It’s an understatement to say the media world can be guilty of only understanding art on a surface level. A perfect example of this could be seen as the much-buzzed-about and young British art-punk band, Black Midi, made their U.S. television debut this past week. Like most new bands, exposure on any level can be paramount to their momentum. But instead of making the first appearance on the late night talk show circuit, the band was asked to perform on Chicago’s WGN morning news show.
I’m not saying the people at WGN were not fans of the band, with their challenging and sometimes punishing brand of post-punk. But I’m guessing there was a sense of “what the hell just happened” lingering in the air after the band tore through a particularly vicious version of their song “Near DT, MI” from their fantastic debut album, “Schlagenheim” (which is German for, “To Hit”). Bassist and singer Cameron Picton shouts the words in a locked position as the rest of the band – guitarists Geordie Greep and Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin and drummer Morgan Simpson – absolutely dismantle the studio with their intensity. It will go down in what will be another chapter in the folklore surrounding this already storied band and in a way, makes sense for what they are out to accomplish: the complete dismantling of conventions.
“We didn’t really set out to start a band, per se. We were just friends,” says Greep, whose singular vocal stylings and intricate guitar playing are cornerstones to the band’s sound. “There was never really a point where we were like ‘we’re a band now. We’re a band so let’s try to make it as a band.’ We had gigs and it just went.”
The band members all met while attending the prestigious BRIT School and started Black Midi right after graduating. Listening to their brief body of work, it’s baffling to think of a band that can cram so many ideas into each of their songs, with a masterful grasp of controlled chaos, and are all in their early twenties.
“We just start with one idea or two ideas. But the main idea is to keep the songs exciting, dramatic and interesting. They need a real trajectory. It’s just about keeping them moving and to have a thematic structure,” says Greep of the band’s creative process. “Tension and release is one of the most important parts in music, really. We weren’t really thinking about making an album, it was just more about having songs we liked for the live show.”
Catch Black Midi on tour this Fall.