The pandemic may have put back live music by 18 months, but for one young Essex band honing their sound, lockdown offered at least some positives. "In a weird way, I think lockdown really helped shape and inspire our recent shift in sound,: Black Pines' Jake Ringsell tells us.
"Before the pandemic, we’d only just released our first three singles, and were eagerly awaiting playing our first shows as a band," the guitarist explains. "Lockdown gave us time; time to think about the songs we were writing, and test out so many different avenues. I also think the frustrations of being locked down fed into our writing - it became easier to take risks with these new songs."
Latest single Fire And Stone is testament to that; the band weaving their soulful blues into a denser contemporary rock sound that suggests their live journey will start again strong. And the band can't wait.
"We’re hoping to jump on tour with some artists this year, and really hone our live campaign, " says Jake. "I’ve found myself going to so many more shows this year, you don’t realise how much you miss it until it’s gone."
While the Essex music scene helped a young Nothing But Thieves to develop their craft before going on to arenas, some of the county's key venues aren't around for Black Pines to play now. But there's still plenty to celebrate there.
"Growing up, Essex had some amazing venues," Jake remembers. "The Square in Harlow or The Twist in Colchester - small venues that really championed and supported the local scene. A lot of those places are gone now, but there’s still Essex venues that have such an amazing community of passionate people, pushing music in every shape and form - Hotbox in Chelmsford has become somewhat of a second home for us in that respect."
How would you describe Black Pines to a new listener?
"A massive vocal powerhouse wrapped up in a blend of hard-hitting guitars and melodically rich textures. We’re blending a lot of our favourite things with the latest tracks. There’s something big and anthemic about them, but also something calling back to the past - with some bluesy and grungier sensibilities."
What artists do you think you could potentially share fans with?
"We’ve really loved what the likes of Nothing But Thieves and Royal Blood have done in the past few years. Honing already impressive sounds into something even bigger and better. And I think that blend of heavy guitars and pop-structures lends itself perfectly to what we’re doing.
"Saying that, it’s been really lovely meeting fans at shows recently, and finding out that we’ve got quite a wide demographic of listeners. I think Tom’s [Clark] voice covers a lot of bases - it’s great for rock and heavier sounds, but it also feels really soulful and rich - I think that really helps lure people in."
Which of your songs best represents your sound and why?
When we wrote Chains it instantly became the compass for where we wanted our new songs to point towards. We wanted to be bolder, and have more fun with our sound, whilst also establishing a generally heavier and more hard-hitting sound.
"I think Chains represents our sound perfectly, because it blends our love of the old and the new. It begins in an atmospheric bluesy tone, and progresses through to something bigger and bolder."
What inspired the creative process for these new songs?
"It sounds obvious, but there was a real pressure we put on ourselves to try and write the very best songs we could. We had more time with Covid locking us down, and it felt like we poured that frustration into these new songs - trying to show off every corner of the bands personality.
"In terms of our creative process, our songs usually begin with an idea that’s conceived individually, then brought to the table. There’s a lot of writers in the band, and I think that’s a great thing because it allows us to trial loads of ideas before landing on the tracks that are just right!"
What is your favourite musical experience/memory with this band so far?
"We just had the opportunity to record part of our EP at Abbey Road, which was crazy! There was a moment when we were tracking drums, and the engineer told us we were using the same microphone Lennon screamed into - that was a big moment for us! Writing and recording music in a space like that is what we all dream of when we’re kids, a huge tick off the bucket list for sure."
Is there a particular album that had a big impact on you growing up and how?
"I was really lucky to have parents that constantly shared music with me from a really young age. The albums that stand out, that I remember either playing in my dad’s car or in my CD walkman, were probably Nirvana’s Nevermind and Rage Against The Machine’s self titled album.
"I think both those albums are so powerful to a young listener; sonically it’s exciting and fraught with emotion, but lyrically it’s probably the first time I’d heard pain and anger and sadness spoken with such passion and ferocity."
If you could steal the production off one album/track, which would you take and why?
"I absolutely love the production on the latest Don Broco album Amazing Things - it hits so hard! Everything from the atmospheric feel of the vocals, to the massive guitars. That band have done an amazing job at constantly reinventing the genre, and I honestly think they’re the most exciting and unpredictable rock band going at the moment."
Do you have any go-to gear for songwriting and demoing ideas and why is it important to you?
"Our writing/demoing process is a tad unpredictable - for some songs we’ll have fully produced demos because we had a really clear vision from the outset. Other tracks exist as scattered iPhone voice memos, that we piece together in the studio - sometimes they’re the best. For instance, Chains and Fire and Stone were born from an a cappella voice recording from our singer Tom, and grew piece by piece into what they are today."
What instrument or piece of gear would you like to get next and why?
"Like any guitarist, I’m a sucker for new pedals, although I’m quickly running out of room on my board! Our new sound incorporates more lairy toys, like the DigiTech Whammy pedal and the Electro-Harmonix POG Octave Generator - I had a bit of a Morello throwback with these newer songs. I’ve always loved guitars that don’t sound like guitars, being hugely inspired by guitarists like Matt Bellamy or Jack White. So to be honest, the next gear purchase will likely be something mature like in-ear monitors!
Where would you like to take your sound next?
"I think there’s a continuity to our upcoming EP, but there’s still so much variety - there’s heavy songs, more pop-centric songs, and a track that sounds like it’s straight out the late '80s early '90s grunge scene. I think these newer tracks are the best songs we’ve ever written, and I think the goal is to keep writing bigger and better tracks – establishing a sound, but not getting lazy and staying put for too long.