Verge Meets: Black Pines

For those who are unfamiliar with your backstory how did you all meet and start doing music?

So Tom (vocal) is my older cousin, and since I was young he had always been a huge musical influence on me – introducing me to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Sound Garden, and many more. After each pursuing our own musical ventures for some years (myself in Searching Alaska and Tom in EastStrikeWest), we came together in late 2018 to begin writing and demoing together.

At first, we were unsure where we wanted to go musically. We started out emulating a more electronic sound, barring a likeness to James Blake or Sampha, however, this quickly developed and grew with each song we’d create. After many hours of bedroom demoing and writing, we began defining a sound that felt more soulful and organic, than where we’d started out.

With our demos written, and after admitting that we couldn’t handle being a two-piece, we searched for a drummer and keys player. Finding a drummer was easy, there was no one else better suited than Jamie Abela, the drummer of my previous band. Connor (keys) is a very old friend of mine, and one of the most talented musicians I know, so I set out trying to convince him to join in early 2019. After many lengthy conversations and a small amount of bribery, he came onboard.

After getting the four of us in a room, we began honing our sound further. Naturally, with 4 musicians from heavier backgrounds, things got a bit louder and grittier. At times we worked to subvert the heavier rock elements, to allow the more soulful and gospel tones to shine through – this we feel has come to define our ever-evolving sound.

 

Who have been your greatest musical inspirations up until this point?

As a band, we have quite a diverse range of musical inspiration to draw upon. Tom, our singer, is like a fountain of musical knowledge – commonly calling on the likes of Neil Young, Sound Garden or Buckley to drive his point home. I think when starting a musical project of any kind, it’s important to somewhat hone in your inspirations, to avoid sounding like an incoherent mess of sounds. For Black Pines then, I’d put it down to the following artists: Jeff Buckley, Kings of Leon, Sound Garden, Hozier.

 

Can you talk about your experience shooting a music video to help the single promotion rollout?

With a lot of modern-day bands/artists, especially in the unsigned world, it’s commonplace that everyone has a day job, to keep the bills paid. I’m a director myself, mainly of online commercials and music videos, so I always wanted a strong creative and visual direction for Black Pines.

I set out devising various narrative concepts for our debut video, but without huge amounts of budget, I often ran into obstacles along the way. Instead, I began setting my sites on creating something more performance-based, but still visually engaging.

Lyrically, we often bring socio-political topics into our songs – commenting on what amuses, angers or upsets us in the modern world; I think it’s important for musicians to be socially aware these days. Our track ‘Hope’ deals with themes of isolation, perceptions of reality and indifference. The song is about not recognising the reality of a situation – often in relationships (romantic or otherwise), we drift into a comfort zone, where we’re blinded and oblivious to what’s going on.

With that in mind, I wanted to create a visual environment that felt at odds with the people in it. Performances and lighting would begin rigid and structured. As we develop through the video, lighting design and performance becomes more chaotic and energetic. At times, it feels as if we’ve stumbled onto a photoshoot or film set – we see lights and rigging in shot. It’s this breaking of the 4th wall, that further support those themes of reality and perception in the song. We’re admitting the fakery and artificial construct of the music video process.

Having worked in the field for a few years, I leaned on all my talented friends and colleagues to help us out on the extremely tight budget we had. I think that’s hugely important in the early days of a band/artist – talented creators and friends that are going to help you get off your feet.

 

How do you feel you’ve utilized social media to grow your following?

It’s undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the music industry now – whether you love or hate it, it’s vitally important that young artists get on board with it.

Social media has totally changed the way we consume ‘art’. Videos, pictures and songs are now digested as smaller, singular elements in the palm of the consumer’s hand. This change in the platform has now influenced the way artists create. Videos are shorter, photographic compositions are designed to fit an iPhone screen, and music is now singularly consumed, with the notion of a concept album falling through the cracks.

It’s easy to sound bitter about it, but to me, people still have a love for music, and musicians still love making music – hopefully, that’s something that’ll never change. Understanding how individuals consume, and how technology develops, is detrimental to getting your music into the listener’s ear.

That said, it’s a huge pool of young artists screaming out to be heard, and so there’s a cocktail of elements required to get above to masses – unfortunately, it takes a whole lot more than a brilliant sound to be heard nowadays.

 

If you had to pick 3 pieces of advice for artists trying to make it in the music industry what would they be?

  1. Sound really fucking good. All the promotion and social media tactics aren’t going to get away from the fact that writing fantastic songs is the basis of what you are.
  2. Put a huge emphasis on the live show – get tight! Sure your digital identity is important, but again, people’s love for music and live music is never going away – first and foremost you’re there to entertain. If you’re still under the impression you’re creating music to serve some high purpose or express your own issues, you likely don’t sound very good. Pour your heart and soul into your music – that’s vital, but don’t kid yourself that it’s just for you.
  3. Devise a strong creative direction at the start – and stick to it! Everything from a colour scheme to a political standpoint – understand where you belong, and be coherent. Don’t just start a band, start a movement. You’re in a unique position to create and influence, so ensure that what you are creating is something you’re violently passionate about.