Outrunning their own hype, Black Peaks have managed to sustain a sense of excitement around their debut album, despite the delays. With ‘Statues’ out now though, their story can really begin.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Corinne Cumming.
A year ago Black Peaks were one of the most talked about bands following their early unveiling of ‘Glass Built Castles’. After a number of singles, relentless touring and leaving their album be, the band are now primed to drop ‘Statues’. A dark fairytale of a record that deals with control, revenge and a longing to be remembered, it’s set to start the conversation aflame all over again.
That’s not to say the band have spent the past twelve months trying to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle magic that was ‘Glass Built Castles’. Quite the opposite, in fact. Their debut was recorded back in November 2014; they’ve been sat on it for a year and a half. “We’ve definitely done the naughty thing and tweaked, chopped and cut little bits that don’t work after listening to it for six months, but we tried not to,” explains vocalist Will Gardner.
“We’ve gone back and mixed and remixed, that was the delay in the album. Just for mixing, nothing more than that,” adds drummer Liam Kearley. “There’s nothing really to spill,” he protests. “It was just mixing.”
Despite the ever-growing weight on their shoulders, there are not really any nerves about release. “It’s happening and there’s nothing that’s stopping this train anymore.”
‘Statues’ is “quite dark, and there’s a sense of urgency about it because we were so determined to put a big piece of music out into the world,” adds guitarist Joe Gosney. Recorded over an intense two-week time frame, the record “just happened. We didn’t have any time to think about or talk about ‘let’s make a song that sounds like this’.”
“We grew up a lot in that time. We got more professional,” reflects Liam, before Will adds: “We definitely developed a lot as people over those two weeks. It was such a mixture of sitting around and being really involved in helping other people be creative.”
“It was all fourteen, fifteen hour days. Even for the people who weren’t recording, they were still there discussing things, listening to guitar tones and drum takes,” continues bassist Andrew Gosden. “It’s such an important thing. I felt quite a bit of pressure because it’s our first major statement and I feel we had to get it right. We have to be happy with it.“
Because of this desire to create something brilliant, “a lot of the tracks were perfectly regimented, structured and done” before the band went into the studio; months of jamming, writing in living rooms and building on each other’s ideas paying off. “We were so prepared going into the studio. We still knew we needed one or two more tracks, there were a few things we were unsure on but for the most part it was just go in and paint by numbers. We knew what we wanted and we knew what we were aiming for. We just found what we wanted and recorded it. We had a very strong vision for what we wanted and the album is very much that.“
“We’re four very opinionated people but it’s good because we’ve always needed it to be right. I don’t think that’s a bad thing in our group of four,” explains Liam, reasoning you only get one shot at a debut. The waits and delays for ‘Statues’ have been a bigger deal to the band, “’cos you play it over and over in your mind. It’s your first album and it really sucks to be pushed back.” But all good things…
There’s a fantastical element to ‘Statues’. From the engulfing musical storm tossing your attention in all directions to the lyrical storytelling, the record is one of escape. “I think all four of us as characters have elements of escapism in us and if that’s being translated onto the record, then that’s cool,” explains Joe. Taking influence from the likes of Mastodon, The Mars Volta and Led Zeppelin, the band “wanted to make one piece of music that you can listen to, start to finish.”
More than simply a run of eleven tracks though, ‘Statues’ also contains a story broken into four parts (‘Crooks’, ‘Hang ‘em High’, ‘Glass Built Castles’ and ‘Statues of Shame’) and scattered throughout. “As with everything we do, we wanted to do a little bit more. We may have written those four songs in order and Will may have started piecing the story together but when we started putting the album together, we realised that that can’t go there,” explains Joe. “It was never meant to go from start to finish musically or lyrically,” adds Will. “In my head it was always going to sound better dotted around and with other stuff in between.“
‘Statues’ is full of these little flourishes of the band doing something just because it feels right. Despite their constantly shifting sound, none of Black Peaks are tech heads. “We try to push ourselves musically as a group but we never sit down and work out what’s in 7/8,” offers Andrew. Writing is “such a freeing and creative process. Knowing all that music theory and knowledge is great but it can pen you in.” Instead the band work by the rule “if it sounds good, it’s good.” If it so happens to be a diminished seventh, well that’s just lovely. “This album, I pushed myself. I pushed boundaries that I didn’t know I had just because it felt right. I just wanted to do stuff,” offers Liam. That excitement of self-discovery was channeled by every member of Black Peaks and can be felt in every daring twist and daunting turn of ‘Statues’. Not that the band know that. “We’ve had no outside perspective view of what people are expecting. We’ve been in this bubble with it for such a long time, we’re just numb to it. We haven’t heard anything from anyone who’s only heard the finished product and can hear it as a whole and make those observations.”
The band have been so wrapped in the daily goings on, like “sorting out tours and working merch”, they don’t really see the other side of it. “That hype is awesome. It’s helping fuel what’s going on right now but for us, we’ve made eleven tracks, they’re on a CD and we’re going to go out and play some shows. Hopefully people like ‘em. That’s it really. We’re really super-happy and chuffed about it and we’re so lucky to be in this position. To have had people support us with us not having much music out is fucking overwhelming. We’ve tried to take it in our stride and just crack on. We’ve never said ‘this is what we deserve’. Let’s just keep going, keep making music, keep playing shows and get our album out to as many people as possible.” Playing live is the “only time we realise how much of an impact we’ve made on certain people. OK, wow. This is happening I guess.”
“We’ve always tried live to get across the emotion that it’s the four of us in the moment together, trying to do the best we can. If that comes out in the album, that’ll be amazing,” offers Andrew, before Joe adds, “We’ve always had a saying that we want our music to be dark, heavy but still beautiful and have something about it. Something that grabs people.”
“It’s not metal music, it’s not hardcore music, and it’s not pop music. It’s all those things together,” ventures Will. “We keep those doors open. We don’t like to close doors on any genre of music.”
“It’s weird though,” says Joe thinking out loud. “I’m never consciously thinking it’s got to be this or that; it’s just what comes out. That’s what we’re hoping we can achieve with our music, because we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves.”
Black Peaks are part of a crop of bands refusing to play by the rules of a genre or a scene. “It’s a really good time for British music and to be part of that time is really cool. Everybody is doing their own thing, which is awesome. The oddities are becoming the norm.” What started off as a three-piece instrumental band before Will joined, through their time together as Shrine and into the never-ending circus that’s been Black Peaks, the band have been on quite the journey, but they’re not ones for reflecting. “We never really allow ourselves to look back. We’re always focusing on that next thing. It is super healthy sometimes to take a step back but we just haven’t had, or allowed ourselves time to do that. Maybe after this album campaign, we can just take a step back and say that was a really sweet time, let’s do it again but it’s really easy not to and that’s always been the mentality of this band. We wrote the album and straight away, we started writing the next one.” The band are consistently writing because they enjoy it and because they want some more options for what comes next. They’ve already started playing a new track live “as a thank you for waiting so long for us,” but, as Joe points out, “we probably shouldn’t be talking about the next album.” There are still so many stories to be had with ‘Statues’.