It's debut EP time for London-based outfit Blackaby, a new project headed up by multi-instrumentalist William Blackaby. 'What's On The TV?' is just as lovely as you'd imagine a release with that name - lighthearted, fun blasts of indie-pop that somehow make the boring everyday bits of life feel wonderfully charming. "This EP looks back at youth," he explains. "Learning to write essays and discovering alcohol ('The friend who will travel with me’). The mundane problems of town living. Trying to be cool. Trying skateboard tricks. Trying to fit in ('Eyeing the prizes, watching the other boys’). The way out is growing up but then the same problems are still there, you just create more distractions (‘they do a dance on a Monday night’)." Pop the kettle on and give it a listen below - it'll calm down your afternoon for sure.
Hi Blackaby, how's it going?
Hello! It's going ok - happy to be releasing songs which gives me some tiny sense of purpose. I have a dog to play with, so everything's ok. I usually teach instruments in schools which I'm doing on Zoom. Not ideal but cool to keep up with the kids.
Are you pleased lockdown's lifting a bit?
It's nice to start to see people, but I still feel a little cautious and wary.
It must be weird releasing music during a pandemic?
It's been fine releasing this EP so far, and I've had plenty of time to sit at home trying to promote it online and make Mum and Dad buy it. Missed playing live but did a session for 'Close Encounter Club' recently which was really fun.
Has the virus mucked up many of your plans?
Yeah, the bastard mucked up everything! I was supposed to be doing a tour of China playing bass for Swimming Tapes in February, but that was cancelled for obvious reasons. I was also going to be playing keyboards for another artist at SXSX. I was gutted when it all got cancelled but soon realised everyone was in the same boat and just feel very lucky to be healthy and safe right now.
Do you have a home-recording set-up? Where do you typically write and record?
I do have a basic set-up which allows me to record demos. I write sitting by the window of our flat looking down onto the street. There's a lot to look at to trigger inspiration. Sometimes I make eye contact with someone on the street, and it's a funny moment. Sometimes my friend Joe comes round, and we play music from the window - he plays fiddle.
Was your new EP finished before all this kicked off? What's it about?
I recorded 15 songs in the same session about two years ago. I had loads to record and did it in my friend Jake Millers' front room. He's a talented recording engineer and producer, and we quickly blasted the songs out. These four songs went together well as they are all about coming of age years, struggles at school, growing up and later on the tedious challenges of 'adult life'. The lyrics are fairly self-explanatory I think so I hope some people can relate or at least find meanings themselves.
Are there any topics you find yourself returning to with your songs?
I use lyric writing as a way to vent frustrations both current and ones I've stored up from the past. Feels like a fairly healthy release! I didn't like school too much and generally, teen years were a bit weird, so I often go back to those days to try and make sense of it all. I write about the here and now and what's on my mind. It's easier than having a conversation.
Do songs find you, or do you usually have to find them?
I find them (wish it was the other way round). I sit there for hours going through terrible idea after terrible idea until something feels good.
Do you think of Blackaby as a band, or as a solo project? What's the deal there?
As a solo project but I've got a great band to play the songs live, which is really fun to do. They are awesome people/musicians. I sometimes play in their bands as well, so it's a nice setup.
What first sparked your interest in music, did you have a musical upbringing?
As a kid, I attended the kind of church that had a band at the front. I remember being small and being captivated by the drummers gold 'Premier' drum set and the guy playing a red electric guitar. They seemed like rock stars. I was having piano lessons and quickly begged my parents for a drum kit and guitar like the guys in the band. My church days were numbered, but the love of those instruments stayed. My parents were cool with me playing my drums non stop in our house, which in hindsight must have been excruciating at times. They had a small record collection, and I fell in love with 'Rubber Soul' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'
Who do you think is the most exciting band or musician around right now?
A band called Rosehip Teahouse are exciting me. Their new song 'regretting it' is out on Sad Club Records.
Where do you want to take Blackaby, what's on your bucket list?
I plan to release another EP soon after this one with songs from the same sessions. I've started a load of other recordings which could become an album. That would feel like a good next step. Then I want to play live as much as possible when it's safe to do it! I really liked Tokyo when I went there with Swimming Tapes so I'd love to do a Blackaby gig there someday. I'd love to do a joint tour with 2 or 3 of my friends' bands and all have a jolly good time.
What are you up to over the next few months?
Sleeping, eating, talking, singing, playing music, teaching, watching telly, toilet, walking the dog, listening to music, walking, cycling, drinking, smoking occasionally, phoning, zooming, moving house, visiting, laughing, distancing, wearing a mask, intercourse, bit more telly, a little cry, arguing, writing songs, staring blankly, having slightly melancholic thoughts, running, playing with my dog, trying to promote my music, phone nan, spending money, squeezing spots, looking at my bald patch, taking hay fever tablets, stretching.
Tell us a secret about yourself?
I sleepwalked to the corner shop when I was a kid.
Blackaby's debut EP 'What's On The TV?' is out now.