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INTERVIEW W/ BIG SPECIAL: "There’s poetry in every average life, it’s just figuring out how to express it"!

It's rare that we've seen a Rock act rise to notoriety as rapidly as Black Country duo BIG SPECIAL and it is no surprise why! Their music is anything but subtle, immediately slapping you round the face and demanding attention, hooking you in thanks to the raw, unfiltered nature, inventive instrumental variation and powerful, Soul-spirited vocal tones. Initially braking out with the stomping single 'THIS HERE AIN'T WATER', they have continued to deliver single after single of uniquely atmospheric Rock as they gear up for their debut album 'POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES' out May 10th. They demonstrate, moody industrial intensity in moments and melodic contemplation in others, switching between deep, smooth vocal lines, expressive calls and angsty spoken-word attacks.

Ahead of their album release we spoke with the duo about the importance of your surroundings on songwriting, the timing of the record and some of the vocal inspirations behind it.

Photo credit: Isaac Watson

Q. Given the title of your album, how has the landscape and culture of your hometown influenced your personalities, attitudes and musical sound? 

A. "I think anyone’s landscape will always influence their art, well it should do if it’s coming from a real place. I think where we are from has a lack of identity, the forgotten middle, it’s not very represented in media and on the whole art is undervalued in the area. So being from Brum / The Black Country deffo gives you a lack of connection to things, even our history is underplayed in our own hometowns. I think that’s why we’ve developed such a strong bond with the art we loved growing up, it was through the stories of others in different places that brought us closer to ourselves and in turn gave us a way to creatively reflect upon our place in time and where we are from".

Q. It has been a pretty rapid turnaround from your first single release to your debut album announcement, have you enjoyed the speed and intensity of your rise in notoriety and do you feel it is the right time to get that record out there straight away? 

A. "It’s been 16 years for us trying to get somewhere with the music, together and apart, so it has felt insanely quick with Big Special but also feels like forever to get here. We are proper excited to get the album out, we've been working on it for three years now, it was the reason to start the band for us. We are glad it’s coming out now, it feels like the only time for it, we had to have the experience for it, the disappointments and the failures and the hopelessness, it’s the time behind it that gives it its perspective. Glad it’s now". 

Q. What would you say are the main lyrical themes on the album?

A. "It’s mainly me haha. The lyrics are about a working class experience of dealing with ill mental health and pursuing a life in music whilst navigating a normal average life in England. The lyrical topics aren’t discussed and chosen. The art that has resonated most with me is stuff that you can see the artist in, just an honest depiction of them in their time, saying it their way. And i just want to do the same when it comes to lyrics. It’s about personal experience and how universal that ends up being.  It’s about the state of the self and the nation, Depression in all its forms, the personal, the social and the generational. But the opposite exists in the songs too; love, hope and passion. There’s poetry in every average life, it’s just figuring out how to express it".

Q. You've got a distinctively raw and powerful vocal combination, are there any particular vocalists that have influenced your style?

A. "My favourite singer in my early years of getting into music proper was Paul Rogers from FREE, he is who made me want to sing, and i would strain to try and sing along with him on CD. I did it with Jeff Buckley too and his Live at Sin-e album and a Nina Simone greatest hits album we had. Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan had some of my favourite voices and those old outlaw country guys like Townes Van Zandt, some of those old folkies were the best, like Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Tom Waits became my absolute fave though, but i never tried to replicate that, it would be crazy to take from a voice so unique. Nothing beats the old soul stuff though, voices that don’t seem possible; Marvin Gaye, Otis Reading, The Staple Sisters and so many more. But for modern voices that really inspire me, right now there’s no one better than Radie Peat from Lankum and Lisa O’Neil, they bring something historical out of their songs and the old folk songs they sing".

Q. Can you explain a little about the raw, hand drawn artwork style that almost looks like tattoo art - who does these designs and why did you choose this consistent style? 

A. "I (Joe) do the drawings. Been drawing forever, it’s something I come back to here and there, never pursued it really, just kept it as a thing I love to do for doing it’s sake. We had the photo for the album done way before, so wanted to stick to black and white photos for the singles, but the guys on the team were really nice about the drawings and wanted them on the covers, so we went for that. Some I did for the songs as they came out and others are old drawings i thought fit, it’s been fun, will probs keep doing bits for the band as we go forward".

BIG SPECIAL are about to head out on a run of shows including two Liverpool dates; a headline performance at District on May 7th and an album signing at The Jacaranda on May 11th. Tickets available here.


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