Natalia Tena: “I’ve Missed Osha” The Star Talks Molotov Jukebox, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones
Ahead of Molotov Jukebox’s gig at The Haunt on 3rd December, Natalia Tena – actor and musician extraordinaire – talked to us about living in Brighton, Tropical Gypsy, Harry Potter, and what she may or may not be up to in Game of Thrones.
Before hitting the studio to add the finishing touches to her band’s new album, Natalia Tena – known among other things as the wildling Osha in Game of Thrones, the pink coiffured witch Nymphodora Tonks in Harry Potter and the accordion wielding lead singer of Molotov Jukebox – took the time to talk to me about the life of a busy artist.
This year the band have been working hard crafting their second album Tropical Gypsy, due out in April 2016, and have already released first single ‘Hi Life Crisis’.
Molotov Jukebox started in 2008 and have been growing from strength to strength ever since, topping off 2015 with a Pyramid stage set at Glastonbury. Their records so far have been like sponges – absorbing all sorts of genres and rhythms. The new album sees the band beginning to settle more on their sound. “It will still have the same feel but it’s more honed in. All the best bits of what we are but in a more thought out concentrated thing rather than like ‘oh we like this song lets shove that on’. That doesn’t work as an arc. It’s kind of like writing a crime novel and having a romantic porn chapter for absolutely no reason.”
“We were mixing so many different styles it was so boring for people to have it explained. ‘What’s your music like?’ ‘Oh it’s a mixture of bla bla bla bla bla! – Insert Bollocks’. Now it’s tropical gypsy. Working on from the last album, which was a bit schizophrenic, the songs are all either tropical or gypsy and hopefully the best will be a mixture of both.”
Natalia, a born and bred Londoner of Spanish descent, is a bundle of expletive laden affable and effusive energy, simultaneously managing to seem more grounded than your average star, whilst also having a head that’s firmly in the clouds.
After growing a faithful following with their first album Carnival Flower, Natalia is feeling the pressure to make follow up Tropical Gypsy a success. “I went into the studio and I was hitting the notes but the tone wasn’t right and I kind of lost my sh*t a bit. But I thought ‘f**k it’ the world is much bigger; there’s refugees without houses,” says Nat. “I’m in the position of doing something I love and I’m scared of f**king it up and I want to give a good album to all the people that pledged to us because otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this. That’s what I’m trying to think of at the moment – that’s where my head is.”
With sold London and Bristol shows, the London based six piece will be stopping off in Brighton in December as part of a six show tour. With the help of Pledge Music, they have so far been able to carve a path off the back of crowdfunding support from fans. “I hope the fans will be happy. We’ll be playing some of the old bangers along with some of the new ones we think will fit the set. Hopefully a lot of Brightonians will have pledged and can enjoy it.”
As well as having already played several shows here, Natalia Tena spent a year in Brighton and knows the city well. “What I love in Brighton is the mad burning of the clocks. I’ve got so many good friends that live there so hopefully I can be there with them for that. But also I love May, I love the Fringe. Indie music’s not mainly my thing but I love all the stuff that’s just happening: the lady boy tent and the f**king stand up comedy everywhere. I’m such an avid lover of stand up comedy so that’s what I take from Brighton.”
Natalia Tena will be recognisable to many as the wildling Osha in the award winning hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Having been absent the last two seasons looking after one of the few remaining Stark boys, I wanted to double check Osha was keeping Rickon safe. “Well, the thing is I can’t tell anyone what’s going to happen,” Nat whispers. “But I think she’s probably been doing great. She’s been looking after him, teaching him to hunt big game, not just small rabbits – f**king big big animals. Maybe even learning to kill some white walkers with the power of the mind. I mean it could be anything.”
“She could’ve been doing a lot of things,” The confession continues. “maybe also teaching him to cook really well. Maybe to play an instrument, I don’t know what kind of instrument he’d play.” Medieval accordion? “More like the medieval tin whistle, something light.” Rickon and the Tin Whistle – I’m not sure if this is a list of spoilers or a long tease.
Though unconfirmed, there’s been plenty of sightings of Natalia in Belfast where GoT is filmed – the show famously terrible at being able to keep a lot of things secret. Osha is a wildling, a kind of ‘barbarian’, from beyond The Wall, with a terrible story of death and zombies that caused her to flee south into the kingdom of Westeros. She’s the first wildling we meet on the show and the first we sympathise with. “I’ve missed Osha actually, she’s quite a force. Her energy’s very low down, very wild. It’s aggressive. It’s maternal and kind at the same time, it’s quite fun.”
Despite the success of Game of Thrones, Nat is probably most famous for her role as Nympadora Tonks in Harry Potter. Having starred in two huge fantasy epics, I wonder which she prefers – the family friendly or the not so family friendly – or if her music is what really makes her tick. “It’s weird, obviously you love doing what you’re doing at the time. I do know that I literally cannot wait until all of the seasons are out of GoT and I can sit with a bottle of wine and binge watch ten hours! But now that Christmas is coming I love nothing more than having hot chocolate and f**king watching Harry Potter. I find it really hard to watch any of the ones I’m in so I’ve seen one to four very many times. But I need Harry Potter in the winter; I need at least one film a year.
“[Music and acting] they’re both really important. This year I’ve been doing much more music – a few bits and bobs of acting and promotion but really this has been the year for writing this album. If I do too much of one I start really really craving the other.”
It turns out she an avid reader too. “I binge read all of GoT when we went on tour in Brazil, I love them! I put all the books in my case and one dress and a bikini and that was it. They make you want to eat everything, the descriptions of the feasts are pretty epic.”
J.K Rowling broke the hearts of generations who expected a Hogwarts letter in the post, but ended up going to their local secondary. Natalia’s character Tonks was a Hufflepuff and I imagined, like most people, Nat would place herself in Gryffindor but she has a more considered and surprising approach on the topic. “It’s taken me awhile to find the right answer but I’ve realised that basically, it depends on the time of the month,” She says thoughtfully. “When I’m premenstrual I’m Slytherin. Definitely. I think it would then go Hufflepuff. Then mid month I’d say Gryffindor and then Ravenclaw. It’s a monthly cylce.”
“That’s the thing with the sorting hat, everyone can be all of those things; we can all be brave and we can all be sneaky and we can all be loyal and brainy. It’s a bit sad they decide for a child what their path is going to be before they’ve even grown into it. But obviously it works as a story so that’s just the Nat Psychologist trying to… you know… well, just chatting bollocks.”
Natalia Tena with Molotov Jukebox play The Haunt | 3rd December
Cover photo by Brian Ledgard