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Interview: Black Kids

After almost a ten year hiatus, Black Kids are back on the scene! Having received huge success surrounding their debut album Partie Traumatic, and debuting at #5 on the UK charts, the band went cold on us. As they return with new album Rookie, I spoke to the Jacksonville natives about what they have been creating and how they have developed since they disappeared from the spotlight.

I’ve read in interviews that you admit your name has been considered controversial, but you’ve stuck to it, have recent developments in America made you reconsider?        

No, I’ve never reconsidered changing our moniker. Ali and I are the “voices” of the band, and we’re black, most people tend to recognize that and move on. Oh, if only we WERE capable of controversy!

Why did you suddenly go quiet on us?

Oof, where to begin? I think naming our debut Partie Traumatic became some kind of self fulfilling prophecy, because after two years of touring/promoting that shit, we were done. Like, exhausted in every way and really did not love each other anymore. Which was tragic, because we’re best friends. So, in this state, we tried to make our second album and it was pretty joyless. I remember it being very workman like, the way we approached it. And that just isn’t our vibe. Maybe in the studio, but during the writing, we do better if we just goof. Also, we just didn’t have the songs. We’d rather wait a decade than put out songs we’re just OK with.

Are you looking for a fresh start, to be distanced from your past success, or do you see this new formation as a continuation from where you left off?

Sans the subsequent hang over, we’re not mad at the ride we had the “first time around.” To me, it feels like a continuation of the same thread. Creatively, at least.

You started at at a time when bands such as Arcade fire, The Hives and Arctic Monkeys were dominating the charts all over the world – do you think that there is a very different atmosphere for indie bands given the current state of popular music?

I’m bad at paying attention, but at a glance it seems like the pendulum has swung back to less guitar orientated music, at least in the mainstream. That’s fine. Indie bands winning Grammys is kind of obscene. I would take a Grammy though.

Do you think indie rock has become less typically ‘white’ since you last released your album?

I do…though I don’t have any concrete evidence of this, I just feel it when I wake up. I don’t know if indie rock has become less white, but I do think black music has become more indie (that shouldn’t read as more white, though). To me, there’s something very indie about Solange or Donald Glover. Miguel, or the so-called mumble rappers. It all feels very punk to me.

What has changed in terms of your style and approach to making music since Partie Traumatic? Do you have a different idea of what you want to say?

Our style and approach hasn’t really changed much. I still bring in the “bones” of the song and present it to the group, and then we collectively decide if we like it. Thematically, I tried to steer away from the brattiness that dominates our first record. At first, I went very earnest with the lyrics. It was too much, so I split the difference. I still come off looking like a brat. Whatever.

Which contemporary musicians have you been listening to and who would you like to collaborate with?

I’m in an imaginary long distance relationship with The Drums and I think we should meet IRL. Dev Hyneshas been on our wish list forever.

The new album, Rookie, has an equally interesting name – you guys are clearly much more experienced than the album suggests – is it a nostalgic album?

Oddly, I never feel more experienced. Everything is bewildering to us, it’s like we have no concept of muscle memory. I would say, like everything we do, it is very nostalgic. We’ve always looked to the pop of past decades for inspiration. If you wanted to be mean, you could say we’re pop necrophiliacs. Don’t be mean.

You just released the video for your new track “In a Song.” In it you say “I hate to tell you in a song that I love you.” Have you ever had a love song written about you? And how did you feel about it / would you have liked it?

Not that I’m aware of. If you’re sitting on a love song you wrote about me, you need to send it ASAP.

Another track from your new album, “Obligatory Drugs” appears much more experimental than your previous work. Is this something you have continued throughout the album? What was the most difficult track to make on the album?

“Obligatory Drugs” is definitely an outlier on the record, and it was us having fun and letting the song evolve in the studio. I think someone called it a “piss take”, but we tried really hard, guys.

What are you most looking forward to about being back in the swing of the releasing an album?
Performing the songs, old and new, has been very rewarding. Meeting our friends is always a pleasure. Sadly, we’ve yet to receive free stuff.

Keep up with Black Kids on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Catch them live at Baby’s All Right on October 23rd.

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