INTERVIEW: The Blinders | Debut Album 'Columbia' and first US Shows
Ahead of their Scala headline at the end of the month, The Blinders hit SXSW for their first run of US shows. The group has recently graduated from BBC Introducing, for which they headlined the stage at Reading & Leeds last year, to BBC 6 Music stage at SXSW, handpicked by Steve Lamacq.
Rock ‘n’ Roll is the most transparent way to describe the band, and thus predictably the band had an incredible reception in the States in the genre’s home. Playing the coveted 1am slot at the British Music Embassy (Latitude 30) off Austin’s famous Downtown 6th Street, the band played what they anticipated to be a raucous night in the 200 cap venue. Going from a capacity of a few thousand as they embark on Academy tours home in the UK, back to 100-200 cap venues in the US, the band describe the comfort of going back to their routes in the new territory.
This was following the release of the Doncaster-to-Manchester trio’s debut album in the later half of 2018, entitled “Columbia.” In an interview just hours before their first ever US showcase, The Blinders explained how “Columbia” was a narrative of their socially aware rock ‘n’ roll. “I think Columbia, for us, was us unknowingly trying to mirror what we were seeing around us in our lives, in this society. Columbia doesn’t really answer any questions. It just reminds people how fucking depressing everything is. That’s the point. That was then built around dystopian literature, and how it can be fictional, and it doesn’t have to be bleak.” The narrative came rather instinctively to the band, whereby only after they finished the tracks did they notice a running theme.
Keen to deliver the same energy on stage as they do on the record, The Blinders ensure not to let their “depressing” themes interfere with performing an adrenaline-fuelled, dynamic set. “I think performance is quite important in that sense, and a lot of the music was written around live show, and the theatre and drama of the music then comes and takes it away from bleakness of lyrics. The music wouldn’t necessarily be upbeat, but it is punchy. I think it was always intended, especially the first album, to be played live, so a lot of the songs we played live before we recorded.” To augment the effect of their music, the band put an effort in their visuals too, with coordinated black outfits and where lead singer Tom Haywood (pictured) also wears monochrome make up. The emphasis on performance has been a trait since the band’s formation, where gaining live momentum was always more of a priority to “writing in rehearsal rooms,” which ultimately let to an album made from three years of material.
Upon the release and critical acclaim “Columbia” received, this is what urged the band to start building a US fan base: “An album allows you to justify yourself in a position of…existing as a band, as a group. So that first album was always very important, and we were incredibly relieved to finally get something like that out there, because it allows you to talk the talk. I think last year, we looked at this festival and saw some cool bands on line up, and thought, well, why aren’t we doing that. That’s always been our goal to play here anyway, so I think off the back of our album release last year, it now just seemed the right time to do it.”
They credit their Manchester residency a great deal to getting where they are now and being such big players in the grassroots music scene, where they moved to attend University together so they could continue the band they began in high school. “There is literally just one centre, and so I think that was something we discovered was an important role. It’s obviously a big touring spot so we get a lot of friends in bands who stop by and play Manchester regardless of being from there.”
The Blinders certainly used their time in US well, even appraising fellow bands such as Fontaines DC and Ezra Collective that they saw at SXSW, as well as experiencing the the quirkier side of the festival such as a Japanese Jimmy Page “reincarnated” artist.
The band have a UK tour upcoming this April, including a headline at Scala on April 30th, where you can see the debut album “Columbia” played in full! Grab last remaining tickets HERE.
New Artists The Blinders Recommend: Avalanche Party, Ninth Wave
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