Welsh starlets The Blackout – a six-piece, frenetic pop-punk group of childhood friends – last dropped in on Ireland to support one of the pop-rock genre’s true giants, My Chemical Romance, just a couple of months ago. After rocking the O2 arena with their lively brand of dual-vocal energy-rock last time out, they’re back for their own show headlining The Academy this coming Saturday.
Goldenplec had the chance to catch up with the lads the day after that monster arena show; here’s what Gavin, James and Matthew had to say:
How do you prepare for walking out in front of a crowd the size of that My Chemical Romance one?
This tour is our first set of shows back in a few months, and the very first one of the tour was at Wembley, which was ridiculous. We had a really busy week, too, so we didn’t really rehearse. I think we play the same show whether it’s in a small club or a big arena. We can do a few more things. The crowd was mental, though, I was watching My Chemical Romance and I thought the balcony was going to collapse.
MySpace played a big roll in launching your band. You have half a million connections on there and a similar number of listens, yet people are saying it’s dead. What do you make of that?
It played a huge role for us back at the start. Now, though, all the comments are basically adverts. It’s impossible to use. We went on there the other day to upload another song and it took us twenty minutes to work out, it’s just so complicated. We use a website that drags anything in, all these things like twitter, tumblr, facebooker, all these things ending in –er. The website has to form a connection between all these things, without things being spread all over the place. MySpace made loads of bands think they were massive. Nobody was just doing EPs and demos, they were doing ‘the making of videos’ and stuff like that, and we couldn’t help thinking ‘nobody knows who you are’.
Tell us about the new album, ‘Hope’. It’s out on April the 4th, right?
Yeah. On this record we tried to push ourselves to go to music that we all listen to, but that we’ve never really taken inspiration from and used ourselves, we tried to push the boundaries. Boundaries for ourselves, not so much for music! There’s a bit of Deftones in there. It’s a bit like a full circle for us, we’ve taken the band back to where we started. This is us with our hearts on our sleeves, writing the kind of songs that we’d want to go to a gig and watch a band play.
This time round you took an entirely different route to producing the album – using the pledge system to get together the money. How did that work?
Things with Epitaph were dragging on and on, eventually we just thought ‘screw it’ and decided to do everything ourselves. The one thing a label can provide, though, is financial backing. By taking pledges related to the album, we could produce it ourselves without needing that kind of label backing. We’re not quite in a position to go down the ‘Radiohead’ completely independent route just yet. Maybe two or three years down the line! But the fans seemed to enjoy it, and it means the record is all already paid for.
Getting on the roster of legendary punk label Epitaph in the first place must have been quite a turning point?
The radio and TV coverage we got off the back of being signed by Epitaph was something special, we were b-listed with plenty of UK radio shows, for example. The one thing we felt… not let down by, but we felt we should have done more, was touring. We only did one headline tour for the album. We’d rather live on the road, given the choice. We think of ourselves as a live band. When you get home and sit down it feels great, but it only takes a few days to be bored and agitated again.
The bands image could have you pegged as ‘emo’. How would you want to be described?
Certainly not that! We enjoy being difficult to pin down. We don’t want lots of albums that sounds the same, we’d be quite happy to have one that sounds like The Beegees and another that sounds more like My Chemical Romance. We don’t want to be pigeonholed. We released the first song off the new album and a lot of kids said ‘sounds different’. Well yeah, every one of our songs sounds different. What’s it sound different to?
I’ve seen you quoted as saying music coming out of Wales is so good because you’re all bored…
It probably is really. The town we grew up in has only had a cinema for the last year. The only things to do before that were to have a drink at the weekend, or to make music and play it. Wales has a great music heritage, too. You’ve always got your uncle, or someone, who’s in a choir or… it just feels like music’s always been a big deal in Wales.
Another comment from a previous interview – you said you’ve already achieved everything you set out to do. Have the goalposts moved since then?
Yeah. To start out with our aim was really just to play Cardiff. We did that, then we played Bath, and it was like, wow, we’re in a different country. Then we did Japan, Australia, Reading Festival. As soon as you achieve something, though, something else comes up to aim for. When we did the UK tour with Lost Prophets, we realized at the end that we’d played pretty much every UK venue that we wanted to play. But then Stu from Lost Prophets pointed out that we haven’t headlined them. That made sense to me. That’s the next step, you’ve always got to keep your eye on something else to achieve.
What do you consider a success at this point?
Bands have such a short life span these days; perhaps just being around can be considered a success. A few of us have degrees, but we wouldn’t enjoy normal work. We’ve never had jobs outside the band. At this point, if we stopped we’d probably do something in music. Band managers or something like that. It’s hard to see this industry as a job, though.
What are the high points and low points of time on tour?
We’re not really that much of a party band, though if you saw us last night you’d probably disagree. We’d like to try and see the cities we visit, and go to some more obscure places, but it’s pretty hard when you’re on tour. You don’t really get to see much. We played a venue called the Lancaster Library not long ago, though, it was supposed to be a really small show. It was in daylight, amongst the books, which had basically been moved to the side. We played this weird TV show in Holland, too. It was really impromptu, we were in fancy dress and the stage was the shape of a boat. Then there’s a wheel and a massive Bon Jovi fan. You stand there and all your clothes are billowing. There’s even a bridge behind you where people sit and drink. It’s so random, everyone gets thrown out after every set, and they have to queue to get in again.
If you had a U2 level budget for your live shows, what would you do with it?
We’d watch all the U2 live DVDs and just rip everything off. Nah, we’re more about simple live music, but there’d be loads of fire, fireworks, explosions, perhaps a flooded stadium. We’d put in that pirate ship, and make kids walk the plank to go crowd surfing. Some stage guy asked us for a ‘budget’ to make a t-shirt cannon. It was £20. He made it out of a drainpipe and a can of deodorant. If anything it was just going to shoot a fiery t-shirt into a fan’s face. We thought it was better not to use that one! We’d definitely have to do things on wires.
As published on Goldenplec.com, March 2011.