by Luisa Black
Every band I’ve ever started has been an idea before it was a sound, a response to songs that have haunted me in one way or another. What happens if you cross the lean proto-punk of 1980 Pretenders with the tuneful rhythms of northern soul? Something like The Blacks. Ok what about the darker currents of Roxy Music spliced with west coast pop? Something like Rich Girls. Some of these albums have shaped a sonic tendency, some were just personal obsessions. Most wiped out one version of a life and replaced it with a new one. All of them were gateways to the other side. Listening…
Beach Boys – Endless Summer
I am eight and I spot the colorful cover in the bin at a southern California grocery store. This is where I learn about reverb before knowing what reverb is. I will chase this sound for the rest of my life. Fast forward three years through the misery of middle school to…
The Pretenders – Pretenders 1
In which my eleven year old self discovers Chrissy Hynde and I immediately demand a haircut. I carry the album with me the next day, point to the cover in the salon chair and say: THAT. This becomes my teenage look and lasts until I escape the suburbs, walk into a college boyfriend’s apartment and hear…
Pavement – Slanted + Enchanted
The high art noise of Summer Babe. I’ve never heard anything like it. A slurred, underground version of California, raw and languid at the same time. Later I’ll teach myself guitar and work out the solo to Summer Babe and then it’s quickly down the rabbit hole of the Matador Records catalog which leads to strange real-world paths. I see so many Pavement shows I finally meet the band. I follow them to Berlin where I meet Nikki Sudden of the Swell Maps at a Kreutzberg afterparty. I end up as an early touring guitar player in Preston School of Industry, the post-Pavement spinoff band led by Spiral Stairs. We tour Europe and the US supported by The Shins. This is so far from where I started it’s hard to comprehend. But that’s music for you.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
Indie rock is so boring. God I hate it. It’s pious and calcified and belongs to style-free man-children in dumb flannel plaid. Wait. What’s this. A spider in fishnets crossed with Dee Dee Ramone? YES YES YES. Time to start a new band. Enter The Blacks.
Doris Duke – I’m a Loser
2013. I’m living in London. I don’t know how I got here. My life is a mess. I subsist on air and bourbon. My beloved Blacks are dead. I can barely listen to music and haven’t picked up a guitar in two years. The downhearted tales of an obscure soul singer from 1969 are about the only thing that sounds good to me. Doris Duke sings about poverty and addiction, betrayal and heartache. For a time things do not get better for me. They get worse. But listening to Duke there’s a kernel of an idea in this. If nothing else, I can write a pop song about it. Maybe even start a band.