Blackwaters - INTERVIEW: "Who needs a posh wood polished studio anyways?!"
After seven years of graft, countless high energy singles and plenty of memorable live shows, the debut album from Sheffield's Indie Punk outfit Blackwaters is finally arriving. They have gone through many different phases of releasing music with and without a label but have always maintained the same fiery spirit and loyal set of fans (me included) who have grown and developed with them along the way. Now, they have taken measures into their own hands, started their own label and self-produced an album recorded in their bedroom. The new record 'Something Good In Lost Time' is out this Friday (Nov 19th) so I caught up with lead singer Max to dig into the long journey that has led to the release of this tantalising DIY debut.
How do you feel knowing your debut album is right around the corner?
"It feels nice, scary...it's been a long time coming. I think we all felt it was time, after all, after 7 years you'd expect an album! Just feels good you know, to have a body of work out that you're proud of regardless if people love it. Onto the next now".
How do you think you have developed personally and as a band over the years?
"Personally I've learnt just to be completely honest with myself and my writing and people will relate to it. I used to be so self critical and critical of others! I always used to compare myself and ourselves to others achievements and brush off everything we've achieved. Which is actually quite a lot. I think now I'm just enjoying being present and not always looking ahead/behind me. I re-sparked the real reason we started the band, to have fun with my best pals, write music that rings true for somebody and give people an amazing live experience. That's what it's all about for me".
Blackwaters began as a scrappy Punk band full of youthful angst and became renowned for their in-your-face live experience. They then maintained this Punk influence yet matured into a more considered band with their 'People Street' EP. Next came the more soaring coming-of-age sounds of their Indie Grunge anthems '21 lessons' and 'Forget Myself' written about adjusting to adulthood. Now, on this new record we can see a brighter, more Indie centered sound. The first single 'Same Old' is driven by a vibrant and crisp guitar riff and bouncing drum rhythm. The second, 'Can You Swim', continues this theme with the drum patterns creating a hip-shaking swing ready for the Indie dancefloor and Max delivering some of his lightest and most melodic vocal lines to date. This isn't to say that age has stripped away that youthful energy though! Tracks like 'Can You Swim' and 'Be Your Guide' have instrumental breaks that give us glimpses into their Punk past and provide ample angst to create moments of moshpit euphoria.
You have shifted your sound quite a bit since the early days - what has prompted this shift and do you think the new sound still reflects what you are all about as a band?
"Being a band since we were 16 we were still finding our 'sound', the 16 year old punky Blackwaters definitely rang true. We were pissed off, bored and wanted to go full speed ahead at life whilst being skint living in Guildford. We then started working with producers such as Youth, Olly Burden, Thomas Mitchener, Norma and Mo, Hutch, Carl Barat. They all used different approaches and that made us really push our songwriting. I understand the sound has been in and out all directions but I kind of love that. You can hear Blackwaters grow up! We're 23 now. We were 16 upon our first release. I think this album just rings true, we've managed to rekindle what we felt when we were that age. Real honest good songs that we absolutely love playing and listening to".
What benefit has producing and mixing the album yourselves given you?
"We had a big manager for 4 years, producing and releasing our own stuff has it's pros and cons. Overall it's brilliant and we're preferring it. We can do things on our terms and if we really believe in a song we'll just release it instead of it being put down by somebody in the industry or they'll try to convince you to release another song. We found the songs that did better were the ones we chose to release. The album, recorded in a bedroom! Who needs a posh wood polished studio anyways?! We've now realised this. It sounds incredible. You really don't need to spend big bucks. Having our own label we're able to release our friends music too. We've got 4 bands on the label at the moment. It sounds really cliche but I just want to enjoy playing music and sometimes the industry can suck the fun out of it, we're in it for the long haul so we want to enjoy it. Life's too short".
Can you run us through the meaning of the album title and the thematic concept of the record as a whole?
"Lyrically the album focuses on growing up, simple as that. It speaks of our whole experience of being in the music industry so far too. We've had some incredible experiences but also so many false promises. When your 16-18 I guess we had stars in our eyes. We're so much happier now, this is the first time releasing music that I've felt I've been truly honest lyrically. So it's about that, being under pressure as a young musician. There's also songs about family, love and real experiences on the record but they all ring true to the point of learning and growing up".
This focus can be heard sonically throughout the record. If there's one thing this album feels, it is real. Whether its the acoustic live track 'Home Is Where The Heart Is' or the subsequent uplifting vocal chants of 'Simple Pleasures' the 10 tracks never hide in their melodies and always generate genuine emotive connections that are, more often than not, positive ones. Perhaps their music has always been reflective of how we deal with emotions at different ages. Don't get me wrong, I loved the angst-fueled sonic letting down of the hair that early releases 'Down' and 'Let The Good Times Roll' offered but they were largely care free lyrically and what deeper internal thoughts they expressed were almost clouded by the instrumental Punk energy much in the way that you tend to deal with these thoughts in your personal life when you are in the middle of your teens. In contrast, as an album, 'Something Good In Lost Time' radiates the best elements of youth - the free spirit, the carefree joy and the desire to express yourself - whilst still allowing room for the lyrics to roominate. It feels just as rousing yet twice as honest as their earliest work and is a great example of how a band can mature over time.
When is the best environment to be listening to your new record?
"I think travelling, with headphones on, in the heavy rain. I wrote most of these lyrics when travelling or sitting outside! I don't know if that counts for anything but it definitely still plays best for me in that environment. It's a good walking record too, you'll arrive at your destination in half the time".
What's your favourite of the unreleased tracks from the album and why?
"Probably All the Wrong People because all the others are shite! Enjoy the album..."