By Kane Power (@ElHeavio, @DeathInTexasUK)
Long-time visitors to this site will already be aware of how much we love Blacklisters. Their latest album Adult is still ringing in our ears with its black-humoured fuzzed-out racket, grown in the fertile soil of the Leeds hardcore scene.
In his review of Adult TLE contributor Kane Power described Blacklisters as ‘one of the best bands I’ve heard in years. Maybe the best of the lot.’ So when Blacklisters frontman Billy Mason Wood said he would be available for an interview we jumped at the chance.
In our full interview below, Billy talks us through the inspiration behind Adult, the raucous fun of their live shows and an unexpected admiration for Mick Hucknall…
TLE: Congratulations on creating such a great album! The vocal delivery seems to take a sort of precedence over lyrics, can you tell us some of the main themes on Adult? How are they reflected in the vocal delivery?
Thanks I’m glad you like it. Yeah for me it’s important to get the vibe rather than the songs be about anything in particular. It’s partly down to how much I hate writing lyrics and partly down to how we write our songs. All of our tunes are written in the practice space with very little input from us outside of it. We all go away and think the song through and come back and try stuff out. I’d say pretty much never has a song been written outside of a practice room and presented to us to learn. So the words come about through improvisation over weeks and weeks and weeks of just trying stuff out and seeing what sounds right. The stuff I like stays and the stuff I don’t goes. Then I write them down, usually just before we go and record. In terms of themes it varies, usually a bit stupid, a bit surreal, sometimes funny and mostly just words and phrases I like the sound of. What is important is that the words have to match the vibe of the song; I have no message other than to be another instrument in the band.
TLE: We’ve all heard and made comparisons, but can you tell us any influences, musical or otherwise, behind Adult?
Well we obviously love The Jesus Lizard and Shellac etc. Those go without saying. But if I’m honest I don’t think those bands played as big a part in the making of Adult as you’d think. All of those bands are so ingrained in what we do we don’t really look to them for inspiration. I was listening to a lot of Daughters and Young Widows during the recording of this album, our bassist Owen was listening to Big ‘n a lot. I think we had just got comfortable with the music we make and so the songs were a lot less about being or sounding like whoever. I will say though that always and forever Kong will be my biggest influence, they are the best.
TLE: What about the artwork? You guys have quite an eclectic, visually stunning style. Who does the artwork and is there correlation between the visual and aural aspects of Blacklisters?
Again thanks, I wish we could claim any responsibility for our artwork other than we know and are lucky enough to work with some very talented people. I think we know what we are after. It’s about getting the same balance that we have in our music right. We need people to know that it’s got a smile on its face, that it is a bit weird, that it is aggressive but that it’s stupid and that all of us get enough cuddles off our parents. Everything we produce needs that element where you know that although it is heavy it is also joyful.
TLE: Do you guys have day jobs? What do you do and how do you find the work/band balance?
We all work yeah, it is part and parcel of being in a band these days. I work in a school with naughty and learning disabled kids. Our drummer, Alistair, works for the NHS, our bassist, Owen, teaches bass and guitar and our guitarist, Dan, works in a Bar and is an artist. Getting the balance right can be hard sometimes but we all have to be honest with each other about what we can and can’t do and work around it. It’s worked alright up until now although as we’ve got older it has got harder.
TLE: Blacklisters have been a band for 7 years now, what has changed about the band and members since you first started? Is there a similar focus?
We are all in our mid thirties now so we have changed exponentially. All of us have commitments outside the band that can and do and should take priority. So the focus is loads less than it was when we were in our 20’s. We do what we can while we still enjoy it. It is hard to say what has changed for us because all of my life has come about because of being in this band. I met my girlfriend at festival we both were playing. I met all my friends through music. My whole life has been changed because of this band and playing in Leeds, making music in that scene.
TLE: You are on tour currently. How have you chosen the cities and venues you are playing? Is there a selection process or is it just anywhere and everywhere?
It’s a mix of both. Some are because it’s what we got and others are because we wanted to make sure we went to those places. We sadly aren’t in the position where we can look to not play places. We need the gigs and we need to sell merch so we can afford to continue making things.
TLE: Any venues you are looking forward to, or places that stand out as being particularly awesome?
For me, when we play gigs, I need that sense of community that we are all in it together. We played Manchester on Saturday and it was great because the promoter cared, he liked the music, he picked a great line up and really pushed it and you could tell that the people who came gave a shit about the music they had come to see. That they were energised by it. I don’t really care where we play as long as the people who are putting on the gig, playing in the bands and coming to watch the show give a shit about what they are doing. I have played to 5 people and enjoyed it more than playing to 200 because those five people felt like they were part of the team.We are all in this together, all barely scraping by because we like sharing these experiences with each other.
TLE: You’ve been lauded for your live shows, do you guys place special emphasis on performance or is it just something that comes naturally?
We don’t do anything special, we don’t practice moves or anything! We just do what comes naturally I guess, but like you said we’ve together for a long time and those things come with time. For me I would say that the live aspect is the number one for me. I don’t really like recording very much, playing live is my main focus. Sometimes they are good, sometimes it just doesn’t quite come off and that is fine.
TLE: Finally, you are stranded in a town of your choice for a night out with two people of your choice, dead or alive. Where and who?
Butlins with Mick Hucknall and Gary Barlow, what a magical night that would be.
Adult, the new album from Blacklisters, is out now on Smalltown America. Catch them at their remaining UK tour dates below:
16th October – Ivory Blacks, Glasgow
17th October – Maguires Pizza Bar, Liverpool
1st November – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
29th November – Mutations Festival, Brighton w/ Lightning Bolt, Metz, Om, Chelsea Wolfe