Photo (c) Becky O’Grady
In all of their hair-swaying glory, it’s great to witness local talents that have not only grown into their own skin, but are working their way toward bigger things
If proof were needed that classic rock is alive and well, then non-believers should have been at The Exchange in Bristol tonight. Locally grown fivesome BlackWolf held their new album preview show here tonight and with an organic love of rock ‘n’ roll, an obvious work ethic and a unique hard-edged, soulful identity, it was proof personified.
Blasting out the opening song ‘Your Animal’, Scott Sharp (lead vocals) is a powerhouse of sturdy screeches and smouldering growls. This led nicely into other tracks from the new album (‘Something Biblical’, ‘Won’t Bury Me’ and ‘Citizen’) then into ‘Moving Mountains’ from their debut album ‘The Hunt.’ This combined with a good chunk of bass from Ben Webb and irresistibly danceable beats from Thomas Lennox-Brown equals caviar for rock fans.
‘Keep Moving On’ is cutely catchy and radio-friendly and ‘Mr.Maker’ wouldn’t feel out of place on a Velvet Revolver release. The band is clearly as happy as the crowd with Jason Cronin (Rhythm Guitar) grinning and leaping like an excited Labrador and as Scott visibly relaxes, he channels a Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons) vibe.
Having had keen support from Planet Rock who hold them highly on their playlist and Classic Rock Magazine who nominated them in their awards as ‘Best New Band 2014’ has given them a solid fan base as proven by the sea of branded t-shirts in the crowd tonight. In all of their hair-swaying glory, it’s great to witness local talents that have not only grown into their own skin, but are working their way toward bigger things. It would be great to see them on the bill next to Rival Sons or Black Stone Cherry and it looks like it’s just a matter of time.
Just before this incredible show, I caught up with lead singer Scott Sharp to talk hometown shows, social media and their plans for 2016.
Are hometown shows are special to you?
Absolutely. We usually stay around after the show and hang out with the fans. We like to keep a good relationship going there. Especially for a band at our stage who are trying to develop and we’re on a cusp of, kind of, stepping up a gear, and that’s basically what this record for us is all about. You could have all the money in the world and all the backing, but that still doesn’t sell tickets. Even the best management and booking agent still wouldn’t sell tickets.
Do you use social media a lot? Do you think it helps?
Yeah, you have to be savvy with it though as it shifts so much. Nine months ago Facebook was the best place to communicate with fans, but now organic reach has shifted and it doesn’t get to them. You have to shell like £40 on a post to make sure it reaches 5% of your fan base, it’s insane. Our twitter and Instagram activity has picked up a lot now people have switched to that.
Bands back in the day didn’t have it, so it must be a good thing.
It is. I always think it’s a double sided coin. Take Metallica when they were playing small clubs; their spread was their fans. They recorded their shows on tapes and passed them around. That’s how word spread around their local area. As long as there is music, there will be fans. If it’s translating across to people then it’ll spread. That’s why our main focus is making the songs good. If they aren’t good, then they won’t dig it and it won’t go anywhere.
So you’ve been together for two and a half years and you’ve supported some good names.
We’ve supported Winger, The Answer, The Temperance Movement, we’ve been lucky. They are all really down to earth and really supportive to us as a band starting out. We’ve had some great advice too. Winger’s drummer is like a doctor of music, it’s trippy. They really are a fountain of knowledge. We are perfectionists and we do expect a lot of ourselves. When we first got together I think we all suffered from performance anxiety and stressed out to the point where you hinder your own performance.
So you’ve relaxed into it now?
Oh yeh, we have fun when we perform which sounds weird, but we never used to. We are driven, but you can get wrapped up in that. Shows used to just exhaust me. I was so stressed and tired and being a right diva and it wasn’t fun. I felt awful all the time. There were times when I got lost in the moment, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. I got to a point where I said, what’s the point in doing this?
How did you get over it?
Just by realising that I’m never going to please everyone. This is advice I got from Winger’s drummer. You have to let go of that, it’s an impossible task. Then, you learn to enjoy it. I’ve noticed that people connect to you so much easier too, as if on a subliminal level people can sense your nerves and that stresses them out. When you’re at ease, so are they.
How are things going with the new album?
It’s such a big project in comparison to what we’re used to. Our first album was so cellular and cocooned, but surprisingly to us it went a lot further than expected. Like, we were nominated for best new band by Classic Rock magazine and loads starting happening. This led us to meet with Toby Jepson (singer with Little Angels, Gun) who wanted to produce the next album and that led us to meet Steven Harris (U2, Foo Fighters) who has mixed it for us and it’s become a much more in-depth project and our sound has evolved with that.
Did the success of the last album make you nervous about this one?
It was a little bit like that, but working with Toby, he was really digging what we were doing and Steve was getting excited, so that gave us confidence. You have to realise that in the grand scheme of things it’s a pebble in the ocean, so you can’t be too precious and you’ve got to grow, otherwise there’s no point.
What’s your end goal? What are you working towards?
For us it’s about making a living, you know these days it’s not about rocking up at a venue with six girls on your arm while snorting cocaine and rolling on stage, you know? That’s not a reality and I never thought it should be anyway. For me I started singing because I wanted to connect with people. When I listen to music, that’s what gets me. It’s when you hear someone sing or you hear a riff and it hits you. You feel connected to that band like they know what’s going on with you. That’s always been at the core of what we do.
As far as future plans, it’s about growing. It would be good to tour four territories, like Europe and the UK, then maybe Japan and the States. The States is hard, real hard and to breakthrough is a completely different experience. Hopefully with this new record we’ll get out and tour with some god supports and go over into Europe. It’s like a bit of a cliff hanger situation. We’re waiting to see what happens but hopefully if all goes well then yes. With the right money, backing and support and willingness to learn then it should take off.
Check out ‘Moving Mountains’ right here: