June 15, 2010
Dave interviews electronic act Blackbird Blackbird about creative inspiration in the Bay Area, and life as an emerging artist in the digital era.
We’ve gotten used to sweet beats dropping from the sky one morning and circulating the blogoshere with artwork, blurb, and a link to bandcamp (oh you should probably go to Blackbird Blackbird’s right now and get these two delightful and free EPs, unzip, then continue reading) and by noon we’re on our 10th spin. We thoroughly enjoy, mentally compartmentalize, and keep going, without really thinking much about the musician behind the magic. When a young, talented, and generous act like Blackbird Blackbird comes along and makes himself so accessible, it’s funny to realize, all you have to do is ask. This impromptu talk with Mikey S came about over email. Looks like it turned into an interview:
DS: What’s the origin of Blackbird Blackbird? Did you have any projects before this one?
BB: Blackbird Blackbird is my solo project. It originated in my bedroom, where I’d spend countless hours jamming out an endless amount of songs. As for past projects, I used to drum in a bay area punk/hardcore/thrash band called Murder Practice, and play guitar/sing in a math rock band called The Starlite Design. Blackbird Blackbird is my musical outlet for many intersecting influences. I enjoy listening to and connecting the psychological tropes of several genres and melting them together in a kind of crock-pot stew of goodness.
DS: San Francisco – a lovely city, a cultural epicenter. How long have you been there, and would you consider location an influence in your sound?
BB: I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life aside from Hawaii in the first couple years of my childhood. California has been such an inspirational place for writing music and learning about diverse culture. Location actually does play a large factor in my writing process. Enveloping myself in an atmosphere and absorbing the vibration/mood of a location is what I do when I write my songs. Also, I love layering organic sounds such as nature samples over digital synths and drums. Sometimes my songs are an experiment, the subject matter often being about the walls that separate what is real and unreal, but most of all they are about an experience in a particular place/situation or about an impactful moment in my life.
DS: Regarding sound, your music satisfies what seems to be a collective fix us fans/bloggers have for dreamy/mellow/sunny electronic music as of late. What drew you to this particular style (dare I say movement) and what do you think draws us to it?
BB: I think the reason people are so drawn to this type of dreamy, sunny, ethereal songcraft, is because it’s truthful, nostalgic and personal. The lyrics tend to form a direct connection with the artist and listener, almost until there is no distinction between the two. I love Delorean, Washed Out, and Toro Y Moi for opening the doors for this new flow of great summertime music coming out; these types of artists tend to put me in a relaxed or carefree mood throughout the day. I’m so happy to be part of a really great family of artists and a very supportive label: Arcade Sound Ltd. Teen Daze, Memoryhouse, Millionyoung, Coma Cinema, Coolrunnings, and Kiss Kiss Fantastic are continuing to develop into seriously amazing musicians, I can’t wait for future releases to happen!
DS: You were quick to utilize Tumblr, Twitter, and Bandcamp, sharing new songs/mixes for free, which now get reblogged/retweeted within minutes. How important has this direct connection with fans/bloggers/fellow musicians been in your growth?
BB: Twitter and Tumblr have enabled me to communicate instantly with people and expand my network of close friends and blog pals. Cecil from Gobble Gobble even came out to my first show in SF simply because we chatted on myspace! It has especially been great for exchanging remix stems (like I did with Teen Daze) and organizing remixes/collaborations with other musicians such as Twin Sister and Kiss Kiss Fantastic, not to forget Coma Cinema. Bandcamp has been a great tool for me (as well as so many other artists right now) to track sources of information and subsequently reach out to the bloggers who have posted about me. Although somewhat surreal/unreal at times, these social tools are a great way to maintain ties to people who support what I’m doing. Overall it is a useful means to develop as an artist.
DS: Your myspace mentions that you perform as a 3-piece and that you have a show coming up in July. Assuming you write these tracks alone, what’s the process like when translating them live? And plans to tour?
BB: The live show is really fun! As soon as I saw Baths in SF recently I got inspired to do a very simple setup: one Akai MPD24 midi controller, reverb/phaser pedal, and a microphone. Having friends come onstage and help me is awesome but I know in the future when I go on tour and other live members can’t, I’ll go solo. I want to continue to add to my live sound as it progresses; I play guitar, bass, and drums as well, so it would be fun to mix it up and do a solo jam with every instrument.
Photo by Victoria Masters