GET TO KNOW: Project Blackbird
With their eagerly-awaited sophomore studio album 'If This Is The End' available to stream and download now, Project Blackbird have proven once again that they are one of the UK's most prized up-and-coming names. Filled with rich and atmospheric compositions, it shows a far richer and more dynamic direction than we were expecting.
So with the new LP out now, we sat them down to find out more about their experiences and what has shaped their sound over the years.
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
Jon: Piano, then the trumpet.
Jamie: Drums – I had a miniature 5-piece kit when I was 7.
Alan: Guitar, when I was 8.
Ming: Piano, followed by French horn for my elementary school band.
What was the first album you remember owning?
Jon: Deep Purple; “The Singles As and Bs”. I still have it.
Jamie: “Wish” by The Cure – I saved my pocket money and went on the bus to get it as soon as it was released.
Alan: Sum 41, “Does This Look Infected?” was the first album I bought, but I was given Rage Against the Machine, “Rage Against the Machine” at around age 9 by this cool cat who could see the hellraiser in me!
Ming: The first LP was a K-Tel compilation called “Hit Explosion” that featured A Flock of Seagulls, Haircut 100, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Toni Basil, among others. Shortly after that I bought my first “real” album, “Business as Usual” by Men At Work.
Did you ever form a band when you were younger and if so, what did they sound like?
Jon: I’ve formed/been in many different bands. The first one was a rock band called Stormchild when I was 15, it was pretty terrible. Coincidentally it also had a singer named Ming!
Jamie: I formed a band at school called SOLD after one of us banged our head on a For Sale board whilst thinking of a name. We sounded like early Cure or New Order.
Alan: Yes, they sounded like Trivium + Metallica + Guns ‘n’ Roses and were called Odious.
Ming: I would have loved to have formed a band when I was in high school, but I didn’t know how to play any instruments in that way, wasn’t a confident singer, and hadn’t written any songs. I remember my friend Seth coming over and all we did was come up with lots of band names we thought were cool. I didn’t start playing bass guitar and join a band until I was 25.
What is a song you wish you had written yourself?
Jon: “Beirut”- Ibrahim Maalouf.
Jamie: “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak – I don’t think anyone has created such a classic song with three chords, great lead guitar and falsetto since.
Alan: “Midnight in Harlem” by Derek Trucks and Mike Mattison.
Ming: Maybe “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths – just perfect, and the kind of song where people who love it, love it as if it were written just for them. Or “The Joke”, by Brandi Carlile.
What has been the most thrilling moment about creating your own music?
Jon: Having strangers making lovely comments about how it made them feel.
Jamie: Witnessing it change form and transcend into something magical after other people’s input.
Alan: I’m anticipating it will be receiving the first ever album I’ve recorded [“If This Is the End”], but so far it’s playing live.
Ming: We have had a few people who didn’t previously know us or our music come up to us after gigs to say how listening to us perform helped alleviate their feelings of depression or social anxiety. Those moments of connection are amazing.
And what about the most frustrating part?
Jon: Time and getting the music out there.
Jamie: Music is cathartic whether writing, recording or performing live. The only frustrating part is if someone doesn’t get it or understand it.
Alan: Arthritis and tendonitis.
Ming: Having to self-promote and self-market as a band, e.g. through social media – this thing about making and playing the music not being “enough”.
Which artist would you most love to share a stage with?
Jon: I am very fortunate to have shared stages with many incredible artists over the years given that I played in The Specials’ brass section. So at festivals I have been on the same stage as David Bowie, Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash, Blur, Sharon Jones to name but a few. Amy Winehouse joined us on stage at V-Fest which was a great moment.
For us as Project Blackbird it would be great to have someone like Ibrahim Maalouf come and play some trumpet on one of our tracks.
Jamie: Paul Mc Cartney – to just jam or play old rock ‘n’ roll tunes would be fantastic.
Alan: The Aristocrats, although it would be terrifying!
Ming: I think maybe sharing a stage would be too difficult for me, but I would love to have us support artists such as Trashcan Sinatras, The The, Thievery Corporation, Angel Olsen…the list goes on. Or just have some of them wander up to us after a gig and say, “Hey, I really like what you do.”
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Jon: Playing music.
Jamie: Recording and performing for people who enjoy new music and a great gig!
Alan: At one point I imagined putting out an album a year, but now that I know what hard work it is I’m not so sure!
Ming: Hopefully writing more, and still recording and performing with Project Blackbird with some more tours and airplay under our belt.
Listen to Project Blackbird's new album 'If This Is The End' below.