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Introducing, for the first time, Black Country, New Road

Unable to perform in front of audiences for 11 months of their less than three year existence, their debut album released only this month, to call the buzz about Black Country, New Road ‘remarkable’ seems something of an understatement.

Formed from the ashes of Nervous Conditions, the inventive and energetic seven piece whose distinct sound effortlessly incorporates sax and violins, are one of several bands to have recently tumbled out the doors of Brixton’s The Windmill. It’s a hyped London live scene sure, but it’s not one without substance, having already served up acts including Squid, Fat White Family, Goat Girl, and black midi, with whom Black Country, New Road have enthusiastically collaborated.

But whilst their contemporaries have been deservedly championed, the industry excitement about Black Country, New Road, drawn from their explosive live shows (remember those?), and the singles ‘Athens’ and ‘Sunglasses’, is already at a level above. And that’s only set to grow further as this month finally saw the release of that much anticipated debut album, For the first time, which was initially recorded in March last year. And on Saturday 6 March, the band will be celebrating that release with a special live streamed performance of the album from our own Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Amidst the whirlwind of press interest we were able to grab saxophonist, Lewis Evans, for a quick chat about the album, the band’s remarkable reception, and keeping going during lockdown.

Black Country New Road
Black Country, New Road with Lewis far left, and from left to right, Tyler Hyde (bass), Luke Mark (guitar), May Kershaw (keys), Georgia Ellery (violin), Charlie Wayne (drums) and Isaac Wood (vocals/guitar)

Individually you all have quite different backgrounds in music, what brought you together as a group? And what governs the musical direction you’ve gone in?

We mostly all met at sixth form college in Cambridge. We all had similar interests when it came to music so that shaped the music that we write.


To anyone not familiar with you as a band, how would you describe your sound?

We make rock music.


I’ve seen several reviewers refer to your music, and your gigs in particular, as a very ‘Generation Z experience’. Is that fair? Or is that people a good decade older than you not getting it?

I would say that's pretty accurate, we are Gen Z I guess so that comes out in our writing.


On the subject of reviews, it feels like there was a buzz about the band pretty much from the off, one that only grew off the back of 'Sunglasses', has the acclaim surprised you at all?

Yeah it has massively surprised us really. We like the music that we make a lot and we're very lucky that, for some reason, other people do too. We're really confident in our music and making sure that we're doing it for ourselves really helps. It means we stay motivated to make the stuff we want to make.


Listen to the single 'Science Fair'...

A shirtless man stands on an open air basketball court with a basketball under his arm; Cover image for the single 'Science Fair' by Black Country, New Road
Black Country, New Road

Your debut album, For the first time, has just been released. Has it evolved much between setting out to record it and release?

Not really, we changed it up a fair bit before the recording process to keep it fresh and exciting so that we wouldn't absolutely hate it by the time it came out!


Presumably it’s been quite frustrating to have this enforced break just as you were getting going?

It has been, but people's health is much more important than playing live shows. We've also been lucky enough to not have to be 'key workers' in the Covid era. It is important to acknowledge that we are in a very privileged position.


How have you approached rehearsing during lockdown? As a seven-piece the ‘rule of six’ must’ve been a particular annoyance.

Yeah it was a bit annoying! During the first lockdown we didn't rehearse at all and just focused on staying healthy, mentally and physically. We started rehearsing more recently when you could only rehearse if it was your job. Which I think is a bit ridiculous considering the only thing legally separating us from a lot of other bands was a record contract. 

‘We changed up the album a fair bit before recording to keep it fresh and exciting so we wouldn't absolutely hate it by the time it came out!’

You’ve played a number of online and streamed gigs already; how have you found it, and how different is it performing in a largely empty room?

It's quite interesting really. It's definitely not the same as a normal gig but it does give you a much more global reach. To be honest, we've just been really grateful to be able to play any sort of gig together again. 


And on the subject of venues, having emerged not that long ago through independent venues – particularly The Windmill in Brixton – how does it feel to be playing our Queen Elizabeth Hall?

It's a massive honour. If it weren't for Covid we would absolutely never be able to fill out a room like the Queen Elizabeth Hall so it feels a bit bizarre. We would like to start playing some seated shows though, so concert halls like the QEH would really suit us!


For the first time was released on Ninja Tune, on Friday 5 February, and is available from the band's webstore.

order the album

Black Country New Road
Courtesy of Ninja Tune Records
Black Country, New Road, at Queen Elizabeth Hall

On Saturday 6 March the band celebrate the release of their new debut album, For the first time, with a special live streamed online gig from our Queen Elizabeth Hall.