On the Impact of Brexit Towards the Youth and Moving On with Black Country, New Road
In the midst of the festivities of Joyland Festival, we conversed casually with Black Country, New Road on how they appreciate the process of moving on, their creative process and what goes on technically behind their critically acclaimed music, and the impact of Brexit towards the British youth culture as well as how it turned into a label that categorized their music.
Words by Ghina Sabrina
Words: MM Ridho
Photo: Whiteboard Journal/Nugie Rian
In the midst of the festivities of Joyland Festival, the welcoming atmosphere of Bali, and just under the roaring sounds of bands performing, we had the chance to talk with one of the pioneers of UK’s current post-punk wave; Black Country, New Road.
All rounded up, we conversed casually on how they appreciate the process of moving on, their creative process and what goes on technically behind their critically acclaimed 2022 album, Ants from Up There, and the impact of Brexit towards the British youth culture as well as how it turned into a label that categorized their music—post-Brexit core.
I won’t dig into your past, but if I may ask, how do you guys deal with moving on?
I think every single one of our projects has been like, new, fresh and different. We have never tried to do the same thing twice. I think the circumstances will affect every single project that we have done, like the way the pandemic affected how we recorded. And you know, this project has been kind of different with not doing it with Isaac. Everything is kind of reactionary. But, moving on and change is never necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to doing creative stuff.
And on that, how much value do you put into that process?
We’ve kind of had to do it every time, so as much as we would have done it anyway, it’s hard to tell because, as Charlie said, we have never really done the same thing twice. I mean, I think it’s helpful to know you kind of need to do something different. I think we would know that anyway, but like, it’s helpful that the circumstances of change so frequently enforced us to approach things slightly differently. I think we’d probably continue to do that, maybe less frequently. Hopefully, less frequently.
Is “moving on” some kind of a central theme in your next release?
We don’t know yet about our next release, but we’ll write that down.
We have never really done the same thing twice … I think it’s helpful to know you kind of need to do something different. I think we would know that anyway, but like, it’s helpful that the circumstances of change so frequently enforced us to approach things slightly differently.
What do you think about the “post-Brexit core” label that the media uses to categorize bands like BCNR? Aside from this stereotype, how do you guys see the impact of Brexit on youth culture in Britain?
I don’t even know who the other bands in the post-Brexit core bracket would be, but are we? I guess so, yeah. I think people are always categorizing things, and I think that could be quite important, maybe, for like, you know, posterity. But, I don’t know whether we’d necessarily been impacted by that categorization.
Brexit has affected music a lot. I mean, in the UK, people are struggling now. It’s been the case that you’ve had to be… [you’d have] to have money behind you to be a musician for a long time now anyway, let alone now, where it’s basically impossible to come from nothing and be a professional musician in the UK, because of Brexit.
Yeah, it’s pretty depressing. But Brexit didn’t properly happen until we were just to the point where it was just kind of okay for us, so we got quite lucky. We’ve been quite fine with it because we were already doing festivals that were paying us good money. And then like, Brexit happened properly here. But, for bands that were slightly below where we were then, in terms of like their trajectory in the music industry, they kinda really struggled because going out to Europe cost a lot more money now – and that’s where you expand your fanbases. I mean like, stuff with taxes gets really difficult, and it’s like a certain nightmare. So, we’ve been very lucky in lots of ways, especially because we were able to get our name out there in Europe before the real impact of Brexit, for sure.
It’s basically impossible to come from nothing and be a professional musician in the UK, because of Brexit.
What are the things outside of music that help you shape the sounds you make?
I do a lot of gardening.
Movies, I guess. We all like movies. I don’t know how they influence the music, I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest.
Okay. Speaking of movies, if your next release can be imagined as a film, what film would it be equivalent to?
Charlie: The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Luke: Oh, do we have one each? Okay, [It’s] 2012 (2009).
Lewis: I’m going with disaster movies, or maybe war films. Uh, I don’t know, um, Top Gun: Maverick (2022).
So, they all have a central theme: disaster movies?
Yeah, but I mean, we haven’t written it yet, hahaha.
Tyler: I was going to go in a different direction of like, um… the third Minions film that hasn’t come out yet.
May: Or maybe like… I don’t know, The Bourne Legacy (2012)?
In the context of music production and songwriting, I believe your sounds are complex with great attention to detail. However, with songs of such levels, there may come hurdles during the process. What kind of hurdles do you usually encounter? How do you guys overcome it?
Sometimes we can’t play it. That’s a bit of a hurdle sometimes like it’s too difficult for us to play, so we gotta practice it. Yeah, our ideas get way too ambitious, and we get a bit ahead of ourselves. That becomes very frustrating and sometimes people don’t like one another as much when this thing happens, but that doesn’t last for very long.
Anyway, who’s the most snob here?
The snob? I don’t think any of us are like that, we like sharing music a lot.
I don’t think you should be a music snob. I think it’s bad. Those people are bad people, they suck! Hahaha.
I don’t think you should be a music snob. I think it’s bad. Those people are bad people, they suck!
Sonically speaking, what are you guys’ main considerations when it comes to recording a song or an album? Like, do you have any specific needs, moods, environments, or equipment to help you record?
Um, glasses of water in the room with different levels of water in the glasses mic-ed up for room sounds, room water sounds. You can always hear it when a track has got room water in it compared to not having room water. And also different temperatures of the water, and you check it with a thermometer. You’re gonna want a range of between like ten different temperatures, and never hot [because] the glass might shatter. It shattered once. You’d want to put the coldest water behind the guitar amps and the warmest water behind the piano, and we don’t know why. No one really knows why, but we’ve always done it like that and apparently, it is what helps with the record.
Is that some kind of ritual you guys always do?
No, no, uh, Sergio came up with it. He recorded the album and it was his idea, we just did it. [BCNR’s live sound engineer and Ants From Up There’s producer, Sergio Maschetzko – Ed.]
People have seen you collaborate with Black Midi, uh, Black Midi, New Road. Are there any upcoming collaborations with any other musician in your next release?
We barely have enough time to collaborate with one another, but we’re going to Rotterdam in a couple of weeks – well, in about a month, actually – to do a three-day residency at a festival there. We’re gonna do three shows, one of the shows is gonna be our regular live show, another show is gonna be… we’re gonna be playing like a game with all the other musicians, and in the final show it’s got to do with a Japanese singer, Ichiko Aoba, which will be really cool, hopefully.
Oh, yeah, she’s been here. Just last week.
Oh, no way? Wow, she’s amazing.
Yeah. So, just a couple of shows?
Just a couple of shows, yeah. We have never done anything like having collaborators on record or anything like that, like, nothing, no plans of doing anything like that.
Okay. Now, let’s get imaginative: if, in the future, humanity has reached the point where we can construct an establishment on extreme biomes. If a recording studio were to be made deep on the seafloor, or up there in outer space, which would you choose? Why?
Charlie: I wanna go to space, man. Dude, the seafloor is dangerous as f***, as well. The seafloor is much darker than space, I think. Space would be cool.
Luke: I find like… if there are aliens in the seafloor. But, we don’t know if there are aliens in space, you know what I mean?
Tyler: We could be way more inspired by space because you can look out the window, whereas the seafloor is so dark, it’s like there’s nothing there. [Another personnel] I would do seafloor, as well.
May: I’m not doing seafloor.
Luke: I think I’d rather like have my head explode in space than drown. Well, I guess I’d be crushed on the seafloor anyway.
Lewis: I still prefer the seafloor, I don’t think you ever come back the same when you go to space. I think it just ruins people’s lives. It does ruin people’s lives. You go to space, and then you’ll never see the world the same way – in a bad way. Like, a British dude, comes back from space: all ruined.
Charlie: Where’d you get that from? This is an imaginary studio. I would do it on the seafloor if the seafloor looks like that bit in The Phantom Menace.
Luke: Or like Homer’s house in the future where he has like, where he and Marge gets a divorce and he’s got that house underneath the sea.
So, have you guys come to an agreement?
Tyler: Well, most of us are saying space. We’re all going to space without Lewis.
Lewis: Yeah, you go to space with your helicopter, I’ll stay.
Charlie & Luke: You really don’t want to come to space with us? You’re so fucked up, man, you’ll ruin our album, haha.
Lewis: I’ll send you demos. We’ll have two studios.
Tyler: By this point maybe we could get like a hologram situation, so Lewis could basically be in the room with us.
Hahaha. Stop with the fighting. So, final decision?
Tyler: With a hologram of Lewis. A holographic Lewis.
We asked them to listen to some Indonesian music, as well as their thoughts on them:
Oscar Lolang – What The City Doesn’t Kill
It sounds like Sugar Ray. It’s really cool. I think the singer sounds like Michael Stipe, and Lewis thinks that he sounds like Rodriguez. It gets a cool rating from us. I like it, it sounds great.
Bin Idris – Laylat Al Qadr
It had a nice, rich soundscape. It was very uh… there might be a bit of a Sigur Rós, like… I guess, it makes us feel like ooooh, raging!
I’m a Sir – Frau
Yeah, that was wicked. I didn’t know how to appreciate it fully because of what was happening in the background, but um, instantly, I listen to a lot of Regina Spektor, all of us are fans of her work, and that’s what I heard straight away. Slightly more Disney – musical-esque.
Some vibes of this Japanese singer that I get, uh, Akiko Yano, the voice and the arrangement, kind of? ‘Cause she’s very piano-based as well. I really like the simple arrangements of the piano that are very charismatic and charming, and also, the vocals. Because there’s a lot of space between them, there’s a lot of room for a narrative and it’s like you’re about to go on some kind of whimsical journey. It just sets up a nice precedent.
The Trees and The Wild – Empati Tamako
It sounded really cool. It’s like Canadian music. I can imagine it building, building, and building until the song goes 45 minutes long.
Yeah, it’s like 14 minutes, actually.
That’s cool. The perfect length for a song, to be honest.
Sore – Merintih Perih
Yeah, it was cool, it has, like, a nice rhythm to it. We would love to listen to them like independently, properly, and in full.