PHILTHY readers may realize I first became smitten with Leeds’ Black Moth about a year ago… quite smitten in fact… albeit “smitten” would seem an odd word to describe a rowdy group of lads and a lass who regularly don torn and studded black denim and leather and kick out jams most commonly categorized as “doom punk,” that seem to most regularly appeal to fans of the sonically metallic. They reminded me of my teen years spent in mosh pits, covered in black and red bandanas and cold-metal-adorned leather accessories. However, their sound also embraces traces of the proto-punk, post-punk, and garage scenes that have gotten my rocks off for the better portion of my adult life.
My first encounter with Black Moth had me chatting with the band’s hyper-charming lead singer, Harriet Bevan, who was one of the most intelligent and least actually-scary front people I’ve gotten to know in my time as a journalist… despite her on-stage persona and her [I suspect] desire to be this generation’s Donita Sparks (Whom I have met and is actually relatively “scary.”) At the time Black Moth’s debut, The Killing Jar, produced by Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos, was about to drop in the states and the band were first establishing themselves as a formidable entity in the world of heavy music. Just last month Black Moth released their follow-up, Condemned to Hope, also produced by Sclavunos.
Black Moth’s latest displays a new side of their musical output, a slightly more diverse band whose sounds often ring of the best kind of stoner rock and the most abrasive brands of psychedelica and even glam punk. It’s pretty much the perfect music for the hip intellectual that wants to fuck shit up in the most primal manner they are capable of. They could’ve easily made it onto the main stages of either Lollapalooza or Ozzfest, had they come about two decades previous (I can’t think of a better appetizer for Hole or Ozzy himself.) I recently once again got a chance to catch up with Harriet Bevan and talk about the band’s evolution… in addition to cinema and fashion… which is honestly always a nice change of pace for a “music” journalist.
Izzy Cihak: You recently released your sophomore LP, Condemned to Hope. How would you characterize the album, compared to The Killing Jar, both in terms of its sound and the process of writing and recording it?
Harriet Bevan: Well, the process was drastically different this time around. As is fairly common for bands I think, our first album was formed in a fairly relaxed way over a period of time where we were discovering ourselves and building a cohesive sound. When we had an album’s worth of solid material, we recorded it. We were very lucky that around that time New Heavy Sounds took an interest, and so did our brilliant producer Jim Sclavunos. The studio experience was like magic, as our songwriting dreams became a reality. This time, although we had the same producer, we recorded much closer to home in Leeds with Andy Hawkins as engineer at Cottage Road studios. In that respect it was more comfortable. I would also say that songwriting came much more naturally to us for this album, with a bit more experience under our belts, and we have moved closer to what we want to be. Our themes are weirder and less typical for our genre, and we make a few bold, genre-busting decisions musically as well.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Harriet: It’s so hard to say. We don’t ever really sit around and talk about musical influences or what we want to sound like because we really do all listen to quite different stuff to each other! Then we just get in the rehearsal room and play what feels good. Miraculously, this works for us, and we all get off on what we create! I think we always owe a debt to Sabbath and the Stooges. Also the Melvins and L7 are quite massively on our radar. Bands I had been listening to a lot of are: Om, Bohren & der Club of Gore, Exuma, Mayhem, Kvelertak, Swans, The Body, Sun Ra, Arabrot, Burning Witch… the list is endless! Otherwise… I’d say lyrically I took a lot more influence from reality on this album. Not my own, it’s not personal as such, more observational, and somehow more distressing for it!
Izzy: The last time we chatted you mentioned that Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth inspired one of the songs on your first album. That’s actually one of my favorite films of recent years and undoubtedly one of the funniest films to come out in quite some time. Anyway, I’m totally a cinephile, so I’m inclined to ask if there are any other films or filmmakers that you find to be especially inspiring or just like a lot? Any favorite films of the past few years?
Harriet: Yes, I love that movie! My friend has been working on the costume for his latest actually, The Lobster, which I cannot wait for. I think the director who has had the most influence on me for this album has been Ben Wheatley, actually. He is a true master of gritty British black comedy. Kill List was so much more terrifying for its familiarity, and Sightseers had a similar effect but was so endearingly funny at the same time that it produced one of the vastly more unsettling movie experiences I have had lately! And finally the seriously dark, acid trippy, historical thriller, A Field in England, sealed the deal for me.
Izzy: Not to continue to talk about something other than the music, but you have really fucking cool personal fashion. What does that draw inspiration from? Do you have any especially significant “style icons?”
Harriet: Wow! Thanks… I’ve never been asked this before, and because I don’t really follow fashion as such, I think it doesn’t matter to me, but I guess it does actually, because every time you put something on you make a choice. It has always just been black, denim, and leather mainly, especially now that I’m doing a lot of riding around on the back of a motorcycle (I will learn myself one day.) However, I don’t know why on Earth this was the first thing that sprang to mind but I’m going to run with it… Adrian Street. The 1970s camp, flamboyant Welsh wrestling champion recently rediscovered by artist Jeremy Deller sticks with me as an icon for the fact that he grew up in a mucky, manly, Welsh mining village, yet he took on the most drastically subversive persona as a drag wrestler. That image will stay with me for life, as in some respects it enticed me back into my more playful, glam roots. Black Moth will always have a pretty dark image, as that’s what brought us together, but we’re not the straight up goth/grunge kids people think we are. True, we get free Doc Martens and Converse sneakers, which is great, but I am a Bowie child at heart. I also just saw the movie about The Cockettes, which has further inspired me to get the glitter back out and shine, like a cheap diamante earring.
Izzy: And the last time we chatted your debut had dropped relatively recently. What proved to be the highlights of touring and promoting it? Do you feel like you’re a different band than that that recorded your debut?
Harriet: Hmm… I guess now that we have been through so much together, both as a band and also just as humans, we are closer than ever in some respects. We are less drunk than we used to be… well some of us are [laughs]! Otherwise, we’re the same. Bands are so much like families in that way. Touring has been wonderful. Going all over Europe with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats has to have been one of the highlights, as we really got a sense of spreading our disease all over the continent, making friends wherever we went!
Izzy: And how do you hope and plan to spend the last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015? I’m still kind of dying to see you out here in the states.
Harriet: Ohhh don’t, I would love that so much too but we’re still waiting for that to be financially viable. Soon I hope. We’re on our first UK headlining tour to support the album release and we just received a government grant from the British Phonographic Industry to cross the ocean and do a big European tour with our label mates, Antlered Man, so we’re very excited about that! We’d also like to hit some of the amazing European rock festivals next year, so look out for us! As for America… keep buying our records and creating a demand for us. You’re only a dream away!