Small Black is a Brooklyn based band (formed in Portland, Oregon) that plays an eclectic blend of electronic shoe gaze with a hefty dose of danceable Indie rock. The band’s 2009 U.K. single “Despicable Dogs,” was met with immediate praise and sent the on an endless series of tours and firmly placed Small Black as a rising band to watch. Small Black’s 2013 record, Limits Of Desire made them indie darlings and fan favorites among the likes of Washed Out and Youth Lagoon. All this music blog bullshit aside, I love this band, and this is a heavy call, but they remind me a little bit of a modern day New Order. In fact, Small Black could be New Order’s nephew’s from America or something. There’s a palpable dark wave 80s vibe and thankfully there’s still a nice organic bedroom recording feel with this band even though they’ve become more polished and professional with each release. Small Black’s latest, Best Blues, is some of the band’s best work to date with the press release stating, “The 10-track effort is ‘about loss, the specific loss of precious people in our lives, but also the loss of memories and the difficult fight to preserve them.’ The album artwork, features one of many “found photos” lead singer Josh Kolenik discovered after Hurricane Sandy hit and flooded his family’s home on Long Island. I talked to Josh via email a few days ago to ask him for a little bit of background info as well as a few explanations regarding the name, Small Black, and yes, it sort of has something to do with cock.—Chris Coté
What Youth What is a Small Black and why does it make for such an effective and awesome band name?
Small Black was the name of a chicken that lived in my friend Petey Boy’s house in Portland along time ago. It’s a simple and easy name that lets us kinda do anything as a band. I never wanted to get stuck with a name like Diarrhea Planet or something, that was too much of a image/thing to allow the band to evolve. We used to have a side project called Cool Weed that was more on the goofy side.
Might have been a whole different story if you had called the band Black Cock … anyway, tell us the process of writing, recording, and performing Small Black songs?
It changes every record. But basically we sit around in a room for months, making tons of a musical ideas, and over time some of them stick and start to emerge as contenders. From there, we consider structure and what elements melodically and rhythmically are intrinsic to the song, and then we usually end up with a song.
From there, we take it into our basement studio and figure out how the hell we’re going to play it for anybody—also a lot of tequila.
What has changed since your time recording in your Uncle Matt’s attic while he shaped surfboards underneath you?
In 2009, we were just making songs for the bedroom, that you might put on your headphones and wander around the city with. In 2015, we’ve been a touring band for 5 years and some of those production ideas and tricks that worked so well in the attic, don’t work the same way in front of an audience. Its fun for us now to write material that is great for the live stage and for a full band arrangement.
Has anyone from the band Big Black ever given you shit?
We are always waiting for the Steve Albini shred, but it hasn’t happened. He’s too busy eloquently taking the piss out of other stuff
Describe the new album, Best Blues, to me as if I was an old lady sitting next to you on an airplane:
Gosh, it’s hard to delve into influences when the audience is older than the touchstones. I’d just say its empathetic rhythmic pop, with some drums and keyboards and stuff. You know kinda like The Byrds?
Band goals for 2016?
Japan/Australia/South America! Would love to do some collaborations too, gonna be a fun year!
In support of Best Blues, the band will embark on a North American tour beginning in October.
Small Black 2015 Tour Dates:
10/11 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
10/13 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
10/14 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
10/16 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
10/17 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
10/20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
10/21 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
10/23 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
10/24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
10/26 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
10/27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
10/28 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile Back Bar
10/29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
10/30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
10/31 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
11/02 – Kansas City, MO @ The Tank Room
11/03 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
11/04 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
11/06 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/07 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
11/08 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
11/10 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
11/11 – Burlington, VT @ Signal Kitchen
11/12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
11/21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right