With a name that to my mind suggests a throat infection common amongst prostitutes who service coal miners, Melbourne’s Blackchords have been stretching their legs around the world of late, with tours to London and Paris having just come to a close and the gravelly and satisfied groans of miners a bad memory, long past.
Taking simple honest songwriting, refracting it through a whole assload of fx pedals before slapping on some string arrangements, Blackchords deliver a stunning and subtle blend of post-rock and indie all tied in with the moody atmosphere and filth infused glory of the blues. Having just returned to home soil and with their self-titled debut album out and about, Andrea G. caught up with main man Nick Milwright to talk about touring, songwriting and the changing nature of the Blackchord sound.
Music Feeds: So let’s start off easy. How did you guys get started?
Nick Milwright: The initial seed of Blackchords was planted by Damian and me in a little bar in Collingwood in 2004. We started jamming together and almost instantaneously decided that we should play some gigs and start a band. Blackchords then became a name and a group a few months later but with a very different line up from today. We played around town for a while then disbanded. There was some time after until we resurfaced with a new line up and began gigging once more. It’s been a colourful ride and an ever-changing entity. It’s a hard, hard industry to crack and we are only now just seeing the crack forming. There are so many great bands in Australia but for me I just keep telling myself that I need to keep going.
MF: Well it seems that crack has been developing nicely, you’ve gone on to do some pretty impressive things. Was it hard getting noticed and standing out from other bands in Melbourne in the beginning? Did you have to do DIY marketing and promoting to build up a fan base?
NM: In the beginning we would be out there on our own, sending texts, making posters and handing out fliers. In a way it isn’t much different from today though we do have the backing of a record company and PR company. It’s still hard work but it’s now got support from people outside the band.
MF: I was reading your tour diary, and you’ve just come back from Paris and England. Just how different is the music scene over there?
NM: Bands over in that part of the world really perform on stage; they’re a little less laid back compared to here in OZ. There is a big pop and electro based scene in Paris and some very crazy people. They really made us feel welcome and we found it hard to leave. England is the country where a lot of my favourite music is born. There is soo much inspiration I have gained from her music scene. It continues to be one of the strongest scenes on the planet. The venues are always full and the bands are always passionate.
MF: Are you excited to be playing on home turf again after being away for a while?
NM: Yeah we’ve come back at the perfect time of year. The sun is shining and people are excited to be out and about again after being in hibernation. We are looking forward to being in our local scene again and spending some good time on the circuit.
MF: And how do the European crowds compare to local audiences?
NM: France we found to be a lot more animated than Melbourne. i.e. they would show you a lot of enthusiasm during a song, they are a lot more willing to dance during a more up tempo song and will be deadly quite during a slow song.
London, I have always felt that she is Melbourne’s bigger sister and I found that it was reflected in the crowds too. People come to gigs and let the music just soak through them while they catch up with friends and have a few drinks. It’s a little more casual.
MF: You’ve gotten rave reviews for your debut record and even drawn comparisons to song writing heavy weights like Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams. Has the response to the Blackchords (self-titled) album been surreal or were you pretty confident in your music all along?
NM: To have somebody tell you that your album is their favourite album and they can’t stop listening to it is everything you could hope for, and when I think about it that is really surreal. I have no idea what I thought the response would be when I finished the album. I just knew it was something I needed to do and to get it out there and see what happens.
MF: On a similar note, do you ever get sick of the comparisons to Radiohead and/or Jeff Buckley? Do you sometimes just want to be known for your own music without association to other artists?
NM: Myself, I hate to draw a comparison to other bands when describing my own music. I just feel really uncomfortable doing that. But I understand that people need to use those comparisons to form their own idea. I’m confident that Blackchords will continue to develop a unique sound and style and as the profile of the band builds we will shed the need for being compared with other bands.
MF: And just how would you describe the Blackchords sound to an unsuspecting punter?
NM: Right now I’d say that Blackchords is an indie rock band. Our album is a mix of upbeat indie guitar rock and downbeat acoustic songs intertwined with string arrangements and layered with moody atmosphere….
MF: I read on your website you guys said you sounded like an alt-country band in the beginning and then started to resemble bands like Explosion in the Sky… How did you finally get to the Blackchords sound we’re familiar with today?
NM: We’ve changed a lot since the beginning. When I began writing it was solely on acoustic guitar. The songs were simple and we wouldn’t really try and change them from their initial form. As the band grew and changed line-ups so did the way of writing and the music that we were listening to and the experiences we were living. We started really getting into the use of fx pedals etc. and building around that.
There was a point around six months before recording this album where I felt that I really needed to start listening to myself. Allowing my natural song writing to come out and to just be myself on this record… Not trying to be someone else. I guess our sound has developed through the inspiration of music and experience but also having a strong drive to create our own identity and not to walk in the shadows of other people…
MF: How long before we hear new material from Blackchords?
NM: We are always throwing out new ideas and since being on tour there have been a heap. It’s now just about settling down back at home and developing them. I think that we have decided that April will be a period that we lock ourselves away and try and lay the foundations of album number two.
MF: What are some of the other Australian bands you like at the moment? Is there anyone who you think stands out in the music scene, from Melbourne or otherwise?
NM: Augie March, The Drones, True Live and Always Nick Cave. Somebody who I think is doing great things right now becoming a great musician and writing incredible music is Jordie Lane.
Blackchords play Club 77 this Friday night, 27th November before launching their self-titled debut album this Saturday, 28th November at The Excelsior Hotel. For more info, check out their website. Blackchords is out now on Dust Devil Music.