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CHARLIE WAYNE (BC,NR) - Interview

Everything needs to make sense together. It's easy to create music that is overbearing when you have six instruments on stage. You have to make sure every single one of them is playing something that is contributing without smothering...

Interviews
Interviews
CHARLIE WAYNE (BC,NR) - Interview
ETHEREAL.PRESS

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Date
September 14, 2023
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18 mins
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Interview with Charlie Wayne (drums, backing vocals) or Black Country, New Road backstage @ Meow Wolf in Denver, Colorado.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Tell us about Black Country, New Road.

CHARLIE WAYNE

We are fundamentally a group of friends. We met in Cambridge and eventually moved to London, where Georiga started playing with us. 

This was all before Black Country, New Road started.

In 2018, circumstances conspired for us to put together this whole outfit, which we've been performing as for the last five years. It's been strange, but the heart of it is just a bunch of friends playing music together.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

First and foremost, Black Country, New Road has achieved a substantial amount of critic and audience acclaim. Your second album, 'Ants From Up There,' is currently number one of all releases in 2022 on RYM & I've seen countless reviews hailing your entire discography.

What do you think of this overwhelmingly positive critic and audience response to your works? 

CHARLIE WAYNE

It's strange. Obviously, it is incredibly flattering. 

There's one thing about having critical acclaim with people who write for publications and have trusted voices that like the album. 

There's also a massive part of it where meeting people and getting messages from people who are really touched by the album. They're touched by music in lieu of us not actually being able to perform that music - contextually, we haven't really performed it. It's moving to see what that music has meant to people online, like when they send a photo of a tattoo.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

So cool.

CHARLIE WAYNE

It's nuts - it's surreal - it's very cool. It's a massive affirmation that went into writing those albums. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

I think it's so pure that audiences and fans can relate to music on such an emotional level where they are willing to get a tattoo, talk about it all the time, or profoundly change someone's outlook on life. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

I feel immeasurably lucky that this is my job, let alone a job that has created something that emotionally resonates. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

The sound design across your projects is immaculate and your live performances reflect such a complex understanding of how sounds can build & interact. 

With such a diverse variety of sounds at play, does it present logistical challenges for your live performances?

CHARLIE WAYNE

We all have benefited from quite a comprehensive music education. It's taken a lot of forms.

Lewis, Georiga, May, and Isaac all went and studied at Guildhall (top music school in UK), so they've learned their instruments in a thorough way. The rest of us have been taught music to varying degrees - which is a massive factor in how we can communicate musically. 

We learned how to play together live over a number of years. It takes a really long time to figure that out. If there are six members of the band - there are small built-up channels of communication. Tyler and I have to be locked in and communicate, which differs from May and Lewis. 

Lots of communication. Everything needs to make sense together. It's easy to create music that is overbearing when you have six instruments on stage. You have to make sure every single one of them is playing something that is contributing without smothering.  

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Would you say you take a reductionary approach in that way?

CHARLIE WAYNE

Yeah, that was definitely the approach with Ants. Actually, no, I think it's always been the process to really understand if you put too much into it - it will seem like too much.

You figure it out over time.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

That was one of the things I really liked about listening to Rich Rubin is how he likes to take things away rather than add things.

People are always like what can I add to this? How can I make this better?

When a lot of times, you need to take things away. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

If you're in a studio environment or creating by yourself, it's easy to think you need to add more stuff. Being able to create something with all the things in the room is harder.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Talk to us about your recent live performance, 'Live at Bush Hall.' I read on Reddit - that you said it was a live performance, not a live album.

CHARLIE WAYNE

I don't think any of us think of it at all as being an album. It's a live album if you're going to put a term on it. On Spotify, if you listen to it, Spotify will say it's an album of us playing an album live. 

We had a bunch of shows that we really wanted to play and spent such a long time building up this emotion from the first two albums. 

We decided not to play them. In lieu of those songs, we had to find something else. We had to diversify where the lead vocals came from, and with Isaac's departure, that timeline is brought forward immediately.

It's a bunch of songs that's a timestamp. It's where the band is at the moment. It's not an album, it's a performance. It's allowed to be self-contained in that.

It's just as valid as any album if you contextualize all these other things.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Definitely, it changes the perception of it. I don't hold albums to the highest standard - I love conceptual art and when people take risks.

You see so much of the same stuff. It's always refreshing to see somebody trying something new. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

If you were to consider it an album, it wouldn't be a successful endeavour because that's not what it is. We wouldn't have released anything or played these songs if we didn't think they were good. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Sticking with this idea, the visuals are a compilation with different things at play (VHS camcorders or a proper video rig). You have an overarching narrative as well.

CHARLIE WAYNE

There are three performances we did. One of them was the Prom, which we did on the final night and was maybe the easiest to latch onto. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

With the 'Class of' banner...

CHARLIE WAYNE

Yeah. The other two were fake plays we invented. The way the medium to delivered these songs, having a visual element, was very important. 

You would go and watch a live performance rather than just listen to it. Being able to emphasize that part was super important. One of the ways we thought we could make it interesting was overwriting the fact that we were doing it in three different takes. Three different audiences. Three different setups. 

And the different camera styles, I think we stole that from the Beastie Boys documentary. Additionally, having a fan perspective was extremely important. I certainly wouldn't be sitting here now if it wasn't for people sticking by what we had done with the first couple of albums. 

Having people coming and watching the shows has been immeasurably important for us to maintain this as a thing we're able to do. We wanted to make the fans as much a part of this live performance as the band was. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

I've heard a lot of artists talk about this idea where once you're in person with fans it's such a beautiful experience. People who really understand music know they're not just making music but doing something else.

Especially reading through personal accounts of audiences listening to your work being like, 'I cried three times during this set,' and stuff like that. It's an emotional thing. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

It's amazing. People finding that kind of emotional resonance is nuts. It's really cool. I feel very grateful. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

One of the standout tracks from that set was Turbines/Pigs. 

Can you tell us a bit about that? 

CHARLIE WAYNE

May came to the band with the song pretty much. Sometimes when someone brings a song to the band and it will be like, let's take it apart and build it back up. Or I could imagine all these different parts adding to it.

Whereas with that one, it was instantly, let's do as little as possible to this. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Wow.

CHARLIE WAYNE

It was so rich in it of itself. The less you could do, the better it could be. It's a great track.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Your live album provided insight sonically and thematically into where your most recent trajectory was going to be as well as where you could possibly go. 

Where do you think you're headed now with your sound and style? What are you looking forward towards? 

CHARLIE WAYNE

I think it's so open. We have basically been touring for about 18 months, since Isaac left the band we've been touring. 

We haven't had a chance to properly sit and think about what the next thing is going to be. That's what we're going to do next. We got these songs; they might sound similar, or they might sound completely different. 

I've got no idea. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

I feel like a lot of people would be like, 'oh my God, that's scary you don't know where you're going.' I think it's cool that you don't necessarily know where you're going or where you could go. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

This is the most open it's ever been. With the first album, we had the second album in the wings. 

It's fine, that's how it should be.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

It has to be a daunting task to follow up Ants. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

It has to be. The only change is that there's going to be a bit more of an expectation of whatever comes next to be something which is musically comparable to Ants. 

It's a lucky position I suppose to be in because you created something people can really resonate with. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Much of your music touches on sensitive issues involving relationships, depression, and isolation. A lot of stuff that is hard to deal with.

Benny Sings (Dutch alt-pop artist) has been creating music for 20 years, and says it's still hard to dive into that. You have to come from a place of vulnerability, doing shadow work, or whatever terms you want to put on it, so you are able to give the audience an authentic experience. 

What about your creative process allows you to be so vulnerable with your lyrics and everything you put out?

CHARLIE WAYNE

Lyrically, it's always a very isolating experience. No one is ever really scrutinizing someone's lyrics. 

I can't really speak to that - it's really just how it came out. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

It's very cool that you can come together with lyrics and there's no judgment. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

It would be weird and strange if it wasn't.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

You've been all over the globe this year, touring and making massive festival appearances. Tonight, you are performing at such a unique venue (Meow Wolf), which is a psychedelic art exhibit.

What's that going to be like? 

CHARLIE WAYNE

I got no idea. It's such a strange place. 

We were looking through the venues (since we don't have much of a choice where we perform), and we were like, cool... 

this place looks fucking mental. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Haha. It's like of course, the stoners in Colorado have a venue like this.

BC,NR @ Meow Wolf - Shot by AMBIVALENCE

CHARLIE WAYNE

Never played in a venue like it. Some venues are just venues, and then some are themed. You don't really see that many modern-futuristic venues. It seemed like that was a thing people used to do where they made themed venues 20 or so years or more ago.

It's very odd but cool. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

I wanted to ask you about the album art for the second album.

CHARLIE WAYNE

We actually had the album art before any of the songs were written. Originally, it was going to be (grabbing his phone)...

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Oh, do you have a photo of it?

CHARLIE WAYNE

So originally, it was going to be that. We thought we would get sued. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Probably.

CHARLIE WAYNE

Yeah. We knew that we wanted it to be by this guy named Simon, who was a friend of Isaac's mom ages ago. There was a continuation of the first album's artwork, which is about hyperrealism, weird uncanny valley, looking at hyper-real art. A very modern perspective.

The artwork for Ants is in the same way but represented through a toy. Musically, it's a lot more nostalgic and sentimental.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

What's next for Black Country, New Road? I know we kinda touched on this. 

CHARLIE WAYNE

Well, we have to finish touring at some point. Right now, we are right in the middle of this tour. 

After that, we have two weeks in London and a European tour.

We've been on tour since February, it's been a mammoth year of touring. 

After that, we have to write an album.

The wheel turneth once again. 

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