Interview: BlackWaters

Music writer Finlay Holden talks origins with Sheffield's BlackWaters.

Finlay Holden
2nd February 2020
Image: Finlay Holden
Before their headline show at THINK TANK, Sheffield-based rock 4-piece BlackWaters chat to Finlay Holden backstage about their beginnings, struggles, community projects and recent musical developments.

How did your band form?

David: Me and Ollie wanted to get out of Northampton and be in a band, so we went to college in Guildford to get musical diplomas in our disciplines, and there we met these two.

James: We all come from different places but had the same desire to pursue music, and we were the one band in college that were together right from the beginning.

Has it got to the stage where you don’t have to rely on part-time work as much anymore?

Everyone: No.

James: It's often misconstrued by the public as to where that point actually is. People see us selling out headline shows and say to me “oh, you could easily quit your job”, and I say are you fucking mental, I have like no money. But you can’t blame people for thinking that

Max: It would be different if we sold our music physically and earned some money through that instead of just Spotify giving us shit-all. Part-time stuff is incredibly mind-numbing work, we don’t want to be doing it really.

When did you record the newer singles you’ve been releasing?
David: We did ‘Two Time Lover’, ‘Forget Myself’, and ‘21 Lessons’ at the same time with a guy called Tom Mitchener down in Watford back in September, and we’d already done ‘I’m Not Your Man’ with him as well. He's a really easy guy to work with. We’ve got another one coming out at the end of this tour, called ‘I Want It All’, that’s an exclusive for you.

Did you deliberately move away from a punk sound to almost indie-rock?

Max: Yeah, I think we wanted to prove that we could do more than just loud punk music; we all listen to so much different music, and we’re so much better than being restricted to just one style.

David: We’d only just moved to Sheffield when we wrote the ‘People Street’ EP, and at the time a lot of utter shit was going on, so that’s what we wrote about. We were working in a practice room that’s just as dingy as this place… you can’t go into a place like that and write cheery music, so we came out with some dark stuff.

James: I find it weird when a band just writes the same type of song again and again, like you’re literally just doing the same thing day in, day out, with the exact same mindset. The EP is just a representation of where we were at that time. We got that out of our system, and then we were like, okay, now we’re going to write something a bit different.

Are you planning future releases in the same vein as where you’re at now?

Max: I think we’re at a good place now, yeah.

David: Our recent stuff has quite a bouncy mood. Some of the other stuff we’re doing has the same mood but goes a little bit darker as well, still with the catchy elements to it though.

Ollie: We want to do an album, but we want to do that right because it could be a platform for bigger things. I’d imagine there’d be some sort of EP release first rather than just a long string of singles leading up to that.

What artists have influenced as you were growing up or even now?

Max: The first band that cataclysmically flipped a switch in our minds, as a group, was FIDLAR. I grew up listening to utter shit, like musical theatre. I do think Pink Floyd may have changed my life though, I find them very therapeutic.

Ollie: System Of A Down was the first band I listened to that just do whatever the fuck they want all the time, and I’d say that influenced me massively.

David: The only cool one I can say is probably Alanis Morissette, other than that maybe Def Leppard, who I’ve seen live.

James: I don’t think there’s one band that “changed my life”, I think that’s a bit of an intense statement.

What smaller bands are you championing at the moment?

James: Nervous Pills, they’re really great guys who we invited to work with us. There are loads of great bands in Sheffield, Black Mamba Fever are a really fun band too.

Max: Another good one is SPIT, back down in Guildford, they’ve released three tunes now and they’re all great; sort of stoner rock stuff. We’ve met a lot of good musicians through our Arts Lab, a lot of creative people that work for magazines and stuff all just getting involved together.

Can you explain the Jarr’ed Up Arts Lab in more detail?

Max: We nicked the idea from the version down on Drury Lane where legends like Bowie used to hang out, watch films and do a load of bullshit, basically. It’s a great creative space. It’s really nice that people can just get together and paint or write poetry or something. It’s not necessarily just music.

James: Some people call Sheffield the biggest village in the UK. You can go down to the pub and find all these different types of people that might half know each other and all do different things like photography, or music, or magazines, but there’s nothing directly connecting them. We wanted to build this base where people can just meet up and hang out with people that are on the same page.

And what about the Yard Parties you guys do as well?

Max: We saw how welcoming Sheffield was and effectively invited 70 strangers to a party in our house, and it didn’t seem to go too badly, so we kept throwing them. It gets so loud it's ridiculous, we’ve definitely had noise complaints. We’ve had people like Calva Louise, Nervous Pills, RedFaces, Joey Mojito… they’ve all been great so far, and the nights are only getting bigger.

BlackWaters are a rock band that can provide a loud, high-energy experience and then switch to slower, melodic and thought-provoking music before riling you up yet again. They’re definitely ones to watch on the indie scene; check out their latest single ‘Two Time Lover’ now.

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