Interview: Black Pistol Fire

by - 10/16/2020

Black Pistol Fire discuss their new release, 'Look Alive', which should reach record stores and streaming platforms in early 2021 

Entrevista com o guitarrista e vocalista da banda canadense Black Pistol Fire, Kevin McKeown. Originalmente publicada no Scream & Yell, em português. Abaixo, disponibilizo o conteúdo em inglês na íntegra.

AUSTIN, TX - This interview with Black Pistol Fire's guitar player and singer Kevin McKeown was originally published on Scream & Yell in PT-BR. You can read it below in English. 

Hey, Kevin. Nice to talk to you. So, what have you been up to for the last seven months, with the pandemic and all?

Yeah, we were supposed to be on the road for the better part of this year. I think we were supposed to be in Europe right now doing festivals. And we were supposed to release our album this year as well, but we’ve had to postpone that. The last few months and the better part of this year have been spent at home, which has been good, being able to spend time with family. But other than that, we’ve been working from home, writing and recording and trying to take advantage of the creative time to work on things from home. I love being on the road, touring and playing for people, but I find it difficult to write music on the road. So, when I’m home, I try to take advantage of that.

Tell me a little about your latest release, the song “Hope in Hell”. The title has a lot to do with what’s going on in the world right now, but the song was written before the pandemic started, right? How was the recording process for the track?

Yeah, it was written almost two years ago now. And it was written mostly out of personal experience, having to deal with a tough time and personal decisions that needed to be made, and the risks and consequences of those decisions that were made, but yeah, it had stayed on the shelf for a while. We didn’t know if we were gonna release it in an album or such. But when we started making the new album that song definitely fit in thematically and vibe-wise with the rest of the material. We didn’t exactly know what to do with it, but when the pandemic came about, we decided, wow, this song really resonates quite a bit with what’s going on in the world right now.

I heard you guys plan to release a new album on the winter. How are the recordings coming along? 

We have plans to release it early next year. We’re excited, and we’ve been wanting to release the album for quite some time. This is definitely the album that’s taken the longest for us to make and record, so I hope it shows a lot of different sides of the band, where we’re at musically.

Is there anything different or unusual that we can expect in the new record, compared to your previous releases? For example, do you guys have any other musicians or guests playing on the record, or is it just you and Eric? Or any new styles of music that you may be trying to experiment with this time?

Well, yeah, all of the above almost. A lot of different genres and styles of music. For this album I didn’t want to restrain ourselves to recording music that could only be played live with two people. I wanted to do what was best for the songs. So, if it needed extra instrumentation and bigger arrangements, that was something I didn’t want to shy away from. I wanted to just best serve the songs for the album. As far as guest musicians go, we’ve had some back-up vocal singers to help us on a few tracks, some lead guitar guest appearances on a track or two, and on keyboards, on Hammond organ, we’ve had somebody as well. So, yeah, we’ve definitely moved more out of our comfort zone with this album. It was recorded in many different studios in Nashville and here in Austin. And during the pandemic, we’ve been able to round out the album with a few extra last-minute songs that were recorded from home, and kind of, work some of that stuff out. It was the first time I had to do that, work and record from home, with no people at a studio to help out.

Can you reveal who the guests are?

Some of the guests are friends that we know in town, not people from a level of notoriety that the public might know about. I really wanted to collaborate because, sometimes, when you work with just two people for so many years, it’s great because you develop such a strong chemistry and bond musically, but at times you need other people to come into your circle to shake things up in terms of, you know, make sure you don’t fall into a very predictable outcome with the creative and recording processes. I really wanted to seek that out, having someone to play guitar on a track, or keyboards, and create a different dynamic with the sound. That’s really in only a few songs, but I think it definitely brings new life to the tracks.

Do you have a title for the new album?

Yes, we do. It’s called Look Alive. It’s funny, again, we’ve had the title for this album for quite some time now, because it related a lot to me on a personal level. But then the pandemic came, and the title seemed even more appropriate. All these things related to the album were decided before the pandemic, and it’s strange, because it all resonates with what’s going on in the world right now. It’s a big coincidence really.

You have also released quite a few singles last year, such as ‘Level’, ‘Black Halo’, ‘Temper Temper/So Real’, ‘Pick Your Poison’, and ‘Well Wasted’. Are those songs on the new album as well or are they standalone tracks?

Yes, a few of them will be on the album. The intent with these singles last year was to have them compiled in a bigger album. So, another four unreleased songs will be included to complete the album as well.

The record is produced by Jacob Sciba, who had already worked with you on Deadbeat Graffiti. Why did you choose to work with Jacob again?

We started working with Jacob on our fourth LP and also with another good friend and engineer, our co-producer, Nick Joswick, who works at 5th Street studios here in Austin. We worked with him on most of the album, but with other people as well, and we also went to Nashville to record with Vance Powell, who has previously recorded The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, Chris Stapleton, among others. He’s a great engineer, I loved to work with him. So, it was kind of all over the place. And when you continue to work with the same people, it’s because of who you develop a musical relationship with. ‘Oh, I know what you are going for with this vocal sound or with this guitar sound’. Or because they’re there to stay, ‘oh, you’ve done this before, let’s try going in a different direction’. For me, I like to lean on people that I have a history with, so I know how to get to results a little bit quicker, or someone who pulls your back to let you know that you’re repeating yourself or going on the same path you’ve gone before. So yeah, it’s a very interesting album considering how many different people were involved in it. And it’s a very special record for us, we’re excited to get it out.

Besides the whole sanitary situation we are dealing with right now, you also have an election coming in the US. I know you guys are Canadian, but I just wanted to ask you if, as a band, do you guys feel like you need to address the election or politics in your music or in some other artistic way, or do you prefer not to get involved in the matter?

Uh, it’s a very tricky thing for us to come into, because we are Canadian, and we cannot vote in the United States. We live in Austin, but we can’t vote, so that’s very frustrating considering this is where we live and that we would like to have a say in how our country is going to be shaped and run. So, it becomes difficult for us to want to speak up about any kind of political issues about this country when we don’t have much of a say. But we do encourage everybody to vote, because if you don’t, you don’t have a voice. You can’t make a difference without speaking up. Just because we can’t vote, we would love to have the opportunity to do that. It’s a very important time right now in the history of America and the world, with everything that’s going on in the world. I just encourage people to get out there and vote, that would be my comment on political issues.

I don’t know if you heard about this, but last June, Jeff Tweedy released a statement regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, proposing to go forward with a program that allows songwriters and musicians to direct a percentage of their ‘writer’s share’ revenue to organizations that assist and support Black communities. How do you, as a songwriter yourself, feel about this kind of actions directed to support Black communities and artists as well?

Well, this is something that I personally feel very passionate about and I’ve been trying to figure out how to help and contribute to this movement. We’ve been trying to raise awareness as much as we can, using social media as a tool to repost and other things. I want to take actions about issues, and on a much smaller scale than Jeff Tweedy, Gibson guitars (which is my sponsor) donated a Les Paul guitar to me, which I have been hand-painting, and we’re working towards doing a live stream, where all the proceeds and donations will go to the Black Live Matters movement, and also to the frontline healthcare workers. These are all very important issues to us, these are all things that we’ve been trying to find the best avenue… It’s just very hard to navigate through anything during the pandemic: trying to get together to rehearse, or put together a live stream, or do things to raise money. I’m also a father to a two-year-old. At home, sometimes the days can go by like a blink of an eye. 

Yeah, I know how it is.

(Laughs) So, I constantly wrestle with the idea of like, ‘oh, man, I’ve been working on this for two months and I still need to get around to this, and I need to get around to that’, so I’ve been trying to give myself a little bit of grace, like, ‘ok, so I’m slowly chipping away when I get some time to work on music, or finish projects…’ But back to what you were saying, yes, those types of issues and movements are extremely important to us, because what’s happening right now is what is going to spark change. I think what Jeff Tweedy is doing is amazing work and we are hopefully going to be able to contribute more soon.

I know this is a hard question, but what are your plans for the future? Are you already thinking about going on tour and what should be your next steps after the pandemic?

It’s hard to know what is gonna happen. We have shows on the books for the next year and we hope to go on tour. But I don’t know if that’s really going to happen. We are going to hopefully release this album early next year, and we would love to get on the road and perform in front of fans and play in places that we’ve never been before. But right now we’re at the mercy of what lies ahead of how venues are going to continue, and even if people will want to go to shows again, due to the fact of how severe things progress or start to subside. Right now, the only thing we can do is stay safe and stay sane, working on music as much as we can from home, so when the gates open up again we’ll have plenty of new material to give fans.

Great! We hope to see you guys in Brazil soon.

Yes, me too. We would love to get to Brazil, that’s definitely on our bucket list. We hope to see you guys soon.

You May Also Like