“It was time for a change”
– Black Coast on their debut LP, live music and sleeping by the sea.
Written by Joe Hough.
Grey clouds sail over the potbanks of Stoke as I clamber up the stairs and enter the practice room of Black Coast. Surrounding the band are tatty sofas, cracked walls, a drum kit, cabinets, and guitar cases. They have just finished rehearsing and are sitting around shooting the shit while rolling a smoke. As we huddle closer together, I pull some crinkled notes from my back pocket. “It’s all legit now he’s got the papers,” says Charlie, seemingly apprehensive of the forthcoming questions.
Black Coast have been circling the metal scene for five years now, conquering many lands with their bullish vocals, nifty riffs, and groovy rhythms. The group consists of Charlie on vocals, Scott on guitar, Jack on bass, Matty on drums and Joe on guitar, who made a swift exit before I had chance to ask what he’d eaten for breakfast.
Over the last couple of years, the band have been working on their debut album. Three singles have been released as a teaser of what is to come. Paradise, Vodka Smile and most recently, Ache. The songs show that the dynamic five-piece have altered their sound, retaining some hints of hardcore from their formative years but adopting influences from bands they enjoy listening to such as Alice In Chains and Linkin Park. “We had a long wait since the last EP so it’s nice to reintroduce the band as something else,” Charlie says.
The most noticeable modification to their music is the delicate vocals from Charlie, who chooses to sing in some sections, making his screamy outbursts all the more powerful. “I could do a set screaming, no issue at all. As bad as it sounds, I wanted to do something that I could do every night in whatever state I was in. Whereas with singing you can’t really do that, I’ve learnt from the past that videos come back up on YouTube and when you see yourself you go, ‘wow really? Did I sound like that?’. Confidence wise I’ve got to a point where I can sing again and I’m enjoying it,” he explains.
After numerous EPs including the Ill Minds duology, Black Coast are waiting to release their highly anticipated first album, Outworld. They are confident it’s their greatest work to date. “We wrote the songs for ourselves instead of thinking about everybody else. I’m not saying we wrote the music for people in particular; we wrote them with current bands in mind like Stray From The Path, Counterparts and Stick To Your Guns. When you write that kind of music with beatdowns and techy stuff, you’re always thinking about when people are going to get a pit on. There’s parts where we have done that but this time, we’re going to write using influences from what we all listen to instead of writing another Ill Minds basically,” says Scott. “We’re the ones who’re going to be playing the songs. If it sounds good and we enjoy it, we just write it now. It’s a lot more natural,” Charlie adds. “We were sick of being pigeonholed and as the band progressed, it was time for a change.”
Charlie explains that he prefers not to talk about the deeper meaning in the lyricism featured on the album. “It’s me trying to get over all of my problems with going sober and all the issues mentally,” he says. “They all leave me to it when it comes to lyrics so it’s a very self-reflective album. Outworld is about feeling like you’re not here, when you are, if you get what I mean? Kind of not feeling like yourself. I’d like people to make up their own minds though.”
Black Coast recorded the album with Sam Bloor at Lower Lane Studios, just round the corner from the band’s practice room. They went through pre-production in the studio, something they hadn’t tried before. “We could dissect the songs and be really meticulous with how we wanted them to sound,” says Scott. In the pre-production process, Sam helped the band with arrangements and rewriting sections that weren’t working. “It was all integral to how the album sounds and he’s almost the sixth member,” tells Charlie.
The day before, I meandered past the potholes of murky water in the track leading to Lower Lane to speak with Sam. I caught him as he was leaving the studio. He started working with Black Coast on their first EP. “They’ve developed loads over the years and expanded massively,” he says. “Ultimately, my favourite thing about working with them is that everyone is totally selfless, they want what’s best for the band and not what’s best for the individual. There was plenty of times when we were writing and recording the album when someone would have something cool but if it didn’t work for the song, we didn’t keep it, and nobody kicked up a fuss about that. They’re five people who want the same thing and push in the same direction.”
“The process for the album was that the band would come up with the initial ideas and develop them a little bit in the practice room,” Sam explains from his chair surrounded by musical apparatus. “When they brought it to the studio, we’d record a demo version and then chop it to pieces, move it around, rewrite sections and add new parts until we were satisfied with every part of every song. There’s some songs that had four or five different choruses, if there was a seed of doubt, we’d just do it again.”
The record producer stresses that him and the band have put heaps of effort into Outworld. “Everyone’s had homework. We set ourselves a huge challenge to completely transform the band’s sound and what they’re capable of,” says Sam before ensuring that the hard work has paid off. “If their old stuff were black and white, this new stuff would be technicolour. It’s got so many sounds, so many layers and it pushes them into corners that nobody would expect them to be in. It shows what drives them as musicians. Everyone’s true inspiration comes out onto a piece of art.”
Using backing tracks for live shows is no new thing. Since the 70s rock groups have used tapes to replicate synthesiser tracks on stage. Though in recent times the use of them has become far more pervasive, with pre-recorded backing vocals, synth lines, strings, and even additional guitar parts. Black Coast are tenacious about not using any samples or backing tracks in their live shows or the recording of the album. “We were putting like 8 or 9 pedals together just to get one fucking berserk sound. But it works so it’s great, and it’s all done by humans,” says Scott.
Due to COVID, the band recorded Outworld separately, only one member was in the studio at a time. This is something they enjoyed, and Sam Bloor confirmed that because of thorough preparation they worked well in this way, although other bands he worked with did not. “On my side of things, it was nice to have one person’s opinion instead of five,” says Charlie. “When it’s just you, Sam and the music you’re completely zoned in on getting it done,” adds Scott.
While forging their debut LP, Charlie decided he was to go sober after years of heavy drinking. Having been teetotal for six months, I asked if he’d used anything to replace the booze. “I smoke a lot now,” Charlie states with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, which tickles everyone in the room. “It’s helped the music as well as my confidence,” he adds. The singer’s sobriety has not only helped him, it’s benefitted the band too. “People say you have to drink to have fun and that’s a load of bollocks,” Scott states. “Chaz will admit he’s done things while he’s been on stage that haven’t gone down well like kicking holes through venue walls and forgetting lyrics and doing stupid shit but it’s only because he’s drunk.”
As the country went into lockdown, in March last year, Black Coast were just finishing a UK tour and found themselves being pushed into isolation. Tunes from the album were fresh out of the oven and they played Paradise as their last song at the final show. Little did they know, they wouldn’t get the chance to play the song live for another year. Though the band have missed playing live, they did their best to keep themselves entertained. “I’ve just been reading a lot unfortunately,” says Jack. “We can’t wait to get back on tour, we’re bored stiff.”
There’s a bright light at the end of the ominous tunnel though. The lads have got festivals booked in for summertime. They’ll be headlining the Underground at Your City Festival on Saturday 24th July before taking a trip to Torquay for Burn It Down Festival. I’m told there’s more being organised behind the scenes, to be confirmed.
“We like playing by the sea,” says Charlie when I ask where they’d like to stop on tour. “One of the most enjoyable parts of the tour is finding somewhere picturesque and in the middle of nowhere to park up after a show and get some sleep,” he adds. “At this point we’ll play most places; we’ve never been a fussy band, so we’ll play Willingham on a Wednesday night. As it stands, we’re just happy to get out and play some shows, whether it’s in the UK or round Europe or Ireland again,” Scott explains.
As gigs start to emerge from the darkness, there is still a need for social distancing. Live shows will be seated leaving space between the crowd. While this may be hunky-dory for genres such as Jazz, where seated concerts already the norm, I wondered whether it could take the magic away from the metal. “I know it takes a little bit of the feeling away, not getting as much of a reaction from the fans but at most venues nobody turns up anyway. Whatever reaction we can get, if it means people are sitting down clapping, we’ll take it,” Charlie says. “Anyone who loves live music will be happy with anything, so it works both ways,” adds Jack.
Not long after the formation of Black Coast, they had the opportunity to play three shows in Japan, which they seized with no question. “It was an eye-opener being in a different country as a band and seeing how people reacted to the music,” says Scott. “My first time abroad was Japan, which felt crazy. It was the cleanest place I’ve been in my life, there was no litter on the floor. No chewing gum, no fag flips, nothing,” Scott recalls. “They’ve got vending machines on the corner of every street, you could get chicken and chips out of them which blew my head off, I was loving it. You couldn’t have a vending machine on the street corner like that in Stoke, it’d be gone in ten minutes.”
Travelling to the other side of the world is bound to come with obstacles though. “We jumped on a plane, nearly got arrested a couple of times on the way, sleeping and urinating where we shouldn’t have been and all the rest of it” says Jack. “We nearly spent up all the money on the first day because the QR code wouldn’t work on the bus pass, it was all a bit crazy really,” notes Scott. “The best thing about Japan was the cheesecake. It was fucking unreal,” he adds in jest. Years have passed since their trip though, and the boys would love to go back as a stronger band with new material.
Aside from Japan, Black Coast have had many performance highlights. “Dublin was sick, we had a great show, and it was somewhere we’d never played before. We fed off the crowd’s energy and we were on fire. Then we had a good sleep by the sea. There was a dog barking at five o clock and Birdy (Jack) shouted at it which was funny,” Scott recalls. “Underworld was good even though I was shitting myself. We always have a good gig at Black Heart in Camden and it’s a wicked sound,” says Charlie “I’ll always remember the first time we played Exeter, which was way back, that was a fucking ace show and it put a fire in our belly,” he says in reminiscence.
It looks like music festivals will be back this year, giving us the chance to trawl through muddy fields in wellies again. Black Coast have their name on a few line-ups, with hopefully more to be announced. “We want to play more and get our name out there, whether it’s in the tent at the back next to the toilets or the main stage” says Scott. “We think this new stuff is going to sound great on the festival stage, it’ll really get people moving,” adds Jack. The bands singer, Charlie explains the importance of music festivals for the band. “It’s such a big thing to help promote a band of our size because it gives them a platform to be noticed.”
In lockdown, Black Coast released an acoustic tape including covers of Queens of the Stone Age and Red Hot Chili Peppers tracks. An Outworld acoustic session is on the cards. “When the album comes out, we’ll be able to hear which songs would transition nicely into a stripped back version,” Scott confirms.
Those of you who’ve been in a band will know that behind the splendours, there are troubles. This is no different for Black Coast, who say the biggest challenge of being in a band is “being in a band.” Scott elaborates: “There’s a lot of highs and lows being in a band. We went through a load of shit with the new album. We nearly got signed to a big label, they strung us along a bit and then they just pulled the plug. Those things weigh on your mind. If you want to try and accomplish something with a band, it’s fucking hard work man.” Despite the stress of juggling gigs, practice and finances, the five of them all love playing music together. “One good thing can outweigh all the bad things. If you woke up to a message from management saying you’d been booked for Download, that would be the fucking golden goose, it wouldn’t matter what had happened in the past five years, your mind would be blown,” Scott tells.
Previous to Black Coast, its members had been in other bands, giving them a good idea on how the scene has changed. “When Scott started, they were still chicken pickin’,” says Jack. In the ten years Scott has been playing locally, he has noticed there’s less people coming to gigs. “There’s still a few faithful people who go to live shows and support us. We appreciate that but if you haven’t got a name behind you or you’re not deemed as cool, most people won’t bother looking,” adds Jack.
Charlie then asks the rest of the room if they mind him being honest on record, which they did not. “I feel like it’s become very cliquey, it’s all who you know unfortunately,” he reveals. “Too many people are fake, they put on an act just to get ahead. Maybe one of the reasons we’ve been held back is because we haven’t kissed enough arse, but that’s never going to be us.”
Recently, Black Coast have been getting some serious attention from down under, their singles being played regularly on Triple J – one of the biggest radio stations in Australia. This led to features in popular magazines, Blunt and Hysteria, which meant Charlie and Scott were interviewed from the other side of the world at one o’clock in the morning. “The interviews are more savage. They want to get down to the nitty-gritty straight off the bat,” says Charlie.
The band have also signed to Blood Blast, a distribution company who help with similar things as a record label would without having as much control, whilst taking a smaller cut. This does mean it’s being paid from the lads own back pockets, but they’d rather do that than have someone they’ve never met before telling them how to write their music and how they should look. “There’s a lot of bands doing this now, one of the biggest being Malevolence. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for any of us because those boys are smashing it. Yeah, we’ve had to pay a bit more money but in the long run, if it sells, we’ll get our money back, then we can put it into crack and stress tablets,” says Scott.
Speaking to Black Coast, I notice that what stands prominent over their friendly and humorous nature is their drive and passion for the music. The group of musicians are primed to take on anything that stands in their way and they’re “chomping at the bit” to move forward. With Outworld set to release later this year and live music on the horizon, it’d be foolish to miss their climb to the peak.
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