Black English have gone through a lot of changes in the past year. Be it a name change and a re-shuffle of the line up, but one thing that is for certain, is that they’ve weathered the turbulent times and are doing better than ever. Their début record ‘NO’ is quite the indie masterpiece, glimmering in silky melancholy, but rising with a hopeful lust for life. It’s a record that just keeps on giving each time you listen to it.
Hello Black English. Can you give us a few words to describe each of your band mates?
“Sure…Ryan, Sean, Spike they’re all cool…We have spent many miles together in many different forms of transportation and we still enjoy making music together, so that is a positive thing I feel.”
Why the sudden name change from NO to Black English. Did the ungoogleable name finally catch up with you?
“It was rather heartbreaking… and something we didn’t want to do. But quite simply it was getting rather confusing out there, and not just for us. There were too many other bands called NO so people trying to find us would get lost in the mire. Even shows and tours for us were being booked with other bands called NO, but with promoters and people buying tickets thinking that we would show up. There was no legal way to protect our name and we were spending too much time trying to deal with it all… so we just one day decided to find a name of our own.”
Last year, you played for Sofar Sounds. For people that don’t know what Sofar Sounds do, they put on gigs in living rooms or unusual spaces showcasing music from up and coming bands. What was your experience like playing a Sofar Sounds?
“Can I just say that I love those types of shows!? …where we end up in some totally random house with all these lovely people making us feel at home everyone spread out all over the floor crammed into some lounge sitting on cushions or what not…all of their phones switched off and just sitting there being in the moment with us playing songs…Its a beautiful thing.”
You toured the US and Europe late last year. What was the best thing you saw whilst out on tour? Maybe a gig memory or a sight-seeing moment that was particularly special?
“Being in Berlin for the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down was quite a special thing, we just got lost in the evening along with everyone else in the city, it felt surreal and of course sombre to reflect on that time, but also really special to witness how much has changed since then. I love history, and I really enjoy learning something from every city we visit.”
Does the experience of touring match up to the expectation?
“Touring is just an extension of life for us, we love being in the studio and we love being on the road, both provide equal amounts of satisfaction and adventure. I feel lucky.”
What was the first gig that you personally went to yourself as a punter? Do you think your first live gig experience had any influence on who you are today – did it spur you on to start your own band?
“I don’t have any cool stories of shows I saw when I was young. I sorta grew up in church and going to these pretty weird and wild youth group concerts where people would play some music then someone would get up and talk for an hour. I don’t particularly miss them.”
You’re no strangers to performing live, and you have gained a lot of fans in doing so. So I wanted to ask, what does playing a gig for your fans mean to you?
“Its always a special thing when people in front of you light up while you’re performing. I feel its a basic human instinct to want to belong or feel connected or included as a part of something special that’s happening. So every night that we get that communal ‘in this together’ feeling with everyone in the room for around 45 mins to an hour …its pretty wonderful.”
Black English is made up of a few different nationalities, mainly from different parts of the US and New Zealand. Do you feel that because you’ve all grown up in different countries, experiencing different things, that this has had an impact on how your music sounds at all?
“Maybe, we sort of all have various influences and bring them together, but also the more time we spend together the more we process music together, so that has become quite fun, especially when you’re in a tour van for hours every day. We discovered one day on a drive that we all liked that Swedish band Kent and their two albums Hagnesta Hill and Isola, and that we had all been listening to them in the late 90s / early 2000s long before we knew each other.”
What sorts of things inspire you to write?
“Life, Life and Life.”
I’m always fascinated by song lyrics and phrases, your band are particularly good at writing the perfect lyric. So I wanted to ask, what’s your favourite lyric that you’ve written?
“Off the top of my head, Its probably one from this song that we haven’t finished yet… one day maybe you will get to hear it?”
Who are the artists that inspire you creatively and who are the artists that you listen to for comfort?
“Personally I love when someone can evolve and reinvent themselves… Like how Lana Del Rey used to be Lizzy Grant. Or that Alex from Edward Sharpe was the singer from Ima Robot. I like that Jack White, Thom Yorke or Josh Homme for example are always doing something that for them is new and different, pushing their own boundaries in some way or another. No one is ever going to like everything you do, but fuck it, who cares! I think its neat when people can be evolving constantly in their own momentum and personal discovery.
For comfort I would choose Leonard Cohen, his lyrics are pretty perfect, his music feels like a meditation and I can fall asleep listening to him… then wake up eight hours and dreams & dreams later and he’s still playing in my headphones.”
What’s the plan for releasing your début record overseas in the UK and Europe?
“I have no idea… we honestly haven’t found a home yet over there, so for now its just up on iTunes and Spotify and out on our own label Bedroom Empire. We’ll fix that soon.”
We’re big supporters of new music here at Bitter Sweet Symphonies. Having said that, are there any new artists that have caught your attention recently that you would like to share with us?
“Well thank you for supporting us, we appreciate it!! I have to say check out Mynabirds because I just made their new album with them, and I’m really excited about it! James Supercave is pretty darn awesome too, they are from our neighbourhood here in Echo Park. Also, there’s a NZ band called Leisure, they have some great songs I just heard, and you should look up my kiwi friends in Streets of Laredo, they are based in Brooklyn now, but they are super good live.”
Do you have any tips for new bands starting out, any advice that you could give them?
“Follow the fun compass… it has to be fun.”