Black Box Revelation
are the Belgium-based duo taking over the US with their incredible energy, explosive live shows, and a sound that fuses Black Keys
' blues with a classic rock instrumentation. We were blown away
by their set at the Knitting Factory on April 2, but had even more fun sitting down with the boys afterwards to talk keeping rock pure, the beauty of improv, Janes Addiction
, and the best lobster they've ever had. Check it out, and as a teaser to their live shows [which we highly recommend you hit up,] watch this exclusive video performance of "My Perception," filmed at Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA. Be advised, the boys come back to play the states May 11 - June 15, and their US full-length debut, My Perception
, is slated for an early summer release via Merovee
PureVolume: Growing up in Belgium, was there a distinct music scene you were a part of, or did you have to look to other countries and scenes for your inspiration?
Dries Van Dijck: We definitely had to look further for inspiration. Belgium is so small that you can’t really count on that scene by itself. There are some bands, but they’re all pretty local. We’re mainly influenced by bands from the sixties and seventies. We like to make pure rock music
PV: Would you say you're music is striving to bring back that classic sound of bands from that era?
DD: Yes, that’s what we like -- that real, pure and natural feel in our music -- and making music with instruments, not with computers or anything [laughs]. While we’re recording our albums, we’re always in the same room together and everything’s live, so it’s a natural feeling. We play a couple of takes, and if there’s a good one in there, we’ll use that one -- even if there are a few mistakes, that doesn’t really matter to us, because it’s part of the natural feel.
PV: That really comes across in your live shows. Is there a lot of improv going on while you're up there?
Jan Paternoster: There’s a lot of improvisation. The first song we played tonight was about five or six minutes, but we have a recorded version that’s twenty five minutes. We only recorded that song once, too. We played for twenty five minutes and we said, ‘ok, this is it’ and then started singing on it.
PV: You have such a huge sound considering it's only two of you. What is your song-writing process like, and how do these massive songs come to fruition?
JP: It’s not that we try to make this big sound, it just comes naturally. We’ve been playing together for ten years now -- not as BBR exactly, but just in general. We started playing together as little kids, when we were eleven and thirteen, and even back then we’ve never liked to play songs from other bands, or do covers or anything. We were always trying to make our own stuff, and trying to fill the space in the room with two instruments. When we are in the process of making new songs, though, it comes together with riffs, and melodies, and vocal lines -- not focused on how big it sounds, but just on the catchiness.
DD: That’s the moment when we start jamming around -- not necessarily trying to fill it up, but just the fact that we have these three amplifiers, this drum set, so we try to create some melodies in [that]. It’s a lot of fun not having any other musicians in our band. It’s interesting that we only have to look to each other.
PV: Do you find that it’s easier creatively to make music with just two people, as opposed to having to compromise, and consider so many different opinions, like larger bands have to?
DD: I don’t know about creatively, because it gets harder with only two people. After a while, you get to know each other so well, but that’s why it’s interesting. We recorded our last album with [producer]Alain Johannes, and he’s been a big help and influence to us. That’s why it’s good to get another person involved who can look from a distant at your music and at your band. Because at some moments, you’re so close to it that you don’t know anymore, or you can’t hear it anymore.
PV: You came to the US to record that album, right?
DD: Yeah, we recorded our last album in LA at his home studio, which was really nice.
PV: Was there any significant difference recording in an American studio, as opposed to back in Europe?
DD: Well, the real difference is that in Belgium you’re home, so somebody’s always [interrupting]. You know, your parents are calling or your friends want to see you. So we decided to do our second album in London, so we were away from home and totally focused. I guess we’re always going further away from home. This last one we did, we were in LA for six weeks, and it was really inspiring. It didn’t feel like we were working on an album, it just felt like we were having fun and playing music, and the songs came by themselves. We’ll have to record our next album on the moon [laughs].
PV: Your last two album's weren't available stateside. What was your reasoning behind choosing this one as your US debut?
DD: It’s a growing process. [With the first two albums] we played shows here in the states, met some people, and actually had songs in some TV shows here. We had one in Entourage, one in Vampire Diaries, a couple in Sons of Anarchy.
JP: Our thing is that you need a label to bring your album out. Last year when we played SXSW, there were some guys from Merovee Records
who checked us out, and they really liked us. So they told the label, ‘yeah you should sign those guys, we like them, you’ll like them too.’ So they checked us out, and they [signed] us!
PV: So on top of this new signing and an upcoming album, you just wrapped a tour with Janes Addiction. How was that to be playing with such an iconic band?
DD: It was really great. We were touring with them for [a while], and they were all great shows and really big venues. Every night we’d play for two to four thousand people. The cool thing was that people actually liked our music. After the shows, people came to our merch table and asked about us, and bought some things. Also, the guys of Janes Addiction were really sweet guys. It was a lot of fun -- we’re all friends now! We even got to call to Perry Farrell to say Happy Birthday!
PV: Any funny or memorable moments from the tour you can share?
DD: We played a show in Portland, Maine -- which is apparently known for its lobster. So, after the show, we all came back into the dressing room and they had it filled with lobsters. There were over twenty lobsters for us to share! We had never had that much lobster before!
PV: Having experienced all that you have up to this point, what advice would you give to yourselves when you first started out?
JP: Nothing -- just make the same album.
DD: Yeah, nothing. Every album is like taking a photo -- it’s like catching a moment in time. We don’t want to change anything from the previous records. Some things sound naive, and you can hear that we were only sixteen, but that’s what makes it. If you see us live, you’ll see that there’s a big difference in the way we’re playing [those songs] now as opposed to how they sound on [that first] CD. Especially with “I Think I Like You,” because on the album that’s a three minute version. Live, it gets to be five to seven minutes. So, the songs develop with us when played live, but we don’t want to touch those CD versions.