blame for HOW I evoke and then convey all my bass and performance expressiveness.
Tell us a little about your musical background; how old were you when you started playing guitar, and what inspired your musical desire?
I was 14 when I picked up my first bass ever. It was a super sh–ty knock-off of a 1960s baby blue Hagstrom vintage bass. I played that for about a month or two before I sold it. I regret it to this day. My mom put me in piano lessons after school when I was about 9/10. I hated it. I didn’t like the amount of structure and rules within the music sheets so I quit. Around 12 years old, my grandfather whipped out this super old classical Cuban guitar that I NEVER put down. The first song I ever learned on it was “Zombie” by The Cranberries. I’d sit outside my grandmother’s apartment morning till dinner time playing that thing. I wonder where it ended up.
Where do you find the inspiration for your music?
Everywhere and nowhere. I listen to music 24/7 with my record store gig. I’ve been there 14 years so sometimes I literally hate listening to music. Sometimes I go weeks and weeks without it. So I have my band The Haunt (https://linktr.ee/thehauntband) to thank a lot for a lot of my inspiration — we practice all the time back home. They motivate me to play music and just better myself musically all the time.
What is your songwriting process?
The song is in charge. I play and create bass melodies and lines to what I’m feeling and what the song is portraying. Lately, my process has been live. I play a lot of things live that I don’t do in the studio and then we either change and add it to the studio recordings depending on how finished a song is. It’s just a different vibe and sometimes you’re not aware of it until you’re on that stage and in that frame of mind.
What’s your go-to bass guitar for songwriting?
Again, it depends on the song. I’ve played Gibsons, Washburn, Hofner, Ibanez, Music Man and more but I will always love playing the Fender Mustang short-scale. That bass NEVER lets me down. It growls just as much as it’s smooth. I’m thinking about finally giving in and buying the Fender P Bass though.
Music to me is…
I read somewhere once a long time ago that “music is what feelings sound like.” It’s legit, don’t know who wrote it but I vibe with it.
Connect with Natalie
The Haunt: @WeAreTheHaunt