Very few British rock bands, especially those with a bit of a prog edge, have soared quite as high off the back of their debut album as Black Peaks did with 2016’s ‘Statues’, which picked up several accolades, plenty of praise and buzz, and a bunch of high profile tour and festival slots.
Of course, following such a stellar first outing adds some undeniable levels of pressure to follow-up with something superior, and with sophomore ‘All That Divides’ the band certainly hits the bar of expectations.
Whilst on their first UK tour to showcase their new material just a couple of weeks following its release, we spoke with guitarist Joe Gosney to discuss the record, its lyrical themes, their evolution from an instrumental three-piece to the band they are today, the importance of album artwork, and more.
DP!: You’re about halfway through your UK tour at the moment. How are the shows going?
J: Amazing! We’ve done a week of in-store stuff first, which was really fun. We haven’t played Brighton in ages, and we got to play in a pub to about 50 people there and just hang out, sign a bunch of records, and do an acoustic thing. It was just a really special week and it’s very different to doing a proper show and doing things by the book. We were just hanging out and drinking beers with everyone. It was the coolest week to celebrate the release of the new album.
Straight from that we went to Ireland which was wicked, and now we’re in the UK again and the shows have been insane. We haven’t done a proper headline UK tour since last January, so it has been ages, and there’s tonnes of people coming out. We’re seeing about four times the amount of people coming out now than we were seeing back then. It’s really good to come back to the same circuit but with full rooms, and we’re all having a great time.
DP!: This is all off the back of your new album, ‘All That Divides’. How do you feel the fans and critics have been taking to it?
J: It’s been really good. No one has shouted out and said that they’ve hated it yet, so I guess that’s good. All of the reviews and the people we’ve spoken to, especially in the first week, have been really happy with it. I don’t think it’s a dramatically different album from ‘Statues’, but I feel like it’s a way more concise version of Black Peaks and what we wanted to do.
People have responded to it really well, and we’re playing a bunch of it live at the moment too, which is fun. It’s not like we were getting bored of playing stuff from ‘Statues’, but it’s really nice to add an extra flavour to the set. To sort of think there may have been a point in the set that may have been a lull, or at least what we though was a lull in the set, and now we’re able to fill that in with some tracks from the new record.
DP!: That’s cool. How’ve the crowds been taking to that new material? Is it translating as well as you’d hoped?
J: Yeah, really well. That’s been bizarre actually ’cause we’ve been playing on this tour from the day of release, and gradually every day more and more people are knowing the lyrics the more that they digest it. It really has been incredible. It’s a really special feeling to put a record out into the world that we’ve given absolutely everything to, and for it then to be resonating with people so much that every night we’re just watching people sing all of these lyrics back to us.
DP!: For this album you joined the label roster over at Rise Records. Why made you want to make the jump over to them from Easy Life Records?
J: With Easy Life we’d signed a one album deal, and just when we got to the end of that contract it was all really amicable. I think we just decided that we wanted to work with a different team.
There were definitely a few labels flying about at the time, but with Rise and just meeting the team there and the bands they already have on their roster, it felt like a good home for us. We’re about building a family around the band that is hopefully going to be a permanent team that we can grow and become a bigger machine with, and Rise have been that for us. I feel like they really understand the aesthetic and everything else with the band. They get what we’re trying to do at the moment.
DP!: Obviously your debut album ‘Statues’ got a lot of attention and praise, and you achieved a lot off the back of it with tours and reviews. What do you think was the biggest success to come from that record, and what do you feel was the biggest lesson that it gave you?
J: We learnt a tonne of lessons. It’s the first album, so there’s so much guesswork in there I think for any band, unless it’s your first release in a new band after already doing something else for a while. But, for all of us, everything that we were doing on ‘Statues’ was the first time that any of us have ever done that thing. For instance, we did our first support tours and you kind of learn how to try and cater your setlist to someone else’s audience rather to people that already know you and like you. We didn’t really have any fanbase to begin with, so you’re working out all of these different ways to engage with people and get them stoked on your music.
Then there’s all of the festivals – a lot of life stuff is the main sort of thing that we took away from it really. We were really lucky to do some awesome support shows as well, and I just think from an inspirational point of view, when you see and you play with those bands, you just want to be there and you want to be doing what they’re doing. I think for us you leave shows like that thinking “Alright, what can we do to make our band better and into a bigger project and machine?” We were also really lucky to have been put in a position where things like that can happen, because it’s not something that a lot of bands get.
DP!: In a way it’s kind of like things clicked for you as you made certain changes. Before you were Black Peaks you were a three-piece instrumental band and called yourselves Shrine.
J: Yeah, we were doing that for about six months or so, but you’re right. We’re constantly evolving. We’ve got a lot of old videos of us when we were jamming as a three-piece and playing weird The Mars Volta-y sort of stuff. Maybe some day we’ll share some of it ’cause it’s really interesting, even for us now, to look back and think “Shit, it was such a different vision back then of what we wanted to do.” Then we got Will (Gardner, vocals) in and that changed everything with the style and how we wanted to take things, and now we’ve got Dave (Larkin, bassist) in the band – everyone adds a different flavour into the mix. I know that the next album that we’re going to do after this will sound totally different. It’s all a part of it.
We’ll probably look back at ‘Statues’ and ‘All That Divides’ in a few years and think “Wow, we’re completely different people now.” Everything plays into it as well. This tour for instance, like, maybe stuff that we were playing around with before and writing before we came onto this tour will translate into being something totally different when we get back from this tour ’cause we’re watching a band like Bossk play every night… we’re pretty impressionable basically. I was listening to a Neurosis record a couple of weeks ago, and after that I just decided that I wanted to sound like Neurosis, haha.
DP!: Did the success that you received from ‘Statues’ build up any kind of pressure for when you started putting its follow-up together?
J: Definitely. I think it was a lot of self-imposed pressure though that maybe wasn’t so healthy for us. We always try to set our standards quite high, but we also weren’t really expecting the response that we got from ‘Statues’, so I think we were like “Oh shit, we need to make sure that whatever we do is way better than that, and people are expecting this and expecting that, and it should sound like this and that.” As soon as we started to forget about trying to cater our music to what other people would want and just make it for ourselves, that’s when the songs started coming. I think we were really battling with that for a while, with what that needed to be. I think for us it really helped when we stopped focusing on what it needed to be and just played instead to make it want it wants to be. It’s easier said than done though, at least for us.
There was also the battle of not trying to focus too much on making more songs like ones that fans gravitated to the most on ‘Statues’ and just copying that again and again. ‘Glass Built Castles’ was a big one, and we were at one point like “Okay, we need to try and make ten songs like ‘Glass Built Castles’,” but very soon after we came to our senses and we were like “No way, fuck that.” It wouldn’t have been fun to do that. If it’s not fun then what’s the point? That’s our ethos. It’s not like any of us are here making a bunch of money or anything, so it’s got to be fun. It’s got to be enjoyable to do, and it’s only going to be enjoyable if we make the music that we want to make.
DP!: What make you settle on the title ‘All That Divides’ for the record?
J: It was one of the last things that we chose for the record. We’d written all of the songs, and I think we had chosen all of the song names by that point too. It was actually just a case of the four of us sat around one evening discussing the lyrical content of the record, and there’s definitely an overriding theme across it of divisive natures. There’s some political aspects in there, and stuff that we as a band have dealt with over the last couple of years of things that have affected us.
I think ‘All That Divides’ was just immediately the name that jumped out to the four of us, and not even just down to the lyrical content, but the album was also written in two different chunks. About half of it was written almost two years ago, even before ‘Statues’ had come out, and then the other half was written in the six months leading up to recording it, so there’s almost two different sides to the record. There’s a lot of different aspects to it that means the title fits, and it’s not a concept record, but that’s the theme.
DP!: In contrast to those themes, which are somewhat dark, the artwork that has accompanied ‘All That Divides’ is very bright, especially when compared with your choice of artwork for your debut. Was that a conscious effort?
J: Well, the artist for the record is the same lady (Eva Bowan) who did the artwork for ‘Statues’. We gave her the ideas that we wanted for the album, and she came back with all of these different artworks for us, and we ended up finding the artwork that we used for ‘All That Divides’ on her website. She’d made it a couple of years ago, and it was a piece of art that just really jumped out to us and felt like it’d fit aesthetically with the music on the record too.
DP!: On the subject of artwork, with the increasing rise of digital access and consumption of music like downloads and streaming platforms, how important do you feel artwork is to records nowadays?
J: Personally I feel like it’s really important. Obviously vinyl is making an resurgence, and I think that more and more people seem to be buying records at the moment, so to have that physical piece and the artwork is very important, and it can really represent your sound as well for people who may not have otherwise have listened to it. They can look at the piece of art and go “Wow, that is something that I should/could like.” We recently got a backdrop too with the album art on it, and I think it really helps set the scene and the mood for the show.
DP!: What else does Black Peaks have planned for the rest of 2018 and also 2019 so far?
J: This tour takes us up to almost the end of the year. I think we might go and do a little bit of writing after this towards the end of the year, and we’re just going to tour a bunch next year. We’re definitely going to do a bunch of touring before festival season, with a lot of UK and European dates. I can’t really say much more than that.
We’ll probably end up touring a lot more than we did on ‘Statues’, and we did a lot of touring on ‘Statues’. Hopefully this album takes us further afield too. We’re going to do as much as we can.
The band’s second studio album, ‘All That Divides’, is out now through Rise Records.
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