Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Robert Levon Been isn’t about to say making his band’s new record was particularly difficult. But, the California trio’s sixth record, “Specter at the Feast,” followed the abrupt death of his father Michael, the band’s sound engineer, who fronted 1980s pop band The Call, and had particular struggles.
“Any album that’s worth a s— is difficult to make,” Been scoffs. “There were lots of different things that made this difficult. After the last tour, we were exhausted, and my father’s passing at the end of the tour meant there was a mourning process to go through. Things are always difficult when you’re caught in the eye of the storm.”
Named for a quote from Macbeth, “Specter at the Feast” finds co-frontman/bassist Been and his band mates — guitarist and co-singer Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro — losing themselves in shoegazey psychedelia, barreling heavy rock, and occasional quieter songs like the doleful album closer, “Lose Yourself.” Amidst it all is an anthemic cover of The Call’s “Let the Day Begin.”
“That song found its way onto the album somehow. It wasn’t planned, but it felt right to remember all the love and help my father gave us. It’s always difficult covering someone’s song. You want to be respectful but also put your fingerprint on it. We turned that song inside out. We knew a ballad was not what we needed. We needed a song that felt like it was about standing back up and moving forward.”
Emotional about gear
One of the first songs BRMC recorded during the “Specter” sessions wasn’t for the album: “Heaven and All” was written for “Sound City,” Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl’s documentary about the Neve recording console behind legendary albums like Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”
“It seemed like a good idea,” Been says of contributing a song. “But then we walk in and there’s Dave Grohl standing there, Butch Vig’s standing there, and there’s all these cameras. We definitely felt the pressure. You think you’re going to embarrass yourself but it turned out to be really fun.”
The console, which they then used for “Specter,” was used for BRMC’s 2001debut, too: “I don’t get emotional about gear, but it felt good to have that console back in our lives.”