If you’re a reader of this blog, chances are you already know who Black International are. If you don’t, then you’re in for a treat. This Edinburgh trio almost came out of nowhere this year and released In Debt, a debut album that sounds much more than that, a debut.
Their pop-infused grunge rock is loud, dirty and stripped bare. Full of meaning and essence, In Debt proved quickly to be an excellent record from start to finish and is slowly starting to make its presence noted around the UK and across Europe.
Frontman Stewart Allan managed to find some time to answer a few questions for Argos Barks, giving us an insight into the mind and inspirations behind Black International.
Argos Barks: Hello! First of all, could you introduce yourselves for us?
Black International: Collectively we are Black International; I’m Stewart and I get made to do most of the talking.
AB: What kind of music would you say you make?
BI: At the moment we make rough edged pop songs with a cold heart. We try to create short, sharp, adrenalised bursts of noise and melody and rhythm.
AB: How did it all begin?
BI: It started in 2006 when Craig and I decided to get together and perform some songs I’d written. We’ve known each other for years and were in a rather monstrous six-piece group when we were in our late teens, which disintegrated when everyone hit university. We were both at ECA and bumped into each other now and again, and he was my first choice for a drummer when I thought about putting a group together. We’ve had a couple of different bassists along the way, and finally found some low-end stability with Gavin, who joined at the tail end of 2009.
AB: What’s the philosophy or way of thinking behind Black International?
BI: The initial idea was to have something that was stripped back to the bare essentials musically, no instrumental passages, no ornament, just really simple, primitive music coupled with lyrics that were a bit different from the norm. Whether that’s what actually came out in the end remains to be seen, I suppose it’s for others to judge. We exist in our own little bubble and do whatever we like doing. It’s a bit of a cliché of course, but we really don’t give two hoots what’s fashionable or popular; it doesn’t affect our music one bit.
AB: What inspired you to craft and build In Debt?
BI: Originally we were just going to compile some existing recordings and add a couple of new ones to make available as a download, but we thought about it and decided to use three tracks we’d done at the end of 2009 and build a better album around those. There’s usually a set path for bands, they put out an EP to test the waters and get some support then they start work on a full length recording, but we fancied being a bit contrary and thought “fuck it, let’s drop an album as our first release.” Musically there wasn’t a planned concept as such, it was more just a case of recording the set we had at the time, kind of like a journal entry.
AB: Which bands have inspired you?
BI: Our tastes are all over the place, and to be perfectly honest, we don’t really discuss music that often. I’d say we’re generally influenced more by ideas and attitudes than specific bands or records. Personally I find myself inspired more by good music writing than by listening to something and wanting to replicate it, that’s never really held any appeal… but I understand how evasive that answer will seem if you’re just looking for a list of names, so I’ll give you a few that we usually mention when pressed: the Fall, McCarthy, Josef K, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Fire Engines, the Birthday Party…
AB: And who would you like to inspire?
BI: The idea’s never occurred to me, I’m not sure being inspired by us would be a good thing for an impressionable mind!
AB: What was your best live experience so far?
BI: We’ve had some really good ones, it’s hard to pick a specific occasion as they all have different baggage attached to them. Playing the Solus stage at Wickerman last year was a really big deal for us and was great fun, but also our first London gig a couple of months later stands out. Gigging away from home and getting a good reaction drives us more than preaching to the converted here (not that we have all that many converts, but they’re growing!) and we seemed to make quite an impact on a few people at that particular show. Also, my overriding memory is of Gavin standing in an alleyway outside the venue devouring a cold microwave hotdog like a starving tramp as a shocked-looking family walked past, so for that reason it sticks keenly in my mind.
AB: Tell us the name of a tune, a film and a book that you recently loved.
Craig: Good Morning by Kid Canaveral, Mesrine- Killer Instinct and Factory: The Story of the Record Label by Mick Middles.
Stewart: Boyfriend by Best Coast, Carry On Screaming and Just My Type- A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield.
Gavin: Never Get Ahead (Giving Head To The Man) by Bobby Conn, Black Swan and The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman.
AB: What can we expect next from Black International?
BI: We’re working up songs for our next release, most likely an EP that will hopefully be out towards the end of the year or in early 2012. In Debt was essentially just our live set from that time, but I’m keen to play around with different textures and transitions and make the next one more of a considered piece, or maybe feature some stuff that wouldn’t typically be associated with us. We’ll be touring again in September, which should give us plenty of opportunity to try out the new material and see what works best. Onwards and upwards!
Many thanks to Black International!