The other Saturday, I ended up heavily involved in Stay-In-Fest. As well as DJing an early afternoon set that seemed to go down well (setlist: /DJ/Guest/098), four online/video interviews that I’d conducted with different artists over a previous couple of weeks were broadcast.
/Talk Show Host/068/Bootblacks
/Talk Show Host/Links
/Talk Show Host/2019-20
/066/Chris Peterson talks about Jeremy Inkel
/060/Then Comes Silence
/059/Teeth of the Sea
The fourth of these to go online after the event is with New York-based post-punk band Bootblacks, a band who have been active for a decade, but only really came to my attention over the past year.
Doing video interviews like this is still a relatively new thing for me, and not everything worked as I’d liked (for this one, the framing could have been better), but the sound is at least good. With grateful thanks to the band for their time, and also to Jacek Kozlowski at Artoffact Records for helping to arrange this.
All of these interviews will also be available on the /amodelofcontrol.com Youtube Channel, and this one is embedded below.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly. Thanks, as always, to the artist and indeed those that help to arrange such interviews.
Hi, this is Adam from /amodelofcontrol.com, at Stay-in-Fest, and we’re here with Bootblacks. Hi folks!
In two different locations, I’m presuming all still in New York at the moment?
Are you actually a Brooklyn band, is that right?
/Panther/Bootblacks: We are. I’m the only one actually living in Brooklyn currently, but the band was founded there, so…the origin story, it’s birth.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: It’s where our rehearsal headquarters are, too.
So you’ve been around for about a decade now, I think? ‘Cos your origin story on your website is kinda interesting. What the hell happened there, that you ended up working with one of the Bad Seeds?
/Panther/Bootblacks: That sorta had to do with luck at that time. Alli (Pheteplace, guitarist) and I were in a band together when we were living in San Francisco, that knew a New York-based band Bellmer Dolls, and they knew Jim Sclavunos, so I guess it was just through this music scene we’ve been in so long…someone knew somebody, and that’s how we got there.
Your current sound is very slick. There’s kinda an electronic undercurrent to what you’re doing, a post-punk kinda sound, have you evolved to that from early on – I take it that it wasn’t like that from the start?
/Panther/Bootblacks: Not at all. The early stuff was more like straight post-punk. Like you said, we’ve been doing it for a decade now, and we’ve had lots of different ideas of what the band is, or could be, over that time. In weird ways, when I think of the band in the early days, it’s barely the same band, but I guess that’s just us evolving as artists over time, for better or worse!
Oh absolutely for better. You’ve got a new album out, Thin Skies, at the turn of September/October, right?
/Bootblacks: Yeah, 09-October
How’s recording for that been? Was that all done before lockdown?
/Panther/Bootblacks: Yeah, it was done last year. Actually, in Spring of last year.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: It’s been done for a bit, and there were plans for touring it, supporting it, everything halted. So we had to rethink things…and here we are.
/Panther/Bootblacks: In a weird way, I think it’s good that we had something to put out during this time so that we can still have some music to give people. Not being able to go on tour, it’s a bit of a silver lining. I think.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: The response has been great so far. We put out a few singles already, we didn’t know what to expect. It’s a strange time, it was a gamble in our eyes to put out an album that we couldn’t support on the road, but everyone has been really kind about it, sharing everything constantly…we couldn’t have asked for more, except for being on a stage.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Yeah, we could ask for more!
What’s your attitude to playing live, do you think of yourselves first and foremost as a live band?
/Bootblacks: Yes, 100%.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: Before these times, I’d say 90% of our fanbase, we built on the road. Playing shows is our strength. I think until this album, we’d suffered with our recorded material, where people would hear it and say “it’s good”, but then they’d come to see us live and say “ahh, ok”, and that’s where we’d really grab people. I think that for the first time, with this new album, that we’re attracting new fans that haven’t seen us yet. It’s pretty cool, it’s a dichotomy that we’re in to.
It is a weird time. As someone who goes to a lot of gigs, I’ve not been to a show since March, since everything locked down in London, which is the longest I think I’ve ever been without going to show in twenty-five years.
/Panther/Bootblacks: When we played live [for the recent socially distanced video] I’d forgotten how loud amplifiers were. It had been that long in my life, that just to stand in front of an amplifier was like “holy god, we make so much noise!”, and a live drumkit and stuff, it actually blew me away about how your body physically takes all that volume. I’m 100% with you, I think as long in my life where I haven’t seen any type of live music. Or performed live music, for that matter.
It’s gonna hurt, and the first time I’m back doing it, I just need to make sure it isn’t to see Swans first.
/Panther/Bootblacks: It’d be a huge mistake. Or Boris, or something like that. Jumping in the deep end.
Oh yeah. Do you feel as a New York band, that you’re in a lineage, in terms of the sound that you’re doing? Because there is a very specific type of post-punk that came out of New York, one that is very different from the sound that came out of the Manchester scene. Do you feel part of that, and responsible as keepers of that flame?
/Panther/Bootblacks: I don’t. I guess I feel responsible as a band from this city, but for me, I’ll take influence from wherever it comes from, personally I’m not overly concerned about that. Maybe that influence gets in there secondhand and I’m not aware of it, but it’s not a conscious thing.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: Insomuch that the band is from New York, I wouldn’t say that the influence is from sound, the influence is more from attitude. The willingness to experiment, to try something different, that sort of thing. I think that’s true of the New York bands that have come out from history, really, so I’d say that’s where we get our influence from.
I think that’s a good point, actually. It’s something I’ve noticed when I’ve been in American cities and going to see bands in America that there’s maybe more of a melting pot of styles and things bleed across more, than maybe, say, the Goth scene in the UK, where it’s maybe a little more insular, I think it’s fair to say. Those kind of outside influences, you know, you go to clubs with different styles of music, for example, or different cultures mix. In London, we get that, but the sound doesn’t bleed across like it does with American bands.
/Panther/Bootblacks: That’s why I have a hard time saying…people always ask us what the scene is like here, I have a pretty hard time defining that. It’s hard for me to pick up on that, honestly. Like there’s a definitive sound or something, now or then, especially then.
There’s this weird distance to everything right now. We’re keeping a scene going by doing livestreams and DJing to the internet, which has meant that something aimed at people in London ended up with someone from Philadelphia chatting in the stream the other night. So it’s great, as we’ve got a better reach. But also it’s a weird dilution of the community, as what’s going to happen when we go back? We’ve all forgotten what it’s like to socialise in public.
/Panther/Bootblacks: It is cool, as we’re saying with the album, too – different media is giving different reach, right? I think we’re reaching different people, but I think it’s going to be weird to get in a room with people again, I don’t know when people are going to feel comfortable with that. Maybe we’re all work-at-home bands now.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: I hope not.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Zoom bands!
Best of luck in getting the timing right on that.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Yeah yeah!
/Barrett/Bootblacks: We’d have issues galore…
In terms of Festivals, I’d presume you’ve played all over North America, but I must confess that I hadn’t worked out if you’d made it to Europe or not.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: Oh yeah.
/Panther/Bootblacks: This’ll be one of the only years in ten years where we haven’t gone to Europe. Going to Europe was a regular occurrence for us, every year. We’ve never been to the UK…
Ah, that’s what I thought.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Like the United States, the UK is…difficult to tour. I’m aiming that at the US, too, Mainland Europe has this built-in infrastructure of venues and so it’s easier to tour, we’ve definitely done a lot of that. And people have been great there, it was our bread-and-butter for a long time. I have to say that people in Europe cared about us a lot more for the majority of our career.
European tours are fun. European festivals are fun, and there’s always a relaxed attitude to them, although maybe I don’t get quite as drunk at them as I do at North American festivals or UK festivals, But it can be a little aloof, sometimes there’s a language barrier in some countries, but…
/Panther/Bootblacks: That’s an understatement. Some of the most relaxed schedule soundchecks we’ve ever had in our life. “What time do we play?” “Nighttime?” Ok! 4am? Sure!
/Barrett/Bootblacks: [waves beer can] The universal language barrier breaker right here. Yeah, and we played Wave-Gotik-Treffen a couple of years ago, I guess that was our first European festival?
/Panther/Bootblacks: We were doing punk circuits for a long time, there’s a whole network of that stuff set-up, especially in Germany.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: That was a blast. That was where we cemented our friendship with ACTORS. We were playing the same venue back-to-back, hanging out backstage the whole time, and bullshitting and getting to know each other, that’s where we hatched our plans to tour the States when we got back. It was the beginning of a long, fruitful friendship that has lead us here, with this new record that Jason [Corbett, from ACTORS] produced for us.
Hopefully you’ll make it over to the UK at some point – at Infest, of course. Infest is a very different festival to many of the European ones. It’s a little smaller but also perhaps a little friendlier. And everybody parties really hard – I’m too old for that shit now.
/Panther/Bootblacks: All that sounds great!
/Barrett/Bootblacks: You tell us when to show up, and we’ll be there.
It’s in the works! We’re already requesting it… But it’s kinda weird this year. Everyone looks forward to this because it’s such an important thing, people have been going for so long – this one would have been my twentieth, and it’s strange that this is only the second time that there’s been a gap in the August schedule, where Infest hasn’t happened since it started, and everyone has been getting their memories on Facebook this week going “oh, man, this isn’t fair. It was great fun last year, let’s go do it again…oh, nuts”.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Yeah, Jacek was sharing those same memories as well when we were discussing it. I think this is his first interrupted one in quite some time, too. He was saying it has a hardcore, built-in fanbase.
Oh very much. Many of us have been going for a long, long time – I missed the first two but have not missed one since, and my wife started coming about fifteen years ago, and both my wife and I helped Jacek on the Storming the Base stall for a few years when he ran that, it was kinda fun. Recommending people music, going “here, BUY THIS!”. It’s one of those things that I wouldn’t miss for the world, and being part of it doing this has been kinda fun. And it’s giving a different insight, as talking to bands like you, that people who are coming virtually might not have heard of yet. Our plan is to say that there are some cool bands here, go check them out. And, we’re finding that providing and streaming new music via the internet, people ask about the bands that you’re playing in the chat feeds, going “what’s this?”. In a club, when you’re drunk and you go “that’s good”, and you forget about it the next morning. Whereas here, you get the link straight away.
/Panther/Bootblacks: That’s the benefit of new media. I do think people are more appreciative, and their attention is more focussed. I think in the “old world”, or whatever we want to call that, pre-COVID days, there’s a lot of stuff for your attention, a lot of stuff going on, but now I think… I mean, I do feel a lot of love from people, what music means to them. I think that was harder to say in the past because it was something you could take for granted.
As a final thing, what are you guys listening to at the moment? What’s floating your boat in terms of what you’re checking out?
/Panther/Bootblacks: You’re not going to like this answer, but Steely Dan.
/Panther/Bootblacks: It’s not stressful to me, and I’m just trying to cruise through this year. It’s sort of the muzak jacuzzi to the summer soundtrack. It’s kinda the kawana (?) pin of music, I’m just trying to make it through. So anything, I’m keepin’ it smooth this summer. Hence the beard and all the other stuff going on here.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: Well I’ll be the yin to that yang, it’s thirty-five years since The Head on the Door, so I’m revisiting that classic. That’s going to be on my rotation for the next few days at least. That was my introduction to The Cure, as I’m sure it was for a lot of people however many years ago that was, and it never hurts to revisit the classics. The Cure, and Steely Dan.
/Panther/Bootblacks: No, strike that from the record! Just not going to lie, that’s the thing. I’m just going to be honest.
Hey, I like honesty. It’s kinda overwhelming at the moment because there is so much music coming out. I’m finding I’ll tag onto an album for a week, then be moving on because something else has come out, and it’s really difficult to go back and revisit stuff at the moment, because there is this torrent of music, and looking at the release schedules, that’s the way it is all year, right up ’til November.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: Yeah, it’s been a wealth of riches lately, it seems, and that’s why we don’t want to namedrop anybody, either, as we’ll immediately feel bad about not namedropping somebody else. It’s a struggle.
/Panther/Bootblacks: That’s very true. It’s a very nervous question for me, ‘cos “Oh gosh, who am I not gonna forget”, so I’ll take it easy and just tell you about my Steely Dan love instead.
/Barrett/Bootblacks: It’s like all those actors that go up to the stage when they win an award, that’s the stress that they go through…
/Panther/Bootblacks: Yeah, I’ll be honest – seeing all this new music, and friends of ours putting out new music, it’s a bit sad for me too, as it does remind me of a bit of what we’re missing, you know?
Well there you are Infest-goers, your recommendations this week, The Cure’s The Head on the Door and Steely Dan.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Really, don’t listen to me!
On that note, we’ll remind our listeners that Thin Skies is out on 09-October on Artoffact, and hopefully, we’ll see you, when all this madness is over, over in the UK at some point, and we’ll drop a few beers after a show – hopefully at Infest in a coming year.
/Panther/Bootblacks: Sounds wonderful.
Well, thank you guys.
/Bootblacks: Thank you!
The new Bootblacks album Thin Skies is out 09-October on Artoffact.