Boston indie-rock outfit Blackout Balter have been currently getting ready to release their new EP Twist and Bend out on 8th July. The EP itself was recorded in The Killers’ famed personal Las Vegas recording studio, Battle Born. It was the result of a bold move by Blackout Balter front man Phil Cohen, who slipped The Killers’ Dave Keuning one of his band’s demos. Grammy-nominated Keuning was so captivated by their sound that he opted to play cello and guitar on three songs on the record. Cohan was then put in touch with Robert Root who produced and mixed The Killers and Imagine Dragons and offered to produce the EP. You can listen to Heavy Hand that features Keuning.
I managed to catch up with Cohen for an interview about the upcoming EP, working with Keuning, fans and more!
How has the release of Heavy Hand been?
Man–we’ve been blown away by the response. The Paste Magazine premiere was outstanding for us; and we were grateful to see all the additional coverage as well, to include the single’s being named “Best of the week” by Apple Music. These are exciting and humbling times, and we can feel everything building in the right direction.
How are you looking forward to the release of Twist and Bend?
We’re really excited about the EP’s release on July 8th. The songs that make up “Twist and Bend” touch on a number of deep, real-life experiences that have shaped the way we look at life; and we look forward to sharing this with the public. This has been a long time coming for us, as we recorded this music in 2015. I’m proud of what we’ve done on this EP, and I think it’s a great representation of us as a band.
What was it like working with Dave Keuning?
There’s really no one like Dave Keuning. Everyone knows he’s a great artist, but what people may not know is that he’s an amazing, down-to-earth guy. We were honored that he wanted to be a part of the album, and until I met him at the studio in Vegas, I still couldn’t really believe that he was actually going to be recording with us. When we were in the studio together, I was amazed at how quickly Dave worked. Within a few minutes of rehearsing “Heavy Hand,” Dave had the solo worked out. I said something like, “Wow–did you just pull that out of your ass?!” [laughs]. And Dave said something like, “While I was listening to the song, I just started humming the part, then I picked up my guitar and started playing what I was humming.” Getting a glimpse into Dave’s creative process was nothing short of incredible; and I was sure not to take one second of our time out in Vegas for granted.
Does The Killers inspire your music?
Yes–we’re big fans of The Killers; and, personally, I respect how The Killers have always stayed true to their art, even as they’ve grown to become one of the biggest bands in the world. It would have been easy for them to sell out, as many other bands have done, but they never have. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the guys on a personal level, and I cherish our relationship. Their music inspires us and they inspire us as great people, doing what they love to do, better than anyone else. We’re also heavily influenced by ’70s underground rock, to include the founding puck rock movement, ’80s hardcore punk and alternative, and ’90s alternative. Artists like Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, David Bowie, The New York Dolls, Television, Black Flag, The Germs, The Pixies, Pavement, Nirvana, and Elliott Smith are just a few of my personal favourites.
What would you say to your fans that go to gigs and buy your music?
We’re so appreciative of our fans. Let’s be honest, it’s early for us–we’re still a new band by anyone’s standard. We feel a special affinity toward the people who have taken the time to come to our shows and listen to our music, as they’re in early so-to-speak. When I think about people caring about our music, I think about Vincent van Gogh never garnering any acclaim for his art during his life. We’re lucky. Even though we’ve only released a few songs, and we’re largely an “undiscovered band,” we know there are people out there who identify with our music; and this connection to our early fans, through our music, is an unshakable one. These folks are our family–we know their names and where they’re from–and they are our motivation to continue to release music to the public.
Have you got any gigs planned this year?
Yes, and we’re looking forward to announcing some shows soon.
Where would you like to see yourselves in 5 years time?
Life is short, and five years is a long time [laughs]. In my eyes, there’s really no better thing in life than pursuing your passion, doing what you want to do, and living life on your own terms. In five years I see us as one of the biggest bands in the world, sustaining a meaningful career within the Music Industry, and doing what we love to do. I also see us as a driving force of change in the Music Industry, as today’s models are flawed and we are working hard behind-the-scenes to shift the balance of power in favour of artists. We’re working hard to make these things happen.
Have you got any plans for new music this year?
New music? Wait a second! Our EP hasn’t even been released yet, and you’re asking about new music? [laughs]. We’re always working on new music, so I’m hoping to be back in the studio later this year, but we’ll see how things go. I’m really excited about the new material we’re writing, post-Twist and Bend. [laughs]. I still can’t believe we’re talking about post-EP stuff before the EP has even been released! All said, I think the songs on Twist and Bend are a great representation of the band, and I’m really happy with the songs we’re working on now, as I think we’re pushing our art even further than before. We’re all very excited about the future.
You can listen to Blackout Balter’s latest single from the EP, Everything Becomes Mechanical, below.