Photo credit Max Grainger
Black Country, New Road announce signing to Ninja Tune
Debut LP “For the first time” out February 5th 2021
Share new track and video for “Science Fair“
Two socially-distanced London shows announced for November 20th and 21st
Black Country, New Road return today with the news of their signing to Ninja Tune, who will release their much-anticipated debut album “For the first time” on February 5th 2021.
Recorded with Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine) during the early part of this year and then finished at the end of the nationwide lock-down, the album is the perfect capturing of a new band and all the energy, ferocity and explosive charge that comes with that whilst also clearly the work of a group who have no interest in repetition, one-note approaches or letting creative stagnation set in. Featuring six new songs including reinterpretations of early tracks “Sunglasses” and “Athens, France”, “For the first time” is a sonic time capsule that somehow manages to bottle the past, the present and the future.
“We wanted it to sound exactly how we love to sound live,” says saxophonist Lewis Evans. “This is basically representative of our first 18 months”, continues frontman Isaac Wood.
Indeed the band found they had to stop themselves running too far ahead in order to document this album in a way that felt as truthful as possible.
“We see this as being a stop in the road” explains Isaac. I’ve always been interested in a really honest portrayal of what a band is and what they’ve been working on. I think it’s really nice if people can see an artist like: this was them in the early days, this was their next phase and that they’re quite clear and honest about genuine progression as people and musicians.”
The band have today also shared the new track, “Science Fair”, alongside an interview with The FADER.
Minimalist and foreboding, “Science Fair” opens around their rhythm section, precise percussion and bass locking in to allow a residual build from the rest of the band, viola and sax loop and layer over fits and squalls from dual guitars, a synth break and an ever-anxious narrative laid down by Isaac Wood. Climbing towards his desperate exclamation of – “it’s black country out there!” – the song caves in on itself during a blistering, caustic final breakdown. Already a live favourite, “Science Fair” is paired to a video directed by Bart Price who said the following about its themes:
“When developing the music video for ‘Science Fair’, I was thinking about fictitious worlds that we visit through our screens, such as the American high school. Despite our lack of direct experience, these worlds become a universal means of communicating about and understanding things like what it means to grow up, or what it means to be in a friendship group, or to be in love. I wanted to create such a world around Black Country, New Road, placing their music at the heart of a small American town, that in a sense we’ve all been to and lived in.”
Despite having just those two early singles to date, Black Country, New Road – their name originally found on a random Wikipedia generator – have made an impressive impact on fans and critics alike. Declared “the best band in the world” by The Quietus, with glowing reviews from The New York Times to The Guardian, a cover feature for Loud & Quiet, a live BBC 6 Music session, selling out shows across the country (including 1700 tickets in London), being invited to festivals around the world including Primavera and Glastonbury, and finding themselves on French TV sandwiched between Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien.
Their live performances gaining legendary status among fans of the emerging scene that coalesced around vaunted south London venue The Windmill, and which gave rise to many of their peers and contemporaries such as Fat White Family, black midi and Squid, artists with whom they have variously supported, toured with and collaborated with over the years.
The band play the following dates across Europe in support of the album:
Black Country, New Road headline tour dates 2021
Fri 20 Nov 2020 – Islington Assembly Hall, London
Sat 21 Nov 2020 – Islington Assembly Hall, London
Mon 18 Jan 2021 – Rotonde, Brussels, Belgium
Tue 19 Jan 2021 – Bumann & Sohn, Cologne, Germany
Wed 20 Jan 2021 – Le Grand Mix, Tourcoing, France
Thu 21 Jan 2021 – La Maroquinerie, Paris, France
Fri 22 Jan 2021 – Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France
Sat 23 Jan 2021 – Rockschool Barbey, Bordeaux, France
Mon 25 Jan 2021 – Dabadaba, Donostia, Spain
Tue 26 Jan 2021 – El Sol, Madrid, Spain
Wed 27 Jan 2021 – ZDB, Lisbon, Portugal
Fri 29 Jan 2021 – Laut, Barcelona Spain
Sat 30 Jan 2021 – Le Connexion, Toulouse France
Mon 01 Feb 2021 – Bogen F, Zurich, Switzerland
Tue 02 Feb 2021 – Circolo della Musica, Turin, Italy
Thu 04 Feb 2021 – Underdogs’, Prague, Czech Republic
Fri 05 Feb 2021 – Urban Spree, Berlin, Germany
Sun 07 Feb 2021 – Mejeriet, Lund, Sweden
Mon 08 Feb 2021 – Debaser (Bar Brooklyn), Stockholm, Sweden
Tue 09 Feb 2021 – Parkteatret, Oslo, Norway
Wed 10 Feb 2021 – Loppen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Thu 11 Feb 2021 – Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
Sat 13 Feb 2021 – Orange House, Munich, Germany
Sun 14 Feb 2021 – Rotondes, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Mon 15 Feb 2021 – Bitterzoet, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thu 18 Feb 2021 – Junction 1, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Fri 19 Feb 2021 – The Loft, Southampton, United Kingdom
Sat 20 Feb 2021 – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mon 22 Feb 2021 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, United Kingdom *
Tue 23 Feb 2021 – Future Yard, Birkenhead, United Kingdom
Wed 24 Feb 2021 – Gorilla, Manchester, United Kingdom
Thu 25 Feb 2021 – Oran Mor, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Sat 27 Feb 2021 – Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland
Mon 01 March 2021 – SWX, Bristol, United Kingdom
Tue 02 March 2021 – Chalk, Brighton, United Kingdom **
Wed 03 March 2021 – Electric Ballroom, London, United Kingdom
* = Rescheduled show (Sold Out)
** = Rescheduled show
For the first time’ will be available on Limited Edition White LP [with exclusive negative sleeve], Black LP, CD, as well as Cassette (BC,NR store only). There will also be a limited number of hand stamped, numbered & signed Test Pressings available from the BC,NR store.
Pre-order the album HERE.
Black Country, New Road are:
May Kershaw – Keys
Charlie Wayne – Drums
Luke Mark – Guitar
Isaac Wood – Vocals/Guitar
Tyler Hyde – Bass
Lewis Evans – Sax
Georgia Ellery – Violin
Selected praise for Black Country, New Road & their last single “Sunglasses”:
“I hear echoes of lots of sounds I love in them – an angular, dynamic, Louisville post-rock base; a wailing saxophone and screeching violin; and meaty, diffuse lyrics that sometimes even remind me of Mark E Smith. They’re a bit like the fantasy band I had in my head when I was young.” – Aidan Moffat, Arab Strap
“The seven-piece are utterly spellbinding and showstopping in every respect” – The Quietus
“a nine-minute post-punk exposition, rhapsody and rant about the hollow consolations of materialism” – NY Times
“a gorgeous nine-minute glide/free-jazz squall” – The Times
“Funny, vivid and anthemic.” – The Guardian
“Hearing the band play ‘Sunglasses’ in a subterranean Parisian TV studio earlier this year was a pre-Coronavirus highlight. The song is a tune… not straightforward, but it takes you on a journey and they seem to have already found their own sound. I love their collective passion for what they do. So good to be in their orbit that day, I hope we can do it again.” – Ed O’Brien, Radiohead
“Its nine minutes are a wild ride, morphing from post-rock to post-punk to an explosion of free-jazzy noise” – Stereogum
“Black Country, New Road capture life’s absurdity and cruelty in a ghastly post-punk odyssey.” – PASTE
“the twisting 8-minute trip is a chaotic thing fuelled by unparalleled tension” – NME
“Hilarious and terrifying nine-minute Grinderman-esque tirade about the tyranny of cool and other modern psychoses” – Uncut
“The new eight-minute song sees them exploring Slint-like territory with a little avant-jazz-rock in the mix too. – Brooklyn Vegan
“chaotically brilliant” – DIY
“Black Country, New Road personify a creative post-punk ingenuity that’s rare and take it a step further with eclectic and experimental tendencies that firmly set them apart.” – The Line Of Best Fit
“poetic gold” – So Young
Black Country, New Road
For the first time
Out February 5th on Ninja Tune
2. Athens, France
3. Science Fair
5. Track X
Further details on art direction and open source imagery:
The “For the first time” album cover and its related imagery have all been selected from Unsplash, the internet’s source of freely-usable images, creating an aesthetic for the band that is freed from their specific context. Any image can come from a diverse global range of photographers, in a way that feels more reflective of the visually eclectic nature of the digital age we are in and that the band have grown up in. The band chose to credit Unsplash and the photographer on the cover artwork itself, as a decision to let their audience into the process and invite them to join in in engaging with this growing open source culture.
As with earlier imagery, the band were emphatic about a sincerity in terms of showing friends, community and a sense of coming together, reflecting their own relationship as a long-term seven person band and close-knit friendship group since their youth.
More information on Black Country, New Road:
For many bands two songs is not a lot to go on. It’s a jumping off point or a sketch of what’s to come – it’s the primitive construction of a group’s artistic foundations. Yet Black Country, New Road propelled themselves far and wide from their first two offerings to the world via 2019’s ‘Athens, France’ and ‘Sunglasses’.
What followed was being declared “the best band in the world” by The Quietus, glowing reviews from The New York Times to The Guardian, landing on the front cover of Loud & Quiet, a live BBC 6 Music session, selling out shows across the country including 3 shows totalling 1700 tickets in London, being invited to festivals in far flung places such as Slovenia and Lithuania, scheduled on prestigious festivals such as Primavera and Glastonbury, performing with an orchestra, and finding themselves on French TV sandwiched between Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien. Their live performances gaining legendary status among fans of the emerging scene that coalesced around vaunted south London venue The Windmill, and which gave rise to many of their peers and contemporaries such as Fat White Family, black midi and Squid, artists with whom they have variously supported, toured with and collaborated with over the years.
However, despite the band coming out seemingly fully formed and bristling with a wiry tension that merged post-rock soundscapes with jazz-inflected post-punk, their debut album manages to straddle a perfect line between this early period incarnation and their ever burgeoning evolution. “We’ve matured a lot since we recorded those two tracks,” says saxophonist Lewis Evans, who makes up the band along with May Kershaw (keys), Charlie Wayne (drums), Luke Mark (guitar), Isaac Wood (vocals/guitar), Tyler Hyde (bass) and Georgia Ellery (violin).
Those two initial singles have been re-recorded here to fit in tonally with the rest of the tracks – all of which were recorded live over a six-day period in March with producer Andy Savours. The resulting album is one that reflects where the band were as a unit after a year of heavy touring. This was a place where deft, free-flowing and intuitive playing melded with tightly coiled eruptive moments. The new version of ‘Sunglasses’ begins with buzzing and crackling guitars unfurling in almost drone-like churns, whilst ‘Athens, France’ employs space thoughtfully, unravelling as a looser groove. “We wanted it to sound exactly how we love to sound live,” says Evans.
The tweaks to the previously recorded tracks of course further enhances the connection to more recent live performances but it was also a way to sprinkle in a sense of the band’s ceaseless forward momentum. “We wanted to change some stuff musically just to get it into a shape that was more relevant to how we were playing it live now,” says Wood. “To have continuity of sound.”
Lyrics have been fine-tuned too, along with a subtler leaning towards singing from Wood, shifting from the spoken word approach of earlier material. “Speaking lyrics made sense at the time and was what I was comfortable with while learning to be a frontman,” he says. “Some things lend themselves to being spoken but there’s space for things to be sung – which feels more natural and less intense. It doesn’t always make sense for me to have this very aggressive spoken word over things – there’s room to perform in harmony with the band.”
The result captures the band’s early musical propensities, whilst also making room for their progressions and nuances. “We’ve since learnt our best asset,” says Evans. “We can play quietly. We’ve taken that and used it so it’s more dynamic. Intensity worked for us with those early recordings, like ‘oh my god this band is so intense and angsty’, but this record is a much more considered approach.”
Originally hailing from Cambridge and surrounding areas, and having played together in various guises over the years, as Black Country, New Road, they soon found they had a deep rooted sense of harmony and unity as their core foundation. Some members go as far back as being classmates at school, some would go on to live together, whilst others also went to University together. This has created a cohesive spirit and profound bond in the band that is reflected in their instinctive collective creativity. Yet despite being such a forceful unit they are also avid explorers individually. Many members play in other genre-spanning bands, have solo projects and collaborate with other artists. On top of this, the band’s background of melding classically trained players with self-taught ones also results in a unique concoction, combining precise technical skill with a raw, and often unpredictable, primal essence.
This finds the band intrinsically connected to those very early intense days whilst also heavily expanding on them. “The music was honest for the time,” says Wood. “But it’s just not necessarily honest anymore for it to be this overwhelmingly tense thing. There’s still intensity throughout the record but it’s just a very different type of intensity.”
As Wood points out, to suggest this record is void of intensity would be a disservice but it does contain a more refined intensity. This balance between tension and release, along with opening up more moments for pause and reflection, can be felt throughout. The opening ‘Instrumental’, which takes shape from Evans and Ellery’s background performing klezmer music, is bright, punchy and sprightly, whereas ‘Track X’ unfurls in gently looping melodies, rich vocal harmonies and finds the band plundering a deep sense of poignancy and tenderness. ‘Science Fair’ places discordant guitars against warm strings before erupting in a screeching cacophony of both and the closing ‘Opus’ acts as a bookend for the album, as yet another klezmer-inspired number builds to a crescendo that feels like hurtling towards the end of a cliff top. The band has essentially found a way to make silences and spaces just as impactful as noise and chaos.
Very much a collection of tracks aimed to reflect their live set, perhaps the most cohesive thread to be found running through the album is an approach to honesty. The band had to stop themselves running too far ahead in order to document this album in a way they felt was as truthful as possible. “This is representative of our first 18 months and then we’re going to put a stop in the road,” says Wood. “I’m interested in a really honest portrayal of what a band is. It’s nice if people can see an artist’s phases and they’re quite clear and honest about their genuine progression as people and musicians.”
Even though Wood tweaked pre-existing lyrics that too was a balancing act between authenticity and evolution. “I edited things to a point where I was happy and comfortable with them but I made a conscious effort not to get rid of every line that I didn’t like because these songs have to be at least in some way honest.”
Ultimately the album is the perfect capturing of a new band and all the energy, ferocity and explosive charge that comes with that whilst also clearly the work of a group who have no interest in repetition, one-note approaches or letting creative stagnation set in. For the First Time is a sonic time capsule that somehow manages to bottle the past, the present and the future.