Christian Bland

The Black Angels

Rebuilding our site over the last two years, we were often coming across to numerous old archives and files full of memories, chaotically scattered in our hard disks. Lists, articles and -of course- interviews. What you can read below is a very interesting chat we had with the brain of The Black Angels, guitarist and one of the main songwriters of the band, Christian Bland. The interview was made about two years ago, in June 2013 more precisely. At the end of the interview we asked Christian if there was any chance that the band would visit Greece for a live performance. His answer was that there was a 50% possibility of The Black Angels to tour in Europe. 6 months later, on December 4, the ultimate neo-psychedelic band from Austin-Texas were on the stage of Fuzz Club to perform for the first time ever for Greek audience. Undoubtedly, the best act in our country for 2013 and one of the best our eyes have ever seen. And it's not just that: In less than two years later, the band return to our country for one more show, which is expected to be equally wondrous. This time along with The Black Keys, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Athens Rockwave Festival. Well, see you guys on the 30th of May in Terra Vibe! Till then, check the full Christian Bland's interview for Basement, as it was published about two years ago on our "old and heroic" blog... 

The Basement: We would like to start from the...beginning: Could you recall when and how did The Black Angels first meet and decide to form a band?
Alex and I grew up together in Seabrook, TX. We met at the church that my Dad was the preacher. I'm 2 years older than him so after high school, I went to Florida State University and 4 years later ended up moving to Austin in Aug. 2002 where we eventually met back up and started playing music and trying to find people to play with. The Black Angels started in May 2004 when we met Stephanie. 

The Basement: What are your memories of those early years? Was it hard for a new psychedelic rock band to progress and become known back then? Obviously, it's much more easier nowadays, as psychedelic rock (and psychedelic pop) has become very popular among rock fans.
When we started there weren't really any psychedelic rock  bands in Austin, but being that Austin was the birthplace of psychedelic rock n roll with the 13th Floor Elevators, it was the perfect void to be filling in the early 2000's. It seemed like our crowds doubled every time we would play. I think psychedelic rock was hibernating in Austin and we woke it back up. 

The Basement: We consider The Black Angels as one of the bands responsible for spreading the neo-psychedelia movement/trend. Would you agree with us?
I think so. Our goal's to keep what we consider the most creative form of music thriving. I think through Austin Psych Fest we've helped the movement spread.

The Basement: When we first listened to your music, we unconsciously thought of Jim Morrison and The Doors. Would you consider them as one of your influences? Which other bands/artists would you mention on that list?
Definitely. I can remember the first time I heard the Doors when I saw 'Apocalypse Now!' when I was 13. I was mesmerized by the opening scene when they play 'The End' over the napalm bomb explosions. Other influential bands early on were The Beatles. I discovered my Dads' Sgt. Peppers album when I was 10 and would listen to it religiously. I also discovered his copy of Bob Dylans' 'The Times Are a' Changin' which had a big influence on how we write our lyrics. The first Velvet Underground album, Pink Floyds' Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Jesus & Mary Chains' Psychocandy, and Loves' Forever Changes are 4 other favorites. Phil Spector's Wall of Sound is another big influence.

The Basement: What about new bands? Are there any groups that stick out and have somehow impressed you?
Most of the bands at Austin Psych Fest would fit this category. To name a few: Clinic, The Raveonettes, Psychic Ills, The Growlers, The Mallard, Crystal Stilts, Apache Dropout, Ty Segall, White Fence.

The Basement: Black Angels have just released their fourth studio album 'Indigo Meadow'. Are you satisfied with the final outcome?
I like it. I can groove out to it. I think it's a natural progression from the last 3 albums albums. I feel it's our most far out sounding album yet. I'm excited to see where we go next. 

The Basement: We read that it's supposed to be the first part of a new trilogy; first one was your first three albums obviously. Could you explain for us this concept a little bit more? For instance, what facts/characteristics make your first three albums a trilogy? And what should we expect from your new one?
In this case the design dictated this idea. I had a bunch of people who were upset I didn't do another optical art design for the album cover. I thought it was time to go a different direction, especially since we got rid of one of our original band members. It seemed the time was right. 'Phosphene Dream' sounds like a chapter in a fairy tale as does 'Indigo Meadow'. We never really think things out too much, we just let it happen naturally. So the fairy tale we're writing is creating itself and we're just the scribes. Maybe the next chapter will be 'Pretty Little Angel Lies'.

The Basement: There's been some criticism over the album's sound and general approach, some say that it is deliberately more 'mainstream' and 'easy', so as your band would gain more fans and popularity... What would you comment on that?
For the most part we've gotten a positive response from everyone. The shows for this albums' tour have seen more people coming out than ever before, so I think we're doing well.  As far as playing more mainstream music, we have influences ranging from the Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3, to The Zombies and The Kinks. Different influences have shown through on each of our albums. The Kinks and Zombies were mainstream, but didn't they make such amazing music? Most peoples attention spans are very short and in oder to connect with them you can't drone out for 25 minutes all the time. Mainstream can be a good thing (it was in the 50's & 60's) Unfortunately todays mainstream sucks, but we're hoping to change that. If our style of music was the mainstream, that would be a good thing in my opinion. 

The Basement: Do you have a favourite Black Angels album? What about favourite songs?
I like 'Passover' because it captures the first 25 years of our life on Earth into one hour long album. We're weren't very experienced musicians at this point. I'd only been playing guitar for 4 1/2 years. I like how fresh and innocent it sounds. My favorite Black Angels' songs right now are: 'Black Grease', 'Better Off Alone', 'Bad Vibrations', 'Always Maybe', 'Science Killer', 'You on the Run', 'I Hear Colors', and 'Twisted Light' 


The Basement: We absolutely adore 'Never/Ever'. Is there a story behind it? What was the writing process of this song?
We wrote this song when we were all living together at 1300 McKinley. I remember writing the intro and the drum beat and we built around that. Alex wrote all the lyrics. We had a jam space at our house, so we could practice whenever we wanted. This song came about from just jamming together for several hours a day. It was our attempt to sound like 'Sister Ray'.

The Basement: Austin Psych Fest: You and The Reverberation Association Society run this awesome project. How was the whole thing conceived at first? Did you expect its huge progress and success? Is there any hope we could see it in Europe someday? :)
The original idea was to have a psychedelic party on the saturday before SXSW started with all our friends bands we'd met on tour. So the first APF was in 2008 on March 8 with 11 bands. I could never have imagined from that year what it would become in 2013! Of course our original vision was to make it into the biggest possible gathering of psychedelic artists/bands as we could, but I could never have imagined how big it would become within 6 years. The first year we had 750 people and this year we had nearly 3400. We'll be having a psych fest in Angers, France later this year. Check the website for updates on this.

The Basement: The UFO Club: You and Lee Blackwell from Night Beats. How did this cool collaboration occur?  
The Night Beats played at APF 3 and Danny Lee approached me and asked if I'd be into collaborating together, and of course I was. So that summer in 2010,  we got together and started recording the UFO CLub album.

The Basement: Christian, you are obviously in love with music and you live and breath for it... What other things in life do you enjoy apart from it?
I went to school for advertising and graphic design. I've designed all The Black Angels album covers and 7"s' and most all of our tour posters and t-shirts. I love screen printing as well. I used to print all the black angel t-shirts and posters, but we've gotten so busy I can't do that anymore. I also love reading books. Right now I'm into WW 1 history. I'm reading a book called 'Unknown Soldiers'. It was such a horrible and violent time in our history w/ trench warfare and the introduction of poisonous gas and machine guns. I like reading biographies as well. I'm reading a Syd Barrett bio right now as well. 

The Basement: Well, this is the best part... :) In a recent interview you had with a Greek magazine, you said that it's quite possible Black Angels are visiting Greece for some live shows. Is there any progress/update on this wonderful news? What are the odds? We can assure you that Black Angels have a huge and extremely dedicated fanbase in Greece...
I really hope we can this fall when we head back to Europe. The odds are 50/50. 

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