Blaenavon: “This ain’t no fancy snowman, we don’t fuck around.”
Don’t get too settled. Blaenavon want to shake things up.
Published: 1:00 pm, July 27, 2016
“Everything we’ve said so far isn’t allowed to be printed” is the perfect way to sum up a chat with Blaenavon. The full throttle trio are well and truly enjoying their moment to shine, like there ever was any doubt it was going to come.
How many bands can say that they were signed by an influential label at the humble ages of 15? It definitely makes a GCSE look insignificant. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Blaenavon, scooped up at the tender age by Transgressive Records and thrown straight into the critical limelight with debut single ‘Into The Night’ sending music writers into a frenzy they were only able to calm by expressing just how young these guys really were. Almost five years later, and it’s something the trio are still picked up on to this day.
“I think we’ve tricked people into thinking that we’re still young,” observes frontman Ben Gregory. Joined by bassist Frank Wright and drummer Harris McMillan, it all came together covering Muse tracks in the early years of their fabled education, something that’s evolved and mutated into a haunting indiepocalypse sound, summed up by ‘I Will Be The World’, a driving descent into chaos that shifts from melancholic breezes to unhinged fury in a second.
“Yeah, up to a year ago, all of our press said that we were still 16 and ‘hotly tipped’,” interject Harris. “That we’re still doing our GCSEs and recording in half term when in reality we’ve been living at home for two years!” This definitely isn’t the “staying at home watching Jeremy Kyle” type of reality that may be pictured, this is a band fully jumping into their sound - working on unrelenting, melodic anthems that both pull you closer and punch you in the gut at the same time.
Ben sums it up in a manner nobody else possibly can. “Our sound is like a Year 6 jazz band playing ‘Under The Sea’ being fronted by like… Damon Albarn.” The similarities are (kind of) there, but it does match a true originality of sound, blurring a variety of influences together into an ever so potent cocktail. Last year’s ‘Miss World’ EP was a fast-track introduction to Blaenavon in fully-fledged rock star mode, embracing the sights and stages they’ve taken to over the past eighteen months including shows with Foals, Bloc Party and Warpaint.
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It’s these experiences that have helped to unconsciously influence their upcoming record. “When we toured with Warpaint we just thought, oh this is so fucking good and we came home and just listened to their second album for a month solid,” notes Frank.
That record in question sees them team up with one of the most acclaimed guitar producers of the modern era in Jim Abbiss, only the guy who’s single handedly had a role to play in defining collections from Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Placebo among others. Aside from his questionable Indian takeaway decisions, his influence has been huge for the young band in pulling together that first statement of intent.
“We were having difficulty recording,” recalls Harris. “And we all went out for a beer and a curry or something, and then in the next three weeks it all just happened and came together.”
For Ben, he was vital to focusing their sound. “He’s amazing to work with and it wasn’t just the curry, he’s an absolute legend.”
“He pushed our sound in a fantastic direction, as you see some bands that get some over-indulgent producer in which kind of tarnishes it all. He was brilliant.”
2016 has already seen Blaenavon take their sound across the pond, with a rapturously received set at SXSW that saw them convert industry-lovers into die-hard fans. It’s that feeling of a band finally reaching that moment of greatness, when it all clips into place and the world finally starts taking notice as to how momentous this band could truly become.
“Blaenavon is like a snowball rolling down the hill, collecting snow as we go and we’re very nearly at the bottom of that hill as a fully formed snowman,” explains Harris
“But some snowmen have three separate sections, like a head, second section and a huge body ready to burst?” questions Ben, bringing together an impressive knowledge of snow-based individuals.
“This ain’t no fancy snowman, we don’t fuck around.”
If there’s one certainly, it’s definitely that. The album is completed and lined up to drop before the end of the year. In the meantime, the rollicking trio have some friendly advice for all looking to dip into the Blaenavon world.
“Just sit back, relax and prepare to get blasted by some fresh new rhythms. All I’m saying is, don’t get comfy.”