Ok so we know I’ve been raving about them A LOT on this blog recently, but The Blackout’s New album ‘Hope’ was released on April 3rd and I was lucky enough to be able to interview guitarist James ‘Bob’ Davies ahead of the release, which you can read below.
HOPE IS ALL WE HAVE.
James ‘Bob’ Davies of The Blackout talks to little old me about the six-piece’s 3rd album ‘Hope’.
“It’s a little different for us. It’s not a drastic departure but we have grown up,” says James ‘Bob’ Davies, guitarist for Welsh rockers The Blackout, of their new album ‘Hope’.
The band – completed by Sean Smith and Gavin Butler on vocals, Matthew Davies on guitar, Rhys Lewis on Bass and Drummer Gareth ‘Snoz’ Lawrence –from Merthyr Tydfil, have recently released their new album, ‘Hope’, through Pledge Music, a fan-funded organisation whereby fans pledge amounts of money to artists to help them fund various musical projects, after parting ways with record label Epitaph. When speaking of the Pledge initiative James says it gave the band “a new found drive, belief and momentum, it’s re-energised us. The response really showed us how many people still cared about us. Without the people who pledged, this album literally would not have happened, so we can only thank everyone involved for helping us keep this band going. Thank you.”
With the rise in illegal downloading and decrease of record sales, could this be the reason that bands like The Blackout are struggling? “The music industry is in a place right now where it doesn’t really know what to do next. Touring and selling merch is a band’s main income source these days.”In the case of fans downloading ‘Hope’ for free, James continues, “It’s inevitably going to happen. People don’t want to buy something if you can get it for free, I understand that. The one thing I will say is this. If you think it’s OK to download albums from bands because they’re all rich, they’re not. Most moderately successful bands like us these days are on less than minimum wage, and are doing it because they love it. I’m not looking for pity, I just think it’s a misconception many people have. By downloading an album, you ARE having a detrimental effect on a band you like.” There you go, something to think about next time you casually download an album without paying for it.
With regard to fans James also says that he believes that it is important to interact with fans as much as possible. “We know without the fans we’d be nothing. Whenever we can, we try and talk to the kids, but we’re so busy on this upcoming tour we may not get the chance to interact as much as normal, but we’ll try our best!” The aforementioned pledge initiative gave the band a more intimate way of interacting with fans, special events being organised as thanks for pledging. One of which being a trip for the band and a dozen or so fans to Bristol zoo, during which drummer Snoz injured his shoulder after attempting to see if he could be faster than a Cheetah, after seeing a sign that posed the question ‘Are you faster than a Cheetah?’ only, a week before the lads were due to record ‘Hope.’
The title ‘Hope’ has a very different vibe to the band’s previous album titles, such as, ‘We Are the Dynamite’ and ‘The Best in Town’ which sound more self assured, so do the band feel like they have something to prove? “The titles for those records both came about quite easily,” says James. “For some reason it took us a while to come up with ‘Hope.’” He further explains, “Hope is a theme that comes up regularly in the lyrics of the record. It’s simple, short and, along with the obviously positive connotations of Hope, there is a sense of desperation in the lyric ‘Hope is all we have’ and we liked that double entendre.”
Speaking of differences, the band’s first single from the album, ‘Higher and Higher’ features rapper Hyro Da Hero – after Sean was introduced to his music by Dan Carter of Radio 1 – “Sean was raving about it to us, played us some stuff and we all loved it as well.” He continues, “When we were recording, for a joke, Sean dropped the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ rap over the middle of ‘Higher and Higher’ and Jason Perry, our producer loved the idea. Once the idea of getting a rapper was in our minds, Hyro was the obvious choice, and he’s done an amazing job.” And to all of those on YouTube who reckon The Blackout have jumped on the band-wagon including a rap section after the likes of You Me At Six’s ‘Rescue Me’, James says, “Aaaah, the YouTube comments section, that senate of intelligent, considered impartiality. I don’t take anything written in the comments section of YouTube seriously, but they need to check their facts. Run DMC and Aerosmith’s ‘Walk this Way’ was released in 1986, and bands like Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit, who’ve been quite successful at combining rap and rock.” He goes on to further explain, “In addition, ‘Higher and Higher’ was recorded before we even knew ‘Rescue Me’ existed.” So to all the haters, I believe you’ve just been told.
Check out Higher and Higher:
So has The Blackout’s sound changed dramatically? “We’ve been making records for six years now, if we were still making the same songs we were six years ago we’d all be bored out of our minds.” He goes on to reveal that when writing the album the lads just wrote the kind of songs they themselves wanted to write and to hear. “You can never please everyone, and there are always gonna be elitists who think our older stuff is the best.”
However, the band’s recent appearances at both The My Chemical Romance ‘World Contamination’ tour and Soundwave festival in Australia would suggest that the vast majority of fans have had an “overwhelmingly positive response” to the new material, as James recalls. “We played ‘Ambition is Critical’ and ‘Higher and Higher’ on both tours. They have both been released as singles so they were the songs people would have had a chance to hear. They both went down really well; It was great to see such huge crowds on the MCR tour jumping along to a song they’d hardly heard.”
And the boys can’t wait to get out there in April for their own headline run. “We haven’t had a chance to play properly for so long and we can’t wait play a full set. I think we’ve got quite a good balance of new and old stuff in there too.” He adds, “You can’t please everyone, but we can please most people I hope.”
Speaking of touring, the band recently played an intimate gig at London’s Borderline venue for fans that pre-ordered ‘Hope’ from HMV.com.“It was crazy, a lot of fun,” says James of that show, “it was the first time we’d had a chance to play the new set, and it was awesome to see so many fans we’ve known for so long they’re more like friends up close like that It’s tiny.” So do the guys prefer playing smaller shows or larger venues? “We’ve not really got a preference”, James says. “It’s amazing to see big crowds bouncing together in arenas or festivals, but it’s equally great to get up in people’s faces in smaller venues,” he says of this tour, “We’ve got a nice mix of crowds on this tour, so it’s gonna be great.”
Talking cities, James says that his favourite places to play would be either Manchester, London or Tokyo: “They’re always amazing to us and we always get the best reception whenever we go back there.”
When speaking of Japan, James takes the time to acknowledge the horrific goings on of the last few weeks. “It’s really broken our hearts seeing the events of the last couple of weeks. We love it there, and can’t wait to go back. Our thoughts are with everyone affected, because whenever we go there we’re treated with so much respect it’s humbling, they’re so dedicated and friendly it’s amazing.” Spoken like a true gentleman.
Despite having moderate success and a rather large – having sold out shows on their upcoming April tour – and very loyal fan base, the lads remain very grounded, devoid of arrogance and even slightly self deprecating at times. James says of the reasoning behind this tongue-in-cheek attitude, “We know we aren’t the most accomplished musicians in the world and we’ve never thought of ourselves as better than anyone.” Though, he adds, “We obviously have a certain degree of confidence in what we’re doing, or we wouldn’t still be doing it! We’re just a bunch of guys playing some songs we wrote and liked, and people seem to like them too.”
When asked what song is his favourite on the record, he chooses the final track, ‘The Storm’. He explains, “[That song] is something I’m excited for everyone to hear. It’s quite dark, sweeping and shows a side to the band we haven’t necessarily showed before.”
“We’re certainly very proud of the record, and honestly think it’s the best album we’ve ever made. We just can’t wait for people to hear it and be able to play the new songs live to them.” And neither can we, James.
The Blackout are touring again this year through October and November so check that out here: