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This Ain’t A Scene: Black Peaks

When we decided to start a new magazine, we thought long and hard about the best way to introduce ourselves. Mission statements? Manifestos? Rambling paragraphs about what we stood for and how we were different? Nah. Not for us. Instead, we decided to catch up with some of our favourite bands. Not to try to group them together, or to make a new scene – just to say they’re great. That’s what Upset is about.

“Welcome to the inner workings of Black Peaks,” laughs Joe Gosney as his bandmates break away from the conversation and start arguing amongst each other, all playful smiles and knowing jabs. The band are back home in Brighton for a handful of appearances at The Great Escape, bringing to a close a lengthy UK tour that’s underlined the excitement surrounding the four-piece. A brief rest period awaits before festival season kicks off proper with Black Peaks playing everywhere from Nass and Boardmasters to Hevy and Reading & Leeds. Then there’s the small matter of that debut album that’s been a glimmering source of anticipation ever since Zane Lowe played its first single ‘Glass Built Castles’ to the nation. “We had a clear plan for this year,” starts Andrew Gosden. “Well, we thought we did and then that happened. Scrap the plan, let’s roll with it,” he says with a hint of disbelief still present. “It’s been a whirlwind.”

The storm isn’t over yet though, it’s just getting started.

Formed in 2012, Black Peaks were originally an instrumental band called Shrine. Will Gardner joined on vocals, the band released their ‘Closer to The Sun’ EP and everything was growing nicely. Then at the close of last year the band changed their name to avoid confusion with other acts and retreated to work on their debut album.

“For us, there hasn’t been any other change apart from branding,” explains Andrew. “At the end of all the Shrine stuff, we had to go quiet for a few months to finish writing and recording the record. That period of no gigging and being in the studio was terrifying. We didn’t know what was happening,” admits Joe. “But we had to keep writing this music.”

“When Zane heard ‘Glass Built Castles’ and it blew up,” starts Liam Kearley before pausing. “It was brilliant, faith restored,” Joe concludes.

When asked about the reaction they’ve received, essentially two songs into a new band, all four admit feelings of pride, surprise, excitement and overwhelm. “We never really thought our type of music would get that reaction, especially radio,” admits Andrew.

“I never thought we’d appeal because it’s quite complicated,” continues Will. “It’s not straight 4/4 rock, there’s a lot going on but we’ve had so many young people that have just absolutely loved it. In Aberdeen these two kids, maybe 14 years old, came along and it was the first show they ever went to,” he says before having to repeat it, in a bid to make sense of the situation. “In Aberdeen as well. We’re from Brighton. All the way up there, there was two kids that had heard us on the radio.”

“We probably ruined their idea of live music,” says Andrew with a grin before Will admits that his first gig was Brighton’s Party In The Park with B*Witched and Gary Barlow. It doesn’t seem to have affected his artistic direction though.

“We’ve been asked a few times if we’ve written to a specification or to fit radio and it’s honestly never been the case with us,” Joe clarifies. “We’ll go into a rehearsal room and make music. If it makes us happy and excited, to us that’s a good song and we’ve tried to make as many of those good songs as possible. It just so happens that the two we’ve chosen as singles, ‘Glass Built Castles’ and it’s follow-up, ‘Crooks’, have stood out,” he reasons. “It’s surprising and humbling. We’re really stoked on that but we never wrote those two songs as singles.”

“It’s nuts because we wrote the album as a different band,” muses Will. “We were three-quarters through writing it this time last year and nobody’s going to hear the whole thing until the end of summer.”

“We haven’t got a release date yet but we’re working really hard to make sure that happens,” adds Joe

“It’s a piece of work,” gushes Will. “There’s segues and we’ve written sections where certain tracks all connect up. It’s not just ten or eleven songs mashed together; it’s a rollercoaster. The two tracks we’ve released are fast, hard hitting and they’ve got a lot of momentum. After that, it goes a lot darker,” he emphasises. “A hell of a lot darker, a hell of a lot heavier,” “It’s darker in the sense of expression, rather than metal,” adds Andrew before a chorus of Slayer roars. “As the album progresses we get experimental and at the end, there are some brighter songs that are more reflective and anthemic. It’s a real journey.”

“As a whole, it is quite relentless, Andrew states. “We’re super proud of it and I don’t think we could add anything or take anything away,” he says, dismissing the idea that this newfound level of exposure will affect the album.

“It’s good to know you can be proud of that one piece of work,” explains Liam
“We went and recorded it with blood sweat and tears. At the time, we could not have done anything better or anything more to add to that and we wouldn’t want to,” defies Will. “It represents that moment in time, of us as four people as well as the other people we have as part of our team. Everything is part of that sound.” An instant and enthusiastic chorus of yeses show the bands excitement to share this record before Will adds “I’m really nervous as well. We put our hearts into that, it’s super sensitive.”

“I think it will resonate,” starts Liam. “Hopefully it will, but I don’t really mind if it doesn’t.”

“The way I see it is that everyone has the kind of emotions that we express in our music,” interjects Will. “All the darkness in our music and in our performance is in everyone. It keeps me and everyone else in the band sane by being able to express that frustration, that sadness and all of that exuberance. It’s this massive release and to be able to do that live is amazing but that expression is real.”

“I think there’s more room for bands with a heavier nature so, if anything, now’s the time. If we work as hard as we can, at least we’ll find out how far we can take this, that’s always been our ethos. Not to be pessimistic but if it doesn’t happen, at least we know we’ve done everything we can. You can try and you can aim high and see what happens,” challenges Joe.

“I still wouldn’t say we deserve or have earnt anything though,” says Will. “It’s just luck, it’s just a game. There’s all sorts of stuff under the surface with us that’s really difficult to manage in our own personal lives but we do it. You get thrown some awesome cards, you keep working as hard as you can and you hope for the best.”

While Black Peaks are still making sense of the spot they’ve been thrust in, there’s a sense they’re comfortable basking in it’s light. They are, after all, four friends at the start of a grand adventure. Welcome to the world of Black Peaks. There’s a storm brewing. 

Photo: Emma Swann / Upset. Taken from the August issue of Upset – order a copy now.