INTERVIEW: Black Bluebirds

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We’ve been well, thank you.

Can you talk to us more about your new single “Love Kills Slowly”?

Sure.  It was recorded at Black Apple Studios in Uptown, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It features a guest vocal appearance by Jessica Rasche, who really nailed it.  We spent a lot of time on this song (and every song on the album, for that matter) and are really happy with the result.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

When I wrote this song I was thinking about co-dependent relationships, and about how “love” isn’t always “love.”  It seems to me that there are a lot of those kinds of relationships in the world of rock and roll.  To a certain extent the lyrics are tongue in cheek, but at the same time I think there is a lot of truth to them. I could also offer a comment about my divorce a few years back, but I think I’ll exercise some discretion.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yes.  We are filming a video in mid-January, which should be released in late January, 2018.  It’s going to be really cool.  We are working with a local entertainer named Lilly Bee.  She and her partner are working out an interesting dance sequence.

The single comes off your new album Like Blood For Music – what’s the story behind the title?

The name of the album is “Like Blood For Music.”  I was trying to think of an appropriate name for the album and that’s the name that came to mind.  The truth is that our producer and guitar player, Simon Husbands, and our drummer and bass player Chad Helmonds, and myself (Daniel Fiskum) are all very dedicated to music in a lot of different ways.  Hopefully this doesn’t sound too pompous, but music has determined the direction of all of our lives.  Its what we do.  We give our life blood for it.  So, Like Blood For Music seemed like an appropriate title for the record.

What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Sometimes people ask how we took the name Black Bluebirds.  Its a long story.  The short version is that an earlier version of our group had two musicians from UK and two from the USA.  We recorded a few tracks in UK.  Every once in a while I see bluebirds in my yard and I thought the Bluebirds would be a cool name.  Because of the UK connection, we added the word “British,” so we were British Bluebirds.  But, that was confusing to a lot of people because people who know me know I’m a Minnesotan.  For this release, since we recorded it at Black Apple Studios in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, we decided to rename the band Black Bluebirds.  It’s appropriate because our music is kind of dark (we call it Dark Sound) and we wanted to honor the studio and Uptown.

How was the recording and writing process?

I (Daniel Fiskum) wrote all of the lyrics and music on Like Blood For Music, with the exception of House of No More Dreams.  That was a collaboration between Simon and myself.  I have a 6 foot 3 inch Estonia grand piano in my living room, and mostly I write at the piano.  I write out the lyrics and the music in long hand on music ledger paper.  I am a perfectionist, and it usually takes me about 10 passes at a song before I get something I like.  The next step is that Simon and I get together in my home studio and work out a rough draft recording with guitar, keyboards, and a drum machine.  This is for the band reference only.  Then, we get together with Chad at Black Apple and re-record everything live, including live drums and live bass.  Then we layer in additional synth parts and guitar parts.  Then, we bring Jessica in and work on the vocals together.

Even though I come up with the basic chord progressions, melodies and lyrics, everyone in the band makes a contribution and by the time a song is done, it often sounds very different (and much better) than when I first put pen to paper.  The other factor at play is that Simon Husbands, our producer, is a wizard in the studio and he is responsible for most of the arrangements.

What role does Minneapolis play in your music?

Quite a bit.  I’m from Minneapolis and I love it here.  I know a lot of Minneapolis musicians.  Black Bluebirds doesn’t play out a lot (we’ve played First Avenue and the Fine Line) but even so there is a thriving music scene here.  Also, it’s difficult to be a Minneapolis musician and not be influenced by Prince.  I describe what we do as related to the Minneapolis Sound.  Prince took R&B and funk kinds of songs and added synthesized drums and synthesized bass.  That is essentially the Minneapolis Sound.  We did something related, but a little different.  We use real drums and real bass and we put lots of synthesizer parts in the middle, where the guitar usually sits.  This is one of the things that makes our sound different than most rock bands and it is shows a direct connection to Prince, Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Sound.  I also think that Prince’s influence can be heard in the melodies I write.

How do you balance the mainstream and DIY style altogether?

This is difficult to do consciously.  Our sound is mainstream to the extent that we usually use traditional song forms (Life In White is an exception) with melodic hooks that you can sing in your head.  This is deliberate on our part. But, our sound is different than mainstream – we like to think it’s a bit edgier and raw.  But, in reality, that’s just because its what we like.  That’s how the music comes out.  This recording was totally self-funded, so we could do whatever we wanted, and this sound is what we wanted.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Everywhere,  I read a lot of books.  These days I am devouring everything I can get by Haruki Murakami, a novelist from Japan.  He writes what is sometimes called “magical fiction.”  So he is an inspiration to me, as are writers like J.D. Salinger and Erica Jong.  One time Erica Jong said something on a TV show that just blew me away – she said something to the effect that success and failure are the same thing because they both depend on someone else’s opinion of you.  Once you understand that, you can say “screw it,” I’m going to make music that I like, and I’m not going to play covers in a bar for tips.  And, in turn, that has a lot to do with our sound, and our project.

Any plans to hit the road?

We would like to tour the Midwest in the spring.  We are still working on that.

What else is happening next in Black Bluebirds´ world?

We are making three videos is January – for Love Kills, Strange Attractor, and Life In White.  We are booking some local shows and we are considering invitations to play elsewhere.  And, we are also working on songs for our next CD.  So, as they say, “Watch This Space.”

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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