Droning on with Austin's Black Angels
You wouldn’t wish the name Christian Bland on your worst enemy, to say nothing of the frontman of your favorite psych-rock band. Bland, the leader of Austin’s the Black Angels, is anything but. Take a listen to the Angels’ debut, Passover (on Seattle’s Light in the Attic label), and you’ll get a sense of the group’s tastes: the dark drones and driving rhythms of Brian Jonestown Massacre and My Bloody Valentine are touchstones, and if you didn’t know any better you might mistake them for one of the legions of Pacific Northwest groups descended from the Sonics. But you can also hear scattered hints of the Texas surf and folk-rock groups that the members of the Black Angels frequented before they formed their current outfit. In a move calculated for maximum confusion, they’re currently on tour with atomic-blues mavericks the Black Keys, in a tour that comes to Avalon on November 2. If this teamup proves successful maybe they can all go on tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Black Crowes, and Jack Black. Bland took a few minutes to speak with thePhoenix.com.
How did everyone in the band come to meet one another?
Alex [Maas, vocals/bass] and I grew up together in Seabrook, TX, so we’ve been friends since Junior high school. We went our separate ways for college - I went to Florida St. and he went to Texas St. In 2002, he and I met back up in Austin, and we started a band called The Black and Green Scarecrow’s, but then we were Or/Well. We went through around forty people before we found the right line up for The Black Angels. In May 2004, Stephanie joined us, and then shortly afterwards we added Jennifer as our organ player. We played as a four-piece for about six months before Nate joined. We met Nate at one of our shows in November 2004. He asked if we needed a bass player, and the next day he recorded with us on our album. We most recently added Kyle to the band. He plays everything on the album that we couldn’t play as a five-piece (double drums, percussion, guitar, bass, more organ).
How does your music relate to the music scene in Austin, or the city itself?
Our style of music was born here in Austin in 1966 with the psychedelic sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. We hope to preserve the heritage of our forefathers, and to push it into new territory as well.
Your lyrics have themes that draw upon social and political circumstances. Did you have a premeditated goal with how you hoped Passover was going to be received by everyone?
No. We just wrote what came to us. We sing about our experiences in life. One facet of that are our political and social views. I don’t think our songs are protest songs, I think they’re more about our concern for people.
Can you further explain the story behind “The Prodigal Sun?” Does it have a heavy relation to the biblical parable?
Yes, the song is our take on the biblical story. I think anyone who has made a decision to think for themselves (instead of allowing someone else to do it for them), might know what it’s like to be the Prodigal Sun.
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