Interview: Sean Smith – The Blackout

So! We actually caught up with Gavin and Rhys earlier in the year at Hit the Deck in Nottingham…
I’m sorry! The two most boring members.. (Rhys walks into the room) Speak of the devil there’s one, where Gavin? Gavin is 18th sexiest man in Wales though, according to a new poll. Beat Aled Phillips (former lead singer of Kids in Glass Houses) by seven places, so fuck Aled. It’s not like he can say anything bad about me in the press because his band are no more anyway. So suck a big bag of dicks Aled!

When we did speak to them- at that time, you were discussing the idea of self-releasing, but I don’t think the crowd sourcing element had been agreed upon, when did that decision get made and how did you reach that decision?
Basically, we came to the decision that it was only going to happen with crowd funding in the end, because we left our management and our label. Before hand we asked our management if they could find us a deal and they came back with a couple of options, but they weren’t any good really, so we thought if that is all that’s being offered to us the only way this is going to be made is if kids want it to be made- and people who like us want it to be made. When we put the Kickstarter up, I was doubtful of it. We needed ten grand to make the record, and every penny we made off the Kickstarter went into the album, videos, press. Literally Gavin, Matthew and Rhys have been our label, and everything for us, so it’s been super super hands on. We’ve got a massive stack of CDs in Gavin’s garage now. We’re kind of doing it a little punk rock I guess. There was no other option, if the kids don’t want it then we are done as a band. But in the first twenty-eight hours it made the ten grand!
That must be pretty overwhelming to reach the goal that quick?
Completely blew my mind. I genuinely thought that after the year we’d had previously, like we didn’t do much because we had weddings,.. two of the band had kids…etc. So we had a load of time off, so we were like “do people actually care any more?” and as much as the answer is probably no, we saw that enough people did care and wanted another CD, so we put up the demos of the songs that we’d recorded in Gavin’s garage. We couldn’t practice there now if we wanted to (it’s full of their CDs). We wrote it all there, put the snippets up and kids pledged for it and it blew our minds that anyone cared. It blows my mind everyday. Every show on this tour I go out there and my face is just beaming, because if I’ve seen at least one person smile and- it sounds super cheesy- but I love that somebody wants to come and see us, and we get to play our music and I get to run about, and spit, and climb stuff, and fall off stuff, and cut myself, and grind on people who don’t want to be grinded on and meet parents who look super upset until I get in their face. We’ve always been about performing first, so the fact that we got to make the CD and now tour it is unbelievable.

With regard to the crowd sourcing you guys and a number of other bands are really embracing now, is it something you would recommend and would you do it again?
You know what, when we did the first pledge we got asked ‘did we want to do a pledge’ and it was sold to me the way some many people think it is “you ask your fans for the money first” and I saw that as begging. So I said “boys I don’t want to change face” and go from this band that is on Epitpah the biggest independent label to “please we need money.” But when we met them and they were like “nobody has to buy anything, if the kids don’t want it they won’t buy it, so you can put anything on the list” so here’s a list of things you could do. So were like listen, I like to think we are one of the easiest bands to get on with and we interact with people who like our band because at the end of the day we are just six scum-bags from South Wales. The fact that we have been allowed to leave South Wales is probably one of the most stupid things I’ve heard anyway, but the fact that we get to perform for people and people like us is stupid. But they were like is there anything you want to do with the fans, and we were like ‘what do we want to do with each other first? When was the last time we went to the zoo boys?’ We haven’t been to the zoo in a while and we’ve never been all together. Actually no, we went in Sydney once.. But anyway, so we put Bristol Zoo up there, ten places if anyone wants to come to the zoo with us you can buy them, you don’t have to. They all sold out instantly. The Bristol Zoo was the first pledge event we did, we get there and I thought “is it just going to be us six walking around? And then ten kids looking really awkward with us and each other?!” we got there and it was fucking brilliant. We didn’t spend any time with each other we just spent it with everyone, and we got on so well. Went round saw the monkeys and that, had a look at a Bear! Towards the end of it Snoz decided- Bristol Zoo has this thing to see if you can run faster than a Cheetah, you aren’t racing a Cheetah, but a Cheetah can run eighty kilometres an hour and you’ve got to run through this speed system that tells you how fast- So Snoz did twenty-eight kilometres, he’s fucking crap compared to a Cheetah. If you are thinking of killing Snoz send a Cheetah after him, because it is going to catch him, we’ve established this, but half way through the speed gate he fell twisted, broke his collar bone, four days before we are meant to record the album. So we ended up getting two different drummers on the Hope record, we had Philip Jenkins from Kids in Glass Houses (rest in peace- they’re not dead I don’t know why I said that) and a guy called Tom Wench who used to be in a band called Stamping Ground and they played on the record, and the pledge thing was a success I think.

We did get slagged off on Radio One, by Kimberley from Girls Aloud and Example (Elliot Gould) they had basically been told a band is asking fans for money before they make the album “what do you think of this” which is how I was told about it too. So he slagged us off! When we did our ‘Start The Party’ video in Ibiza, we ended up back at a place that he was at and he came over and apologised for it all and was lovely and we had a nice night. But a lot of people look down on it, and now the way it is going I think it is going to become a standard. It has to become a standard, because you can’t sell your stuff to labels any more because they’re going to start taking your live merch, part of your fees and that’s gonna end bands careers. You’re seeing bands now like Kids in Glass Houses, unbelievable bands that had to quit because it can’t be done any more. There’s no money in it, Canterbury have gone, Lost Alone are going. All these bands that can’t afford to tour any more, and in the next couple of years we are going to lose a loads of bands. Unless something changes! It’s sad but I don’t know what is going to happen. I think crowd sourcing has to be the way forward.

Does it also makes it easier to put out smaller records on a more regular scale, which helps with the need for constant new music
That’s the thing we were talking about it, an album is like a dead medium really. You could do two five song E.Ps a year, one every six months and you have a full cycle you are constantly out. Constantly on tour if you can afford to tour. So the album thing, I don’t know how much longer? It seems like people are still doing it because that’s what we are used to “You must have ten songs!” but you could release a track every month and then you’ve made an album over a year. So I don’t know how it is going to go, it’s going to be interesting to see how people survive because soon it will be people who are on big labels, because independent labels are going to have to die. Well not die! “Sean Smith says all Indy labels must die, and everyone who works for them.” Yeah, but I genuinely don’t know how it is going to go.

It feels like the pledge fans are more passionate about it because they feel involved in the process.. Do you feel that?
You find that because people are more invested, they seem to tweet you more. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Wolves CD but we couldn’t write our own thanks list, we couldn’t put lyrics in. So we’ve made lyric videos for all the songs, so we are going to put that on You Tube and stuff. Kids are over the moon that their name is in the CD, so that also gives them the incentive that they want to brag about it. Looking at it now, we didn’t think lets put their names in because they’ll do this, but looking back it wasn’t a bad idea. So any bands reading this I’d do that if I was you.

The house shows sound amazing, what was that like?We did full bands shows on the pledge thing, so we turned up with all our gear in peoples front rooms. But for this one we just did five acoustic shows, but they were awesome. I remember when we first did the pledge thing we were like, “we’re going to end up in some weird freaks house and their going to kill us.” Like just one guy in his living room, who doesn’t invite any friends? Haha Yeah! But it never happened, and we all thought it would be the same people over and over and we actually met loads of new people. One girl we weren’t even her favourite band right?- but her parents were loaded! She had a house and we played the hallway between the main building of her house and the giant swimming pool with water slides, we played there and were not even her favourite band. Was she like totally open about it? Oh yeah, I said “who’s your favourite band?” and she said Aiden or something like that. After the show we stripped down to our pants and went and jumped in the pool. It was an awesome day. We got to meet loads of people we’d never usually get to meet. We DJ’d somebody’s house party and it was the girl’s birthday and she’d been learning pole dancing. So half way through the night the Mother was like “can you put this Beyonce song on?” Her Mum was? Yeah her Mum! Like they do pole-ercise! I don’t think pole dancing is looked at as bad now, as bad as it was five years ago when “only strippers do it” now it’s mainly girls that want to do it. She did it with her instructor and they did a show. We did loads of house parties with people we’d never met and since become friends with, like solid friends with them and hang out. It was awesome, a really good experience.


Does the crowd sourcing add any pressure, because you are putting your fans cash into the project and not a labels money… Is that less pressure or more pressure?
I’d never really thought about it to be honest, like we had the songs written. We wrote like ten to fifteen songs, we considered doing an album but we ended up picking the best and heaviest five I guess. Not heaviest, but the ones with the most meaning. We just thought these are Blackout songs and we thought the kids will hopefully like them. I haven’t read any negative reviews. (Turns to Snoz who is eating a Curlywurly on the other side of the room.) Snoz have you read a negative review? “He shakes his head” Yeah so it has been quite good, were really happy with it.

If people listen to it and aren’t happy with, they are fucking wrong and they can come at me (@seansmithsucks) and tell me, and I will berate them and tell them how wrong they are and make them listen to it, and they’ll come back to me and say “Sean, I know you’re a chompsy knob and most people hate you…but you know what? You are bang right about how good Wolves is.”

You’ve already touched on it briefly but the tone of the album, it does feel quite heavy. Is that the sound The Blackout want to be associated with now, and that you’ve achieved without a labels influence?
No, this is the thing, we’ve never written songs for a label. People are like “I much preferred it when you did your old heavy shit” our first EP had ‘High Tide’ on it which might be one of the softest songs we’ve ever written in our lives. So people are comparing like ‘Riot’, and ‘You And Your Friends’ to some of the ‘Start the Party’ stuff but we had ‘The Devil Inside’ on that which is quiet heavy. Some of your favourite bands are like super different. Like my favourite band is ‘Faith No More’ and you cannot pin-point what they are going to do next, like they do mad crazy shit and then next minute they are doing pop songs and Bee Gee’s covers. So we have always been like lets go in a room and just write the best song we can. Someone will come up with an idea and we’ll just work on it. But this was born out of everything we’ve been though in the last two years and all the shit we’ve been though with management and labels and stuff. We were thrown to the wolves by labels and management and we like to think we’ve come back with the best thing we can. \m/


!! Speed Round !! 

What would you like to be remembered for?
Being the greatest man on earth!

Dream dinner guest (dead or alive)
Alive please!! No, Die Antwoord the South African hip-hop group.

How do you spend in front of the mirror?
I don’t read newspapers.

Favourite swear word?
Fuck, but isn’t everyone’s?

Best excuse you’ve used to break-up with someone?
I’m sorry I’m dead!

Best day of your life?
Shit! I’d like to think I haven’t had it yet. Best day of my life, today.

Worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
I can’t say that!

Last band you went to see live (not on the same bill as you)?
Fuck, who was it! No Devotion!

What would you say if you met the Queen?
Alright love, how are you?

Last time you were Starstruck?
Brian May at Reading when he was on the stage with My Chemical Romance.

Whisper or shout?
Shout, that’s all I do.

Worst job pre-band?
I’ve only had two and it was either working in McDonald’s or Castle Bingo.

Who would you like to hear cover one of your songs, and which song?
Slayer, and It’s ‘High Tide Baby’ because it is the softest one.

Sean, thank you a pleasure as always! Check out the new EP ‘Wolves’ now!