Brooklyn indie band on
living in hipsterville, on not having a “plan b,” on female vampires and more.
BY FRED MILLS
The BLURT staff put our heads (and ears) together and we
have our latest pick for our Blurt/Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret”: it’s
Brooklyn’s Black Swan Green, whose recently self-released album The Ruin Gaze is an utterly compelling
miasma of psychedelia, shoegaze and pop.
Tune in to BLURT radio if you want to hear an MP3,
“Waxwing,” by the band – just click on the music player image on the right hand
side of our homepage and scroll down for the song. Meanwhile, check out the
band’s MySpace page for more song samples, tour dates, details on getting the
album, etc. And congratulations to Black Swan Green. They’re one of the good
‘uns, trust us. The members: Hugh Crickmore, vocals/guitars; Loren Mash,
keyboards/vocals/percussion; Kevin Kahawai, drums; Richard San Luis, guitar.
We talked to co-founder Crickmore about the band.
Your name: a
reference to the 2006 novel of the same title by David Mitchell? Why that, and
what about that name and the book itself appealed to you?
Yes, the name came from the novel. We all think the book is
amazing and that Mitchell is a total genius. The title seemed like such a great
band name; I kept walking by it in store windows and thinking, “I love the
way that name looks.” Graphically it’s fun to work with, because the words
themselves have such distinct meanings. I was hesitant at first to use Black
Swan Green with the plethora of animal band names that saturate the scene. It
seemed all the good ones were taken. Though officially it is a place name and
not an animal but really who cares anyway.
Tell me a little
about how the band came together, and also making the album.
The band began with Loren and myself exactly two years ago.
She had just moved to New York from North Carolina and I had
just left my first band. I was in a crisis; two weeks without a band and I
wanted and needed to play something different than I was used to. For me it
began with seeing Brian Jonestown Massacre and A Place to Bury Strangers at Webster Hall
that November and, although we didn’t know it at the time, Loren and our new
guitarist all happened to coincidentally be there as well. The experience was
overwhelming. Both bands were great. Up till then, I never understood the
popularity of BJM – I went to the show out of curiosity more than for the
music. I ended up being moved by the whole experience and all I wanted to do was
start a new band in this beautiful noisy, psych and shoegaze vein. Now I am a
rabid BJM fan. A Place
to Bury Strangers have also become one of Brooklyn’s
Anyway, I put an ad up on Craigslist and met Loren. Kevin
Kahawai eventually joined and we’ve also definitely run through more than a few
members. Richard San Luis, our newest member, is from the Houston scene and his band The White Papers
were very popular there. He brings with him the Texas psych noise thing i.e. Ringo
Deathstarr, Indian Jewelry, The Black Angels, etc… all that very rad stuff.
Honestly, I had a lucrative career until a year and a half
ago. I was miserable. I was walking down the street and I ran into David
Sitek’s brother, Jason. We had worked together for before though we hadn’t seen
each other for a while. Not like I hang with TV on the Radio. But, I was
talking to Jason about my new band and he was talking about his brother’s
success. I asked him, “How the fuck did he do it, really?” Jason said his
brother always says, “Get rid of plan b, if you have a plan b then you
will always choose it. Get rid of the safety net and you can’t afford to
fail.” It stuck with me.
So I left my job, got rid of plan b, and now focus
everything on the band as much as I can. That is how the record came about. I
wrote a long and heartfelt letter to my old friend, Ravi Krishnaswami, who was
working as a composer and commercial producer. I knew it was a long shot, but I
asked him to help record, engineer, produce, help finance and collaborate on
this album. He said yes and we spent months, hundreds of hours making this
thing. He is a saint.
You mention “noisegaze” on your site…
Noisegaze is a term I made up while making fun of our Craigslist
ad for a bass player. I wanted to say something about shoegaze and noise pop
and just put them together. Shoegaze is such a terrible term, but as much as it
embarrasses me to use it to describe us, I do use it. I find our melodies to be
more based in pop like The Cure and Afghan Whigs or Guided by Voices rather
than My Bloody Valentine. Our live show definitely has the heavy delay and
reverb that is prevalent in the new “shoegaze” or “nü-gaze”
How do you fit into
the Brooklyn music scene in general? Is it a
positive or a negative to be associated with a hipper-than-thou milieu?
As a band, I think we really exist on the outside of the
scene. None of us are social enough, we practice too much, and I’m not good
with popular cool people. I was an outcast in school, I always feel I don’t
belong at the party even if it’s my own. In Williamsburg, you walk down the street and
everyone is cooler than you, better dressed and inaccessible. I feel like I’m
in high school. Hipsters are like strutting jocks pretending to be the smoking
Brooklyn bands are rarely from Brooklyn
and when they get enough money they often leave. I was born in New York and like
everybody I say, “As soon as I can afford to leave, I will.” Though I
love Brooklyn. I love New York. I do sound like everyone when I
say, “It’s becoming a giant billboard for the rich.”
I have a fantasy of moving the band to Kentucky, living in a barn and becoming
friendly with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. We will have Sunday barbeques and
eventually make a record together. I think he is one the greatest living
songwriters on the planet.
Brooklyn Bands we love: The Liars, A Place to Bury Strangers, Gang Gang
Dance, Blood on the Wall, Luff, Saint Vincent,
and TV On the Radio.
What’s next for the
We are rapidly writing and putting together songs for an EP
this winter. Banjo or Freakout is doing a remix of one of our songs this
January. He is an artist that is going to do some great things this coming
year. We also are getting ready for SXSW.
Lastly, on your MySpace
page you have several blog entries about vampire films. What’s up with that?
About the vampire films – I have fetish for female vampires!
Especially, lesbian female vampires. It’s sick but true. I have come to terms
with this lately and my therapist is very supportive. It started as kid: the
first naked woman on film I saw was a vampire in Twins of Evil on an old videotape at some friend’s house. I was
blown away and disappointed why all women were less sexy without fangs… or
19th century tight dresses and giant breasts literally falling out of them.