The Blackout Bite Back With ‘Wolves’
Watch out, because The Blackout are mad, bad and dangerous to know right now…
By Georgina Langford
Sean Smith, hyperactive frontman of Welsh rockers The Blackout, is extremely stoked for the release of Wolves, the band’s new fan-funded EP. “The first time I heard these songs back, I got so excited I wanted to kill someone!” he grins, while chatting to MTV UK. “Just to be clear, we don’t actually want our fans to kill people,” interjects Sean’s bandmate James Davies. While they are now overjoyed to be putting out new music, it’s been a tough couple of years for The Blackout – but rest assured, this Welsh wolf pack is back with added bite.
MTV: Sean, James, welcome back. The Wolves EP makes it sound like you are an angry band right now.
Sean: VERY angry. It’s basically the last two years of frustration in an EP. When we did our last full album Start The Party, we were having fun, enjoying going out and smiling, but it turns out the people who like us don’t like smiling. So a lot of fans thought ‘they are a bit too happy now, I dunno if I’m gonna bother with this.’ By the end of that summer, we felt like nobody gave a s**t anymore. Just before we did this EP, we left our management and our record label – who basically told us ‘you owe us the world’. They were talking about lawyers and suing us, so out of that anger, Wolves was born. We were just fed up of being lied to and promised s**t, and other bands talking s**t…
James: It was born out of frustration - other bands can probably relate to the feeling of being f**ked over, basically; it’s just how the industry works. The idea of Wolves was partly because they (the music industry) are wolves, lurking in the forest, and at the same time that horrible experience galvanised us, like a pack, all together, without getting too pretentious about it! Wolves are also just badass big dogs.
MTV UK: Why did you decide ask your fans to fund the EP via Kickstarter?
Sean: We didn’t even know if we were going to be able to make the record, to be honest. We we put our Kickstarter up for £10k, which was literally just enough to record those five songs, get them mixed, and make a video. We weren’t ever going to see any of that money ourselves.
James: The reality was it was properly ‘do or die’. We needed their help or the record just wouldn’t get made.
Sean: We made that 10 grand in 28 hours and that literally blew my mind!
MTV UK: Although Kickstarters are a great way of getting your fans more involved in your music, is there any shame in doing them?
Sean: At first, I felt like it was begging.
James: Bearing in mind our personal experience of the industry, I think it is the most distilled expression of supply-and-demand. Some people criticised us for it – Example even slagged us off on the radio - but to that we said ‘If you don’t want to do it, then you don’t have to pay!’
Sean: We were up for doing anything, for the fan rewards, too. We are always up for a laugh, so the first thing we ever did on our pledge was going to Bristol Zoo with our fans! The best way I can explain the Kickstarter thing is that if someone had told me, when I was 16, that I could have Limp Bizkit play a gig in my house, I would have told my mum and dad that they had to remortgage the house, because they had to pay whatever we could to make it happen.
MTV UK: One of your Kickstarter rewards was an acoustic house show for fans who gave a certain amount of money – how have they been going?
James: Good! We played a gig to just one boy, who was a big fan, his mother and his mental dog who kept jumping on us. We are going to a barbecue tonight at a fan's house!
MTV UK: Musically speaking, some of the riffs on Wolves have that energy, anger and intensity that reminds us of older punk bands like Refused.
Sean: That is the BEST thing that anyone has ever said about this band, AND IT’S TAKEN 11 YEARS! THAT’S THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD! I need to do a tweet! Everyone can suck it!
MTV UK: Now that you are completely free agents (no label, etc.) apart from giving you a way to vent your anger, does that make you feel more creative?
Sean: Yes, because we are more likely to make money now too. The reason we left our management was because we couldn’t afford to do gigs, because they would have to get paid, so for every gig we were in negative money each time. There has to be a different model for the music industry, because the current one doesn’t work anymore. It’s impossible for bands to make money doing the thing they love, because the only reason you ever want a record label is to distribute a record, and if the label can’t make you any money anymore, why would you want one in the first place? We are free of everything now, we don’t have to answer to anyone, or do anything we don’t want to do, so it has been freeing.
MTV UK: It’s been an ‘interesting’ couple of years for bands from your neck of the woods. Now that Lostprophets and Kids In Glass Houses are no more, do you feel a bit like you are representing Wales in the world of rock?
James: It was so good to see the No Devotion boys come back. We owe those boys everything, and Lostprophets were six people, not one person.
Sean: Lostprophets inspired us so much. They literally changed the face of music in the UK. I genuinely believe they changed fashion too. Topman have made a killing off the back of Lostprophets! At one point, Wales was the best place in the UK for rock music. You had Funeral, Bullet, Kids, Lostprophets, Straightlines, Dopamine…
MTV UK: Why do you think that was?
James: There is just such a musical tradition in Wales. We know how to write songs!
Everyone had seen bands like Lostprophets and Stereophonics come out of these small towns, writing good songs. That inspired other people to get out of there by doing that. We all took each other on tour, too. We took Kids on their first tour, we went to Australia and Japan with Lostprophets and we played one of our first big shows with Funeral For A Friend. Plus, everyone spurred each other on to be better. There was some friendly competition.
Wolves by The Blackout is released 27 October 2014