… It’s been a few years since I’ve listened to a band that regularly references headbanging and circle pits… But Black Moth (not to be confused with Black Moth Super Rainbow) does the “heavy” thing in a way that can be appreciated by someone who hung up his studded leather accessories quite some time ago. The quintet, hailing from Leeds, England, have the screams down, they have the doom thing in check, and they epitomize the concept of “riff-heavy,” but their sound also echoes of 60s psych and garage rock, in addition to a number of punk movements. As someone who grew up with yearly Ozzfest outings, yet currently listens to little aside from post-punk, Black Moth serve as a fun, groovy, and perfectly acceptable, guilt-free trip down memory lane. The band released their debut LP, The Killing Jar, earlier this year in Europe and earlier this week in the US, courtesy of New Heavy Sounds. Apparently they also tentatively have plans to pummel American audiences with a brutal live show in 2014. I recently got a chance to chat with lead vocalist Harriet Bevan, who pretty much dishes all the dirt that the Yanks could possibly need to know to get up to speed with Black Moth.
Izzy Cihak: Black Moth is still a relatively new band, yet you’ve achieved quite a bit. What would you consider to be the highlights of Black Moth’s career?
Harriet Bevan: Well, putting out our first album is pretty momentous, after playing in bands together for years! And we had such a strong team to do it with. We were the first album release for the wonderful New Heavy Sounds label, and it was produced by Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, The Cramps, Sonic Youth, etc.) Having the opportunity to record with a producer with such broad experience as a musician meant that we were able to create something that was exactly what we had hoped for: heavy and melodic, but with a touch of weirdness. Even our artwork, by Russian legend Vania Zouravliov, was incredibly special. Other than that, the highlights have got to be the joys of touring. So far we haven’t left Europe, but playing with a band is the best way to travel, as it means making friends all over the world with likeminded souls. We also played Download Festival in the UK this year, which was just unreal.
IC: How did you all come together?
HB: Black Moth was the result of an ever-evolving project that eventually developed a purpose. Jimmy (guitar) and I met in school and have been in bands together for years. Dave (bass) joined us when we were at university and we formed a 60s garage band that were heavily influenced by The Stooges, The Sonics, Shocking Blue, etc. Dom (AKA Doom McCready) joined us on drums a couple of years later, quickly establishing a far heavier and more formidable rhythm section than we’d ever had in the past. It was around about this time that we lost our atavistic, overtly ‘retro’ tendencies and pushed nostalgia aside. The bands of recent times that seemed to speak to us were the abrasive, the sleazy, and the heavy. After we recorded our debut album, we decided to take on an extra guitarist in order to make sure we were capturing the density of it when playing live. Enter Nico, a good friend who we knew from watching his own band, X-Ray Cat Trio, who only joined us on second guitar early 2012.
IC: You just released your debut LP, The Killing Jar, in the US. What can the Yanks expect of your sounds? You’ve already gained some notable critical characterizations and comparisons.
HB: Black Moth have a pretty transatlantic blend of sounds, actually. Our love of early British heavy metal, doom, and psychedelia formed the basis for our sound. We are, of course, creatures of the great and sprawling Sabbathian family. However, an obsession with American proto punk and garage rock fuels much of our energy. And, on top of all this, we moths were obsessed with American grunge in our teens and beyond, so these influences also creep through rather indiscreetly.
IC: Do you currently have a favourite album track? I think they’re all pretty inspiring and a cohesive whole, however, I want to say “Land of the Sky” might be my favourite.
HB: Wow, really? That’s interesting. We never play that one live, actually, though I think lyrically it is one of the more interesting ones. It’s about Anthropodermic Bibilopegy, the art of bookbinding using human leather, which is an art form I’m hopelessly infatuated with. I think my favourite overall could be “Honey Lung,” as it’s a devilish beast to perform live, but the crowds seem to dig a bit of “Chicken Shit,” so that makes it a fun one to watch the circle pit swirling to.
IC: What would you consider to be Black Moth’s most significant influences? Again, you’ve drawn some pretty cool comparisons, but do you have any particularly profound non-musical influences, or even musical influences that no one would guess?
HB: Lyrically, I am inspired by everything from stories, to real life observations, to movies (“Spit Out Your Teeth” was heavily influenced by Dogtooth, a Greek film by Yorgos Lanthimos). I already told you about the extent of my book fetishism! I also wonder at times whether our bleak Yorkshire surroundings have an impact on our gloomy mood, much like the Norwegians with their frosty Black Metal.
As with most bands, I think, we each have wildly varied musical influences, making the band hopefully more than the sum of its parts. Personally, my own tastes swing precariously between impossibly beautiful music and the violently ugly, and as we prefer to let our influences wash over us, rather than directly lead our songwriting, it must all feed in. If you don’t believe me, my current obsessions are Exuma, Roy Orbison, Burning Witch, and Pharmakon.
IC: On a similar note, since you do seem to have a lot of cool and disparate influences, are there any bands that you would particularly like to tour with, that you feel would compliment your sound especially well?
HB: Oh where to start?! I imagine we’d work well with bands like Mastodon, Red Fang (who we already did some dates in Italy with), The Sword, Kvelertak, … and then there are the “dream” supports, such as Melvins, Pixies, Iggy and the Stooges, Motorhead, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Sleep! If Grinderman ever reformed, that’d be pretty damn cool, as well! And personally, I have a childish hope that one day L7 will take to the stage again…
IC: The album was produced by Jim Sclavunos, who has quite an impressive resume, both as a musician and producer. How was working with him and what do you feel like he brought to your sound? For that matter, do you have any favourite works of his?
HB: Jim is a formidable force of energy and creativity. He doesn’t suffer fools or settle for any less than our best and this is something for which we will be forever grateful. He gave us the gentle boot up the ass we needed to raise our standards and be the best band we can possibly be. Working with Jim made us raise our game massively and we are all better musicians for the experience. We were already rocking a pretty heavy, gnarly vibe, apparently reminding Sclavunos of his “misspent youth,” but he encouraged us to be brave with our decisions and experiment with less obvious choices (featuring everything from mangled cowbell to goblin voices). As a result, the album is exactly what we wanted it to be: classically heavy, yet inexplicably freaky/schizophrenic.
We are fans of pretty much all of Jim’s musical endeavours. It’s mind-blowing when you look at all the incredible bands and musicians he has worked with. I’d say of all of them, Grinderman was the biggest influence on Black Moth’s philosophy. Obviously, they are the heaviest of his bands, but it’s something more than that. I like a band to be fiercely intelligent and capable, but those perks are so much sweeter when they don’t take themselves remotely seriously, instead taking a sardonic, absurdist approach that is both beautifully and repulsively human.
IC: I understand you already have your sophomore LP in the works. What can be expected of your upcoming sounds, in comparison to your debut?
HB: We thought we’d jump straight ahead to our desperate, coke-fuelled, idea-starved, reggae-funk fusion album? Ha! I don’t know… I think it’s going to be an even heavier sound, the way things are going, but then there are sweeter moments, as well, so perhaps we are playing more with dynamics. And the weirdness of The Killing Jar will no doubt graduate into something a whole lot more disturbing. We also have another member involved in the songwriting process and I daresay he will make his mark. Nico’s style is entirely different to Jimmy’s, so there will likely be more variation in sounds. Dave (bass) has been busy building guitar pedals to play around with so we’re experimenting with a wider range of tones.
IC: I also understand that you’re planning to tour the states in 2014. What can we expect of the live experience?
HB: You can expect a throbbing bangover the following morning but, other than that, you’ll have to see it to believe it!