Debut album, driving force and falling between genres.
Jakob had a chance to do an interview with Black Oak County about their debut album, still wet from the press.
Releasing their much anticipated debut album worldwide on January 13th. (and even on a Friday(!)), the young quartet is full of excitement for the future.
Flick Of The Finger were, as the only press, in the company of this gem of a band in Esbjerg, for a chat about how the album came to be, where Black Oak County might be headed next, inspiration, and thoughts about what it was like to start recording a five-track EP, but ending up with a ten-track album.
Jakob had a sit-down with singer/guitarist Niels Beier, and leadguitarist Jack Svendsen:
FOTF: So, congrats on the album guys! Can you tell me about what it was like to record it?
Beier: Well, it turned out to be a much longer process than first anticipated. The record started as a simple six-song EP, that we were just gonna release ourselves, to have a kind of business card to hand out to venues and festivals. But when we had those six songs down, we sent it to Mighty Music/Target Records. They were excited about it, but said that it would need more songs to be a real album. They wanted two, but we wrote four….
Svendsen: Yeah we were like, if we’re gonna bump it up to eight, we might as well go for ten tracks. It would take us the same time to write either two or four songs.
Beier: We also asked the studio if it’d be cheaper to record two songs vs. four, but it would take them the same time too. So we thought, what the hell…
It was a pretty crazy experience – Jacob Hansen Studios (well respected rock studio/producer collective in Denmark -ed.), when we got there the first week of recording, the studio was still filled with Dizzy Mizz Lizzy’s gear and they had just left, the next week it was Volbeat’s gear, and so on… During one of my vocal sessions, Amaranth were recording in another room. Big boys indeed! Especially when you consider the fact that, we’re from the windy west coast, not much going on here, not very rock’n’roll, but if you drive 30 minutes south, you’ve got one of the busiest studios in the world.
FOTF: Unreal…! Tell me, what drives you as a band? Where do you pull inspiration from? I mean, I’ve been listening to your album – like, a lot! (both Beier and Svendsen laughs) – and I guess it could be hard to put you in a specific genre. But I think that it’s easy to hear the different genres you seem inspired by…
Svendsen: I think, what drives us the most, is the need to play music. We have a will and need to get out there and play, and give people the kind of music that we think have something to offer – what we think has substance. And when we made this record, we really put a lot of material back in the drawer, which we thought didn’t live 100% up to the quality we wanted, and to be able concentrate on the best of the best with honors. We wanted to present only the very best of what we have to offer, and deliver something that we can stand behind 100%. We’re all music fans as well as musicians, and the possibility of not playing simply doesn’t exist to us.
Beier: Yeah I agree. It’s the desire and need to play that drives us. We’re not aiming directly for anything. We’re not, like, “oh we’re only satisfied with COPENHELL or Roskilde Festival or any of the other major events”…
Svendsen: We’ll play anywhere, to anyone, anytime! A freaking tent would be good enough for us. But of course, like any musician, it’s also the dream of doing this for a living. Touring, doing this every day, delivering people their daily dose of rock’n’roll (both laughs).
Beier: Yeah that’s essential the driving force. Inspiration comes from all over the place. We are four musicians with three different musical backgrounds. Jack and Mike (drums) are brothers, so they’re bringing many of the same things to the table, while still being two sides of the same coin.
Svendsen: Yeah, Mike, who play drums, suddenly got a very strong urge to everything about technical bands like Shinedown, Lamb Of God… So he would pretty much stay in the basement all day with his drum kit, rolling those double kick drums (both making the “drrrrrr-drrrrrrr-drrrrrr” sound of a double kick drum)! The rest of us just wanted four chords and away-we-go (both laugh)…
Beier: Yeah Jack is more classic rock, Mike is more metal.
Svendsen: Exactly. You pretty much nailed it.
Beier: René (Hjelm, bassist. ed) is into pretty much anything that kicks ass. For myself, as late as yesterday, I was listening to Shanya Twain, Lamb Of God, and Suicidal Silence or she other death-thrash-stuff. Very different stuff from us all, and it’s all being poured straight into “the great casserole” that is our catalog of bits and pieces we use in our songs.
Svendsen: I also think that Niels’ (Beier, ed.) situation is a little different, because he, as the singer, needs to broaden his horizont and repertoire a lot more. Nothing wrong with checking out country and pop singers approach to song writing and singing techniques, how they get that magic out that makes so many people relate to their work. Nothing wrong with looking beyond rock music for any rock musician, to find inspiration. Sometimes you can get inspired from very surprising fronts. Sometimes I even listen to Joey Moe (Danish pop singer, ed.) for Christ’ sake!
Beier: Oh I know you do! And you like it s lot!
Svendsen: I sure do! I had a short venture into the music of Rasmus Seebach, but I had to stop myself at some point, ha ha! Enough, I said!
At this point I actually asked the guys if they “live for being on stage”, but they misheard me and thought I asked them if they dreamt about making a living from this…The following conversation turned out pretty nice anyway, so we’ve left it like it happened 😀
FOTF: So you live for being on stage?
Beier: Well… Yes and no. I mean, of course we’d like to make a living from this, and we all have different approaches to this. Jack and René would absolutely love being able to make a living from music. Mike is more free, he doesn’t care if he makes a living from it, he just wanna play. I Mike wasn’t in a band, he’d be sitting at home in his basement playing drums all day. For me personally, I would definitely not say not to living from music, but this ain’t so much the driving force for me. I wanna write songs, and I wanna write the best songs I possibly can. Then I hear some song, and go “Damn it, why the hell didn’t I write that song. It’s so obvious…” You know? But then you learn from it and analyze that song, and you incorporate those ideas into your own writing.
FOTF: Oh I know Mike’s feeling. I used to play guitar in rock bands myself, and the sole reason I played was to be on stage and kick ass! Biggest stage possible, the more amps the better…
Beier: Regarding that, my approach is that I just wanna write the best songs possible, songs that speak to myself and other people. Songs that I can backup 100%. Songs that makes me go “Hell yeah! Nailed it. Turned out exactly like I wanted it…” So that’s my goal. I don’t care if we play at Wembley, or Lygten Station (very small venue in Copenhagen, ed.) at half capacity… If someone comes up to us after a gig, and says “Dude that song you played, it really speaks to me, and means a lot to me…” Stuff that touches something in people. That’s what it’s about to me.
FOTF: Mission accomplished, huh?
Beier: Exactly. And you know how this feels, right. You could mention a thousand artists, where you’d love to walk up to them and say “Dude, your album or that song you made, has changed my life. Thank you….” That would be the highest state, nirvana, to get to that point in my own writing. So if that happens tomorrow or in ten years, doesn’t matter to me.
FOTF: Amen to that brother! So what expectations do you have for the coming year?
Svendsen: I think that…we, uhm, expect to get out and play a lot.
Beier: Yeah definitely. We don’t really have a lot more than that. We have an awesome collaboration with Mighty Music, and they help us get some great reviews on our stuff, and they help us get offers for tours, which we regrettably have had to say not to, but now we’re starting to get a tour on its feet, and at this point we just need to get out and play as many places as possible for as many people as possible. Especially with the new album out, we wanna make sure that a lot of people hear it and buy it, or hear it on Spotify and tell their friends…. Our hope is that it will grow organically from there. So now that we HAVE the album, and we HAVE the material, we need to make it grow.
Svendsen: We also expect to get the rehearsal room fired up again soon, and the recording computer, and get all those riffs and ideas we have, recorded. The predecessor of tracks to come, you know… This debut album of ours have received pretty good reviews, and there’s a pretty good hype around it already, and it does raise the bar significantly for a follow up release.
Beier: And to add to that, we actually recorded this album in two rounds. We started all the way back in 2015, so it’s just shy of two years in the making. And during that time, our song writing have changed a lot. So we’re really proud of the older stuff, and what we have done so far, but we also feel that we have to put our ideas down on tape now, so we can spend some time working on the material, and really submerge ourselves into the writing process. But we’re talking about a minimum of 18-24 months before we have material enough for another record. And by then, there’ll probably be about 90 songs that we have to exclude from any kind of release, so we can get down to 10-12 of the best-of-the-best songs.
FOTF: That’s the real challenge, isn’t it. I face the same exclusion challenges with my photography, and sometimes you have to exclude really good stuff… So, any wishes for the future besides the obvious?
Svendsen: A wish would be……to play COPENHELL. That would be the ultimate thing right now.
Beier: Yeah, a wish would also be, for the many festivals we have sent out demos to, to get back to us with either a “yes” or a “no”. Haven’t heard a word from any of them though.
Svendsen: A wish would also be to get a response from the people who but the record. The fact that the magazines and reviewers love it is one thing, but if the mass of people, just here in Denmark, who buy it, goes “Well, that wasn’t very good…”, we’d like some response from that direction too. I’m anxious about the people who buy it, to get back to us with their honest opinions, and tell us if THEY think it’s good or not.
Beier: Mighty Music are putting the record out in a very long list of countries. The whole world actually. It’s out in Europe and the US now, and Japan on January 25., so of course we have a dream about this album selling, like 500.000 copies in Japan, so we could get like a ten-show tour in Japan. Those things are a nice dream, but then again not something we wanna set our hopes after. The fewer dreams you have, the less disappointed you’re gonna get.
Svendsen: Well, we are from West Jutland, so we’re never setting the bar too high. We’re pretty humble about everything…
Beier: Yeah we’re humble by nature. If someone says “Damn, that is one hell of an album! Best one ever!”, we’ll be like “Yeah, it’s alright…”
FOTF: That’s great guys! Well, I’m certainly doing what I can to make COPENHELL and the others pay attention to what you’re doing. I think your stuff is amazing, and I think you’re very ready for those kinds of gigs.
Beier/Svendsen: Nice! Really appreciate it!
FOTF: Yeah, we’re covering COPENHELL this year, so we’re hoping that collaboration between us could enable us to push some of the bands we really like towards them. We’re doing what we can 😉 They told me they’d check you out.
Beier: Awesome! We’re told they have contacted Mighty Music and asked if they had any artists suitable for COPENHELL, and we did get pitched on that occasion. But….we haven’t heard anything yet. But on the other hand, as long as we haven’t heard anything, we haven’t received a “no” either, yo know?
Svendsen: Well it’s still only January, and COPENHELL isn’t until the end of June. So it can still happen.
Beier: We know that the festivals are booking bands a long time in advance, but…we’ll see. If nothing happens and we don’t hear from anyone this year, then it might happen next year. That’s the hope we have. Speaking of, it’s been a challenge with all the logistics around booking gigs and tours. We’ve never really fully understood al the things involved with doing that. We’ve never really did that stuff before. We’ve just booked a few shows here and there ya know, but we did learn that we have to get those things sorted WELL in advance. Like, a long time before the gig. In October ’16 we started calling around to see if we could maybe do some gigs in the spring or autumn of ’17…..
Svendsen: ….but most places just said that they were already fully booked. So you really have to be out early.
Beier: Yeah so when we’re through this whole album release thing, we’re gonna start booking shows for 2018, which is crazy, but like Jack said, turns out we have to book very early. The logistics are tough. It takes a lot to get a small band from the far west coast all the way to Copenhagen or Randers. It takes a lot of planning and resources.
FOTF: So do you have any other shows planned besides the release show? I know you have a show with LUCER at High Voltage in Copenhagen in February…?
Svendsen: Yeah we have one on February 10. at Tante Olga in Randers, February 18. with LUCER in Cooenhagen, April 13. at Tobakken in Esbjerg, where we’ll play with Junkyard Drive and Tened Lady.
Beier/Svendsen: Yeah that last one will be a blast! Full-on rock’n’roll night!
Beier: Then we’re playing Nordic Noise Copenhagen in May, and then we have another festival as well, but we’re still keeping it a secret which one. All we can say is that it’s an event that has always been a milestone for us as a band, and we’ll be playing with a list of international acts. We’re also talking with an overseas booker, where we’ll do a three day run in Germany and the Netherlands, with maybe Hamburg on a Thursday, and then Netherlands Friday/Saturday. It’s not settled yet, but if it does, that gonna be so much fun! Being in another country playing could be an awesome experience. Most of the shows we’ve done has been within a 100km radius from Esbjerg. So we’re excited about this.
Svendsen: We also thought, like, it takes four hours to drive to Copenhagen from Esbjerg. On that time we could be in Hamburg instead. So we were thinking that if we could get something established down there and play the Hamburg area a few times a year, then we could slowly expand on that, and maybe play Hamburg one day, the next day a little further south, and so on. Slowly spread down through Europe.
Beier: Germany is really interesting to us. We’ve gotten extremely good reviews, and thanks a lot for Flick Of The Finger’s awesome review by the way, but also from German magazine. I don’t think we’ve gotten less ratings than 9/10 or 4/5.
Svendsen: I think we got one today that said that, we were the new “junior Volbeat”. That was pretty funny.
Beier: Ha ha, yeah, we have a hope that people won’t start comparing us to Volbeat. Two thirds of all reviews mention Volbeat at least once – “…..just like their countrymen Volbeat…” Volbeat, Volbeat, Volbeat, they write…..probably as many times as they write Black Oak County.
Svendsen: But on the other hand it’s also nice to see. Someone from Canada wrote to us and said he hoped we’d soon visit Canada, and actually today someone from Scotland said the same, so those are good signs I think.
Beier: You shouldn’t negate Volbeat, they’re one of the biggest bands in the world no matter how you look at it. They found the magic approach to how to make it.
Svendsen: We’re driving in a rented Eurocar, they’re cruisin’ around in Nightliners.
FOTF: Genre-wise, you’re not metal. How would you describe yourselves?
Beier: You know, we’ve always felt that we fell between genres, so to speak. Some journalists say we’re metal, some say we’re southern-hardrock, some say we’re rock’n’roll…. We never sat down and said, “we’re gonna play this or that genre”.
FOTF: I think it’s fast and heavy, but definitely not metal. It’s more 90’s dirty and smooth hardrock, and it’s a unique style that is hard to find today.
Svendsen: We like to think so too! Like I said before, we started with those five tracks and thought, “that’s it, we’ve got our gold right here”. Then we wrote some more, and they were kinda pieced together like LEGO’s until we had something that worked. We’ve also become a lot more critical ourselves as we’ve progressed in our writing.
FOTF: OK, thanks guys. We’re looking forward to where this is going. We’ll be keeping an eye on you that’s for sure.