Jennifer Machuca from Music, Why Not! caught up with indie band from the U.K known as Blaenavon in Chicago – just before their first gig of their North American tour with Circa Waves. The charming trio, with a lot to say- released their album That’s Your Lot in early April of this year. It sounds like an album that came straight off the shelves of the New Wave era category at a record store back in the day. New Wave first became popular back in the late 70’s. Bands like The Cure and The Velvet Underground played a key role in this musical movement. Blaenavon does not fall flat at all. Their music tells stories and the catchy- yet clean instrumentals capture you at every second of every song in the album. Check out our interview with the indie trio as we discuss how they got their band name, their favorite songs, the blood cell of Chicago, and more!
MWN: Hello guys! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a couple questions for us out here in Chicago. We are stoked about this, so I guess lets get started. We will start off simple so a really important aspect of becoming a band is the name. How did the name Blaenavon come about?
Blaenavon: It’s a name of a lovely Welsh Town, and we saw it written down somewhere and thought it was a beautiful word and really didn’t know what to make of it so we wanted people to see our band’s name and think “hmmm I wonder what that is” and maybe give it a listen.. And feel.. Inspired.. Inspire Curiosity..
MWN: That’s very pretty, did I say it right?
Blaenavon: Bla-no-vin? Bleyen-ah-vin.
Blaenavon: Don’t worry about it, that’s everyone in the whole world. It sounds a bit like Bryan Adams.
MWN: Haha! Alright makes me feel a little better. So why did you guys name the EP Let’s Pray? Can you guys tell me a little more about your EP?
Blaenavon: The Let’s Pray Ep was just named after the song Let’s Pray which is called that because it’s a song about feeling really dissatisfied with yourself and praying for it all to end. Which is quite sad really isn’t it? But in the end ya know there’s a bit of a hopeful resolution I think.. Wanted to name the EP after that song.
MWN: That’s a cool way to put it. So, that was the whole creation process of it then?
Blaenavon: Yeah, it was like while I was writing it, I was feeling bad about how bad I am at writing songs at that time… so yeah.. I wrote a song about being bad at writing songs..
MWN: Well, but now you’re here though.
Blaenavon: Yeah it’s nice here, we’ve been quite lucky, we’ve been all over.
MWN: I’m glad to hear it! When writing music do you guys write your parts together or separately?
Blaenavon: I’ll make a little demo at home, or an acoustic thing, or a garage band crappy sounding thing and send it to the guys, and then we’ll spend hours in our HQ and smashing it out together until it sounds good, and we’re happy with it and get it all sorted.
MWN: Sounds like you’ve got a system going on. Actually one of my favorite songs that you guys have released is on Let’s Pray and it is called “Something Boring.” I love the instrumentals and how soft the vocals sound. To me it conveys a feeling of nostalgia. The song has this back and forth feeling of softness in the start and roughness close to the chorus. Is there any story behind this?
Blaenavon: It was recorded in um.. We recorded it ourselves actually a while ago, like just after we finished college and that was kind of one of the first things we did when we left school and we were doing the band.. I guess.. We set up our own studio on a floating house on the lake and like stayed there for two months and this was the first song we recorded there.. Yeah it started off, the demo of it, was just all of the soft stuff, then I took it to the band and we were like “yeah this is kinda pretty but it needs like some edge” so we added a big ole guitar bit and the rest came along.
MWN: I feel like as time passes we evolve as individuals. True or not true?
Blaenavon: Oh that’s the question? Oh yeah very true. What would any movie be without any character development. That definitely goes within the band or else we’d drive each other nuts.
MWN: Haha well with that in mind, as you create your pieces, how would you guys particularly say your music evolved since you first began playing music together versus where you are now ?
Blaenavon: Umm the lyrics are way more considered, probably the most important thing for me. Spending a lot of time going over it and fixing bits rather than singing whatever I wanted to sing and kind of leave it there. It’s kind of a tough, but frequent process for me.. The songs have developed into characters as well like each one on the record has a very individual kind of style or feel to it which is cool. And the record is like our greatest hits of songs of over five years and I think that shows our character development of songwriting and making tunes. There are so many different types of songs in there.
MWN: That’s really cool. Lyrics are a big part of why I love music. Glad to hear they are important in the process of the band! Thus far what would you guys say has been one of your favorite gigs and why? It can be either here in the U.S. or in the U.K. or both?
Blaenavon: So headline shows really, cuz it’s kind of the culmination of everything we’ve been working towards for the last six years or whatever. Like we play to a thousand of our own fans as they sing along the words and stuff.. It’s like quite an obvious choice but really cool. We had some really good shows here as well. In New York, we had two headlining shows out there, we didn’t know what to expect, but people seemed really crazy and came from all over to see us, that was great. Actually SXSW every year. Like we’ve never really had a bad show at SXSW it’s always either really crazy or really tight and cool.
MWN: That sounds awesome. Gigs in the U.K always look so much fun. I am glad the states have been welcoming! Alrigh,t so these are some Fire Round Questions… Ready?
Blaenavon: Yaaaay !!!
MWN: For me there are artist I wish I could have been able to see perform live- such as John Lennon or The Doors. So for you guys are there artist you would liked to see to see that are dead?
Harris : They’re not dead, but she’s never gonna play another show live, but I would’ve liked to see Joni Mitchell
Bend: I would’ve liked to see Elliot Smith or Pavement because they promised to get back together
Frank: Michael Jackson
MWN: Kurt Cobain
Blaenavon: Fair… One Direction
MWN: Haha, I saw them actually once
MWN: Yeah my brother spent his scholarship money on me so I could be seventh row. He secretly wanted to see them too.
Blaenavon: Aww. Amazing, wow.
MWN: Yeah- It was pretty cool. So what are your top three favorite songs of all time?
Harris: Oh wow.. That’s a tough one. I know it’s a quick fire! Ummmm: Oh Comely by Neutral Milk Hotel, Idioteque by RadioHead , and Carrie by Joni Mithcell.
Ben: A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity To Be Free [organ demo version] by Elliott Smith, Fillmore Jive by Pavement Umm.. and.. Ahh I actually can’t think of any other songs.. Umm what was the other?? Ohhh umm I don’t know like, Mr. Brightside by The Killers.
Frank: Hammond Song by The Roches, Familiar Ground by The Cinematic Orchestra but the Solid Steel Version version on the Ninja Tune compilation.
MWN: Haha that last one! So, how do you pass the time between gigs? Well, here’s one way right now.
Harris: Ah ha, well you just caught us coming back from Chi-pott-tal.
Harris: Hahaha, It’s a regional dialect thing. That’s how you say it in New York
Ben: Normally we drive a lot. We just killed some time here we went to the Lake, Lake Michigan that was fun.
MWN: Ah, did you see the bean?
Frank: Ummm what’s the name?
Ben: Where’s it?
MWN: Cloud Gate. If you’re from Chicago you call it the Bean. If you’re a tourist you call it Cloud Gate.
Ben: It’s the big mirrorey blood cell kinda thing right?
MWN: Yeah the blood cell.
Harris: What’s that?
Ben: It’s a Chicago thing.
MWN: It’s near where you’re playing for Lollapalooza.
Ben: Alright sick, We’ll check it out.
Frank: Very Shiny.
MWN: Alright, so how are you guys prepping for when you go on tour?
Ben: We rehearse, we say goodbye to our loved ones. Take a really long bath and wash my hair because I know I’ll never get the stank off from tour.
Harris: Kiss my momma on the cheek.
Frank: Just do it!
MWN: Stoically! Alright, as we finish the interview is there anything you would like to tell all your supporters?
Ben: Respect what you do.
Harris: Oh I’ve got one, this is, in Frank’s words : Take Care, Take it Easy , and always look after numero uno.
Frank: Yeah those are my words, and actually like thank you loads, because like some people from America fly in from wherever to come and see us cuz we don’t have many fans out here yet, so it’s really nice just to have some people out here who really care.
Harris: And also brush your teeth and practice your scales.
Ben: Clean your teeth.
Harris: Actually floss as well.
MWN: Haha well there you have dental hygine is a must! But in all sincerity you guys are such gems thanks so much! This was such a pleasure.
Blaenavon: Thank you!
Interview By: Maria Limon and Jennifer Machuca. Exclusively for @Music, Why Not! -All Rights Reserved-