Before a band receives the global attention and appraisal that every musician secretly dreams of, the first step they must accomplish is to prove to themselves, their city, and their local scene that they are the next big thing. In a era where everyone is constantly looking for the next big artist to grace the stage, more often than not originality is compromised for safety and like-ability. The Bright Black are a band that’s changing that expectation for the better.
The new funk/indie band are knocking down barriers one after the other, proving that despite their city’s oversaturated talent, they have the tenacity to set themselves apart from the standard four-piece. Even with their unexpected lineup, the northern lads hold their own against a thickening lineup of talented artists, as they become detrimental to the independent music scene. Funky grooves, and intricate phrasings make up their hooks, and although their influences are clear, The Bright Black possess a one of a kind ability to hinder the inevitable apprehensions of their capabilities, marking the Manchester scene with their own independent stamp.
GIGsoup’s John Gittins had a chance to sit down with Sam (bass), Travis (vocals), Ryan (guitar) and Mike (drums) to talk about writing a great song, the limitations to their sound and how they create an exciting atmosphere at every one of their gigs…
Do you think it’s harder to make a name and presence for yourself as an unsigned alternative funk band or does this nuance help you stand out from the crowd?
Sam – I think it can sometimes be difficult because promoters don’t always know what to do with us. We’ve yet to play on a bill with bands that have a same vibe as us, but I think our sound helps us stand out.
Travis – With the way we dress, perform and sound it’s hard to miss us. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
You have said previously that your songs are written to get people to dance and let their hair down. Does that mean you only concentrate on the hooks of your songs, or do your lyrics have a deeper meaning behind them?
Ryan – There’s not a catch-all to this one unfortunately, faster ones do tend to stem from the music first, followed by melody and lyrics to fit; whereas slower tracks that lend themselves to it nearly always have a concept or lyrics fairly early on.
Travis – Every element of our music has had thought put into it. Even some of the more obscure lyrics have, at the very least, a visual meaning to them.
Are there any plans to expand the ensemble to get a bigger sound, especially with competition from most Manchester funk bands larger ensembles (Haydn Funk Project, Buffalo Brothers)?
Mike – I think we’re all into bigger ensembles and a brass section would be especially cool, but creating those sounds with just the instruments we have is a challenge I think we enjoy.
Sam – We talk about one day having a brass section but our think ability to replicate that feel with what we’ve got adds to our sound. It’s a really fun challenge.
Your style is undeniably crafted on the foundations of previous funk and soul pioneers (Stevie Wonder, RHCP, Living Colour, etc), but you have previously said that the Manchester bands of the 80s (Joy Division, The Smiths) also have a varied funk style. Do you think this is a trend that has resurfaced in new Manchester music?
Sam – The big question for a lot of musicians is how are you going to make it relevant, make it new, make it stand out? Factory Records was great, the Hacienda will never be forgotten and “Madchester” was an amazing point in history but I feel some people don’t want to progress.
Ryan – At it’s heart, the likes of the late 80s Manchester scene was about getting people moving. Manchester’s a groovy place, there’s something in the water.
Ryan, you’ve previously said the band ‘is a guitar band’. Does this mean the songs are written with only one instrument in mind beforehand?
Ryan – Nothing’s written specifically for any instrument, often quite the opposite. We often have guitar parts where we say ‘imagine this as a horn section’ in terms of styles of playing. I always hear how the end product will sound in my head, and try and get there with the instruments available to us. We’ll always have a rawer, wailing guitary live show, even if our recorded stuff comes across as straight up pop.
In your debut EP ‘Up Not Down’ you show-off your versatility with ‘Ain’t Thinking About That’. Is this mellow ballad a route you wish to explore more as a band or do you plan to go harder and groovier in the future?
Mike – We constantly go back and forth between groovy and fast paced; they’re the two things we really love. I’d hate to lose either side of our sound so I think the plan is to keep going with both and make them the best they can be.
Ryan – By no means have we drawn a line in the sand of ‘all songs must be at least this BPM’, we just take a lot from soul and jazz and make a conscious effort that slow songs don’t turn into a dirge
Finally, how would you sum up your new single ‘Skin on Skin’ in a sentence?
Sam – An explosion of camp, bass driven, funky, sexual frustration.
This Bright Black article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor