Interview: Black Whales

I met up with Davey Brozowski and Alex Robert of Black Whales last week. I’ve been listening to their music on MySpace and on their site and love how I can’t really pigeonhole their sound. And I don’t want to or need to. All I know is that it’s a bit trippy and a lot perfect. Their Bumbershoot appearance a couple weeks ago was a massive success and they’ll celebrate the release of their first EP, Origins this Friday, September 18th at the Tractor Tavern. Origins is out now on Mt. Fuji Records.

Dagmar: How did all the band members find each other?

Alex Robert: We had a practice space (in common) and we were in different projects. Alan’s [Alan Foote, guitarist] fell apart and we wanted to keep the space. We stayed there and worked on songs. Nothing really came together until Davey’s project (Tallbirds) broke up and there was just this room full of shit and guys who didn’t want to leave the room. We didn’t have a drummer but Alan and I wanted to keep playing. We didn’t have any songs. I went home and tried quickly to put something together.

Davey Brozowski: Everybody had seen each other play and we all thought, this guy’s got something. I can work with that.

D: Where’d the name Black Whales come from?

A.R.: I was cleaning out my grandma’s attic and she had all these old National Geographics. Really old ones. (There was) a Jacques Cousteau-type underwater photography article with a picture of a huge whale. It was super creepy. It’s weird imagery. [The name’s] kind of a Jacques Cousteau homage. Naming a band is a very uncomfortable thing. It’s like naming a kid – you’re stuck with it.

D: How’d you start in music?

D.B.: I started playing drums when I was about thirteen or fourteen. There were two punk bands at the school I went to so I started playing in one. The week later the other band wanted to switch drummers because the drummer couldn’t handle being made fun of by the other guys so much. So they basically traded us, like baseball players.

A.R.: My best friend was a guitar player and drums were my first instrument. My dad’s a drum enthusiast but not a drummer. He bought me a kit. My best friend, whowas a really great guitar player, was like, we hang out anyway, why don’t we find a bass player? The band did the whole all-ages Firehouse circuit for a while.

D: What’s the best show you’ve had so far?

A.R.: I think my favorite was when we opened for the Moondoggies and the Maldives at Neumos and the Moondoggies sold it out. Their record was number one in the Northwest. I had gone to high school with one of the guys in the Moondoggies and it was cool to share something like that with someone you had history with. We were well received and the audience took in the different genres.

D.B.: I could second that.

D: What kind of music did you listen to while growing up? Or listen to now?

A.R.: I grew up really liking Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate and Modest Mouse. Post-punk or any kind of artsy stuff I could go and see at the Firehouse or Ground Zero. The records that my dad had at home while I was growing up – Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper and Michael Jackson’s Bad. Those were the three records that were constantly played in my house. Pink Floyd too. I was a big Michael Jackson fan. I love Neil Young, the Beach Boys, the Beatles.

D.B.: I think the Beach Boys is a collective one. (For me) Minor Threat, the Misfits, the Ramones, Black Flag. . . bands like the Stooges and the Dead Boys. Punk bands that leaned more towards rock.

A.R.: I think the Velvet Underground is another one.

D: So many bands I love are fans of that band. It’s amazing. Where’s a good place to start with them?

A.R.: You should get the album White Light/White Heat, it’s one of the louder ones. It’s energetic and punk but it’s artsy garage stuff. A really cool drug rock-and-roll record. It’s poppy but so morphed and fucked up you don’t get it right away. Once you do you wonder why everybody doesn’t make music like this. I like psychedelic stuff.

D: What’s your songwriting process like?

A.R.: It varies from song to song.

D.B.: Since Alex plays drums he’ll give me something and I will learn it and put my own spin on it. For the most part we do our own stuff but there’s input from everyone else.

D: Do you ever feel weird sharing your lyrics and singing them?

A.R.: I take it seriously. It’s not all heavy stuff but it all means something. If it doesn’t translate, it’s not good enough. I never feel weird because I believe it. If it was bullshit and it just rhymed or this is a dark song I’m gonna talk about my dark side now . . .

D: You expose your feelings with music and lyrics.

A.R.: I’m really into playing with these guys and I’m really into the style of music we’re making. It’s so honest. I believe it so much. I don’t think there’s anything phony about it. Everyone works so fucking hard and practices on their own time. Till [our] eyes bleed. We tighten songs up as much as we can and then play them as heartfelt as we can. I feel honest doing it. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s okay. I don’t feel nervous or uneasy.


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