MANCHESTER, England – Last month, the six members of Black Country, New Road joked in a cramped practice room about trying something new: everyone singing lead vocals.
First, Tyler Hyde, the guitarist in the group, sat forward and sang—her voice jumping between the soft, boisterous shriek of pop and the screeching shriek. In May Kershaw, who is usually on the piano, captured her voice, her voice as soft and crisp as that of a folk singer. Then saxophonist Louis Evans penned two songs.
“Dope as hell,” Charlie Wayne, the band’s drummer, said as Evans finished. Evans doesn’t seem too sure. “I was a little slow!” He said, looking frustrated.
Just six months ago, one of Britain’s rising rock bands, Black Country, New Road, was an entirely different proposition. At the time, lead vocals were the domain of just one man: Isaac Wood, an intense and sometimes anxious singer, whose endearing lyrics helped Black Country and New Road win fans and critical dedication. The group’s debut album, Debut, was nominated last year for the Mercury Award, Britain’s most important music award. second one,”Ants from thereSelected by the New York Times Critic’s Pick.
But just before New Year’s Eve, Wood sent his bandmates a message on Facebook. He said he couldn’t be in the public eye anymore. The pressure from his heart pumping on stage was too much. He was leaving.
Wayne said that when that message got through, the band’s first thought was “the safety of our friend.” But once that was sure—Wood is in a better place now, Evans said, happily working at a cake shop—the remaining members had to decide what to do next.
Several bandmates gathered to discuss that moment in a sunny arena after rehearsal last month. Separation was never an option, Kershaw said, because “playing together is very important to us.”
Bandmates seem to disagree about how hard the reboot is, though. When Evans said starting over after Wood’s departure “didn’t feel like a big deal,” Hyde and Kershaw both gave each other a confused look and laughed nervously. But his passing has made everyone fully appreciate the amount of pressure that the lead singer of the band can be under. So they found a solution: burden sharing.
At Wood’s request, they kept the band’s name but decided to stop playing the tracks he sang (Wood did not respond to requests for comment for this story). This meant that before rehearsal, the musicians spent five intense, fun, but sometimes stressful months, writing nine songs to meet the dates of European festivals this summer. Without the income from those appearances, Evans said, they would have had jobs, so they could hardly have played together at all.
The mounting financial and emotional pressures on musicians have long been the focus of media attention in Britain. In 2017, Help Musicians, a non-profit organization, created a 24 hour help line To provide support for those with mental health issues or financial anxiety. These fears only grew during the epidemic Close live placeswhile the cost of living crisis It may cause more concerns.
John Doran, a music journalist who has long advocated for Black Country, New Road, said Wood’s departure illustrated those pressures. Joining a successful indie band can lead to a good lifestyle. Now, Doran said in a phone interview, the verbs are self-exhausting “maybe one day you’ll get a mortgage and not need a side job.” “No wonder musicians are under so much pressure,” Doran added. “I don’t envy them at all.”
This, in fact, is the second time the members of Black Country, New Road – all still in their early twenties – have had to restart.
Four years ago, almost all of them were playing on another show, called Neurological Conditions, which was on the verge of penetrating Britain’s competitive indie music scene. With only two tracks online, Advertise taste making sites The group has one of the “most exciting shows in the country”, and representatives from record companies flocked to its shows. But then, his attacker Connor Brown confronted him Anonymous accusations of sexual assaultHe issued a statement apologizing for the injury he had sustained, and the group was dissolved.
Hyde said the bandmates learned lessons from that moment. After the split, she said, “The whole soul became, ‘We do this for us and because we want to.'” She added that since then, the band has rewrote the songs and changed songs whenever they got bored of it.
When asked how the musicians manage to continue reinventing themselves, the musicians said that having so many band members with different interests helps. But for fans of the group, other factors were more important. Jordi Grape from black midiIt is a London-based band Touring the US with Black Country, New Road In September, he said in a phone interview that the group’s members were accomplished musicians. This, he said, gave them the ingenuity to keep changing their style.
Grip added that members of Black Country, New Road – most of whom had known each other since they were in high school – also had strong community ties. “These guys are really trying their best to hang out as friends,” he said, looking a little confused. He noted that most bands, including his own, do not.
Even for such a close group of musicians, the process of applying to lead vocals was not always easy. Evans said he was “shaken” the first time he sang a piece he wrote to his bandmates. Kershaw said she found it “nervous,” telling everyone “not to worry” if they thought her tracks weren’t “the right vibe.” She squirmed in her seat as she remembered the memory.
But as the shows approached, the band members had to get on their nerves once again to sing in front of the paying audience. A few days later, the band walked on stage at the Pink Room, a music venue in Manchester, northern England, packed with 250 people (the group canceled a 1,800-person show in the city shortly after Wood left).
If Evans is still nervous, no need. Once he started playing the smiling saxophone tune to open the track.”until the songHe was greeted by a shout from the audience. When the band reached the roaring chorus, the crowd began jumping up and down and chanting, as if they had heard the song hundreds of times. The band sang in unison ‘Look what we’ve done together,’ ‘BC, NR/Friends forever.”
After a few tracks, even the bar crew fell silent as Kershaw sang “turbines / pigs, “An eight minute song playing a nice piano tune while singing,” Don’t waste your pearls on me/I’m just a pig. “
After 45 minutes, the band walked off the scenes to say goodbye to some polite waves. Some fans cried out for more, until they realized that Black Country, New Road couldn’t make a comeback even if they wanted to. The new incarnation played all the songs he had.