For our fifth interview we spoke to the American band Small Black about their music and how they contribute as individuals in creating a band identity. We often play their music in our studio - it is dreamy and makes us think of brighter times ahead. They have a new record out, “Cheap Dreams”, which is really great. Check them out here.
How much would you say your background growing up in Brooklyn has affected the sound and direction the band is taking?
Ryan and I grew up in Long Island, so about 45 minutes out into the suburbs and moved to Brooklyn after college. With the new record, Cheap Dreams, we were reflecting a lot on what it means to from New York ,but not quite from the city itself. That feeling of being a townie in the big city, of never fitting in exactly in either place
In 2013 you released ”Limits of Desire” that seemed to be quite an evolvement in sound for Small Black. Could you share something about that journey?
We started off making very lo-fi music in my Uncle Matt’s attic on Long Island, through personal choice and honestly just because we didn’t have any decent gear! Through a couple years of touring, we realized it was very hard to tour lo-fi music in a way that kinda matched the intimacy of those recordings. So having made a couple bucks enough to get some better synth and preamps, we set out to chase the production aesthetic of the classic 80s records we grew up loving. Limits was a huge step forward for us and we like to think Cheap Dreams is a realization of the sound we’d been chasing since then
Tell us about the process of forming a band identity - how does your individual personalities shine though?
The process of songwriting is very democratic, so you’ll each our vibes show up in different facets of them . I write all the lyrics which gives the song their imagery where Ryan brings a lot of the soul to the chords and melodic keyboard lines. Juan is the master technician and leads the basslines along that keep the tracks bouncing. Jeff provides the rock of the drum rhythms that keep us in the pocket. As far as visual identity, we always have been very lucky to work with incredible directors and photographers on all the records. The Chicago photographer, Ryan Draybuck who shot the album cover and Duplex video really helped to bring Cheap Dreams to life
Did you belong to any subcultures growing up?
Ryan was in a pretty legendary hardcore/emo band from Long Island called Silent Majority that toured all around when he was 15-16. He helped run a DIY venue called the PWAC that Fugazi played at once! I grew up in the DIY/Punk/Ska scene on Long Island too, although Ryan was obviously a lot cooler than me. Jeff and Juan both grew up in DC playing in punk bands and going to GoGo shows.
Do you think that the premises of what we build our identities on are changing with the younger generations today?
It’s very hard to know whats “sub” about any culture these days as its all so accessible via Twitter and Instagram. I used to just choose my friend by whoever wore the coolest band t-shirt to school. Like if you had a Dinosaur Jr tee, we were going to be friends for life. At the same time, its beyond exciting to see kids breaking through so many of the barriers of sexuality, race, religions etc.. that were towering when I was a teen. I think the future is bright, even as we have just come out of the bleakness of the Trump administration
Thank you for participating, we can’t wait to see what you do next. What are you working on now?
We’re just hoping to tour later this year! Fingers crossed - We haven’t been to Europe in a minute but hopefully in 2022 that will change. We’re already working on a new batch of material, and have some other tracks related to Cheap Dreams coming down the pipe. Working on a lyric/poetry zine to act as a bookend to the release later in the year as well