We recently introduced you to our new favorite band, Black Books, an Austin based five piece who make absolutely gorgeous, shoegazey dream pop. I've said it before, and I'll say it now - this is music that begs to be played on barefoot summer nights in your best friend's back yard, laying on a quilt that your grandmother made, looking up at the stars with a mason jar full of homemade booze.
Their music is vivid, cinematic, and completely lush. They vibe like Explosions In The Sky, if Explosions In The Sky wrote clever, stark lyrics to accompany their melodies; Black Blooks' instrumentation could easily stand on its own, but we're glad it doesn't have to.
We recently e-hung out with Ross, Meg, Clarke, Kevin, and Mike to talk about everything from the music that influences them to what's on their rider. You'll want to read on here; they're as lovely on paper as they are onstage.
So, you guys grew up together, right? Where does the name Black Books come from, and what made you decide to start a band?
Ross: We have known each other for a long time and are really close. Mike showed up late, but we are glad he did. We were in a garage band together for years growing up in middle school and high school. We all went different ways and ended up in Austin again and we just wanted to play again. We were hanging out and there were instruments everywhere. The name of the band was difficult for us. We couldn't come up with anything for months and then we finally decided that the music world needed one more band with "black-followed-by-sweet-noun" in it. If our music could be sandwiched between the black angels and the black keys at a record store...someone might accidentally grab ours.
What kind of music can you remember your parents playing in the house when you were growing up?
Meg: Country, Classic Rock, and lots of INXS.
Kevin: The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The 1812 Overture.
Mike: Great question. My dad raised me on a steady diet of FM classic rock, southern rock and a little country. He would put on records by Little Feat, Edgar Winter and Merle Haggard.
Clarke: My parents were really into Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera when I came around. Cajun music too.
Ross: Country Classics and Oldies
Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
Meg: My first tape purchase was B-52's Cosmic Thing. Later I did one of those buy 12 CDs for 1 cent deals. The highlights were The Cranberries' first album, The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over, and TLC – Crazysexycool.
Kevin: I think it was a tie between Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews (both their 1st albums). Before then I had tons of cassettes that I had my brothers make me from all of their CDs. I remember making request lists, haha.
Mike: The first CD I bought was Rap's Biggest Hits Volume 1. It had songs by Kool Moe Dee, Young MC, the Beastie Boys and a bunch of other hip hop groups. The next couple CDs I got were Prince’s Graffiti Bridge and Vanilla Ice’s To the Extreme. Then I took a 90-degree turn and bought Metallica’s black album.
Clarke: I was really into soundtracks growing up. I think the first CDs I bought were Jurassic Park and Ren & Stimpy.
Ross: It was definitely a Dwight Yoakham CD. Every song on that album is still a gem.
You guys are from Austin! Did you play SXSW this year? What was that like?
Kevin: Sure did. It was awesome. I remember when we applied we didn't think there was even a chance. I think we played our best show yet, and the crowd was very nice to us too.
Mike: Man, what a show. The crowd was huge and everybody seemed to be having a good time.
Clarke: We had a blast. Played some new material met some nice folks from all over.
Austin is a pretty weird, happening city. What do you like to do there?
Meg: It seems a lot less weird when you grew up here. There's always good food, music, and drink to be had... and I love seeing movies at The Alamo Drafthouse.
Kevin: When I was younger I'd go to all the cool coffee shops, and now I go to all the cool bars (well, that I know of). Spider House still stands strong as a good default hangout.
Mike: If I head downtown, I usually end up somewhere on Red River or Seventh Street. The scene there is always pretty cool. But a lot of times we’re hanging out at Kevin’s house and recording studio.
Clarke: There's a plethora of awesome Vietnamese restaurants in Austin. I try and support them when I can.
Ross: I love the fact that Meg loves Alamo Draft House, so I get to go with her whenever we get a chance.
You have a full-length album coming out at the end of the year; does it have a name yet? Tell us a little bit about it, and how it differs from the EP that you released in February.
Mike: We’re right in the middle of it, so it’s difficult to describe exactly how it’s all going to turn out. The only thing I can say is the songs seem more complex and dynamic. It seems like we’re really tapping into something new and original.
Clarke: No title yet. We're very excited about the new material and look forward to hearing the results. The songs are a bit broody and moody.
Ross: Working on the EP was nice because it was only four songs and I could really wrap my head around that whole process. With this full length...we have so much material to work on and sift through it feels a little overwhelming when I think about it, Its kind of exciting to start the process and just see where it goes. I trust everyone here.
How do you guys split the creative duties? What goes into making a Black Books track?
Kevin: I come up with a lot of the chord progressions to get us started, but once we play in the room, things change fast.
Clarke: I love to provide and add to the song's context. creating a space within the song is a priority too.
Ross: The way we write collectively is very energetic. There may be a sound or couple chords someone likes and then we all react to it and boom boom boom there it is.
What is your favorite song to play live, and why?
Meg: "Silver Lining," because the crowd sways.
Kevin: "The Big Idea". Well lately we've been playing it last, so it's nice to play real hard at the end and not worry about breaking a string.
Mike: There’s one song we’ve been opening our shows with. The working title is “House Jam.” I love the rhythm to it.
Clarke: - we have a song tentatively titled "All The People" that'll be on the new album that I'm really into. Every time we play it feels different than the others for me.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on tour/at a gig?
Mike: Nothing crazy yet. The only humorous thing I can think of is when we played a show and the sound guy wouldn’t turn off punk music he was listening to through the PA speakers. We kept on telling him to turn it off, and he couldn’t figure it out. So for awhile there we were on the verge of having to play over punk music.
Ross Yeah. It was really uncomfortable and then really funny. We were ready to start and I was waving at the sound guy and rambling about "your punk music is still playing". Everyone in the crowd was looking at me like I was an idiot.
What’s on your rider?
Kevin: Just a few cold Lone Stars. Ok, and maybe an Indian buffet.
Mike: Energy drinks, an HD TV with a variety of new DVD releases, a steak dinner and both black and red bathrobes. Basically, the same as J-Lo’s rider.
Clarke: The kid in me would love to have a Slurpee machine with more than the usual amount of flavors at 7-11s. A bowl of pho tai chin with extra tripe would be nice.
Ross: You know the 12 Days of Christmas song? It's all on there.
Thanks, guys! You’ve been rad!
Kevin: No no, thank you!
Mike: Muchas gracias!
Lucky Austin folks can catch Black Books live on May 18 at Mohawk, and June 17 at The Parish. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Check out their official website here and if you know what's good for you, buy their music here.