“We’ve already recorded the third album and it’s currently in the process of being mixed.”
When their debut album Schlagenheim came out via Rough Trade Records during the summer of 2019, Black Midi turned British indie rock on its head. The London quartet of vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Geordie Greep, vocalist and guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, multi-instrumentalist Cameron Piction, and drummer Morgan Simpson exhibited a noisy, abstract blend of riffs, beats, and progressions that instantly wowed music fans.
Since that time, the band has gone through some changes, with Kwasniewski-Kelvin taking a hiatus and becoming a trio in the process. This lineup change didn’t stop them from releasing their highly anticipated sophomore LP, Cavalcade, through the same label in May. Since its unveiling, the album has met the hype and the band will be performing some songs off of it when they hit up the Sinclair next Monday with Brooklyn experimentalist L’Rain opening.
Picton and I recently spoke about initially wanting to record over in our neck of the woods with COVID-19 preventing it from happening, bringing a lot of different ideas into the recording sessions, the band adapting as a trio, and performing a variety of different instruments.
Cavalcade was made during the summer of last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the environment of that time affect the recording process? Were you all in separate parts of the recording studio and was anything done remotely?
It was difficult to make plans as we were constantly adapting to changing restrictions and the possibility of one of us having to isolate before a session. I think the main thing it gave us was time, time to work on new music at home as well as time between the sessions to think about the direction of the record and work on parts. We were also keen on recording in America and a bunch of sessions we had planned pre-pandemic got cancelled and we had to rethink. Hopefully now we’re able to travel to the United States, we’ll be able to do a few here and there.
Did you, Geordie and Morgan feel any pressure while making Cavalcade due to the success and acclaim of Schlagenheim?
No, not particularly. We just wanted it to be good and different and we had a creative bloom over lockdown so we had a lot of good stuff to pick from. We were all itching to record it as well and we hadn’t been in a recording studio for two years. It was a bit of a challenge working out the best way to play as a three piece but the studio is a lot more forgiving than the live environment and we had a lot of ideas.
That’s great that you already had a variety of visions for the album in mind before the sessions. Speaking of performing as a three piece due to Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin taking a hiatus from the band due to mental health issues, how much adjusting did the band have to take on?
It’s been a long process hampered by COVID-19 but I think we’ve got there now. We all practiced so much during lockdown and became much better musicians as well, which helped massively. Matt created some wonderful textures which our touring members, Kaidi Akinnibi on saxophone and Seth Evans on keyboards and synths, do a great job of filling in the old songs. They also bring other strengths to the table and give us the option to do many other new things as a band. Even if Matt hadn’t taken a break I doubt we’d be playing live the same way we did a few years ago and it’s been fun adding even more musicians here and there as well.
You bring a lot of talents into the band through playing various instruments including bass, synthesizers, samplers and guitar. What was the first instrument you started playing with and how have you gradually evolved to the others?
I started playing guitar when I was a kid as my mum and my neighbor, who had a kid my age, did a sort of swap where I got taught guitar by the neighbour and my friend got taught Spanish by my mum. I didn’t really get into it until I was a teenager when I realized a lot of the songs I liked were quite easy to play. I learned the basics of bass playing at college because there was only one actual bassist in the school’s music program and we split into six or seven bands every term meaning a lot of the guitarists ended up in that role. I enjoyed it but I didn’t really get that deep in until Geordie and Matt asked me to play at Black Midi’s first show at the Windmill in Brixton in 2017 and I can’t really play keys properly at all. I did buy a flute with some of the money from our first publishing advance but I didn’t get around to learning it properly until a friend of mine started doing lessons during the first lockdown.
After this current tour of the United States that runs until the end of October, Black Midi will be once again touring the United Kingdom and Europe before heading back to the States in March. Do you plan on reserving time to write material for your third album while on the road or do you just plan on concentrating on touring for the next few months?
We’ve already recorded the third album and it’s currently in the process of being mixed. It won’t be out for a while but we’ve got time in December, January, and February to lay the groundwork for more new music after that. I also wouldn’t mind taking time to make proper recordings of a lot of songs that didn’t make it onto the last two records.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.