My Style, My Sound: BlackWaters
Reading Time: 10 minutes
With a sound reminiscent of the 1970’s punk movement, BlackWaters are on a mission to reboot rock ‘n’ roll anarchy in the UK. Or in their own words, they’re ‘capturing the essence of a disaffected youth’. Undeniably, their chaotic sound and bold lyrics are making the right kind of racket.
BlackWaters are four 18-year-old mates who met at college in Guildford; Max Tanner (Vocals), David Carpenter (Guitar), Ollie Franklin (Bass) and James Watkins (Drums). Boasting a sound beyond their years, the boys recently got spotted by Carl Barat of The Libertines, who has gone on to help them produce tracks like ‘Jarred up Generation’ and their latest single ‘So Far Out’.
This year the band have been touring with Strange Bones and are set to play a homecoming gig in Guildford at the end of this month, as well as supporting The Libertines and Maxïmo Park in August.
For their Make it Music session, BlackWaters are bringing the noise with their tracks ‘Down’ and ‘Yeah’.
We caught up with the band after recording at Metropolis Studios, to talk about growing up and their bucket lists.
So guys, have you always been BlackWaters or have you had any other names?
Max: Well the band name was a decision we struggled to make for a while
David: James was so picky.
James: I’m dreading when we have to name an album to be honest, because I think as a band we’re terrible with names! I wish we had a more interesting answer to that because BlackWaters has always been there. It was never gonna change.
David: Ollie just said it one day and then James finally said yes to it, so we went for it!
Max: It hasn’t really got a special story.
James: There’s a place near us called Black Water in Guildford, so people might guess that that’s where it comes from, but it doesn’t! We didn’t even know the place existed until we passed it on a train.
David: Someone came up to me asking if I was a fan of Game of Thrones because there’s the Battle of Blackwater in it.
James: Sounds like there should be a hidden meaning really, but there ain’t! Plain old BlackWaters.
So you’ve mentioned that you originate from Guildford – do you think the area has influenced your music in any way?
J: Well we’re not all from Guildford, but we met in Guildford. These two [points at Ollie & David] are from Northampton.
D: Yeah, Ollie & I are from Northampton and we’ve known each other since being in nappies – so a long time! We came to Guildford to go to college and then we met you two unfortunately!
J: You’re from Essex [points at Max] – lucky you! I’m from South London. So yeah, we all came to college and met. Ollie didn’t even play bass, he was a guitarist. But no, it’s influenced our music a lot I’d say, being in Guildford.
D: The mundane environment has inspired us.
J: Yeah, we write about what’s around and nothing’s around, so we just write about how there’s nothing basically!
D: And the frustration around that… there’s nothing to inspire us.
J: It’s just boring as hell really to be honest.
M: We’re slowly making it trendy though, aren’t we?!
J: Yeah… trying really hard.
D: But when it’s a cobbled street full of coffee shops there’s only so much you can do really.
O: There’s one venue… well, there’s a few, but only one actual venue.
D: Wetherspoons is probably the star location.
J: So Guildford is so boring that it’s inspired us really.
O: And Deli Deals.
I was going to ask where your inspiration comes from, but by the sounds of it that’s boredom, right?!
M: I mean, it comes from everywhere! It doesn’t have to be boredom.
J: We have a song about when boring people get bored.
M: Our inspiration – we don’t go anywhere to find it, it just comes to us.
D: I suppose a lot of bands say this, but I think now that we’re on tour going to all these new places, the experiences and new cultures massively benefit us. It shows us how other people live and how other people get inspiration. So we’re always learning really and I don’t think we’ll always have a fixed source of inspiration, it just comes from everything. I think as we’re young, we just wanna play on stage and go crazy, so we just want bangers to incorporate into that!
J: I mean, we said not long ago that we’ve got songs (like the one we played with the rude word) and er…. I mean that one’s a bit down, a bit facist and kind of a bit political, but then we’ve got songs like ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ and other tunes like that which are a little more fun; about going to parties, getting drunk, hanging out. It’s not all doom and gloom!
D: We have a message that we want to get across. We’re not one of those bands that are just there to play for other people. We want to have a statement but we don’t want to be all doom and gloom.
J: Yeah, like, it is bad… but it’s not all bad!
M: We’re the band to have fun to all the bad stuff that’s going on.
D: For 4-5 minutes just forget about all the bad things that are going on and have a good time!
M: We’re not miserable people though! We’re happy people. We’re 18, so we don’t have much to be miserable about. Bit angst-y though.
Are there any goals or achievements you’re aiming for in the next couple of years as a band?
M: Just grow. Grow as a band I think is the main thing.
D: Gig. Write. Gig. Write. Gig. Write. That’s the main thing!
J: I know every band say it, but it’s just so true. Every band wants to be massive, successful, headlining every festival – that would be great if that were on offer. You just go round to every venue playing to like 20-100 people and you do it again and again and again, hoping that someone clings on to something, which we feel they should. We feel like we’ve got something for everyone.
M: I mean at the moment, it’s about reaching the right people. That’s all we’re focusing on at the moment as well as writing good tunes. But if we do that, then we’ll reach people.
So as far as a bucket list, is there one thing that if you achieved it you’d really feel like you’d made it?
J: That’s different for everyone really. We’d all have something different.
D: The one thing I’d love in my lifetime is just to headline, really. Headline Reading Festival I think.
M: Play on a big stage at Reading.
D: Yeah all dark, so you can see the lights and hear people singing back to your song for all different reasons.
J: We spoke about getting to headline a local venue that you always went to as a kid or something like that, you know like Brixton Academy, Electric in Brixton, anywhere like that would just be awesome, because it’s like you’re playing to people that are near where you grew up and all that stuff. That would be quite nice.
D: I want to travel the world. I’ve only been abroad once.
J: Yeah just to even play a show outside the UK… what’s that like?
D: The only time I’ve been abroad is to the centre of France, and all it was was cows, so I’d quite like to go to America, Australia…
M: To play abroad would be nice, wouldn’t it?! Hot sunshine, instead of minus three. It’s brisk.
You’ve mentioned about gigging; how have you found it playing grassroots venues? Especially given that there’s a lot closing down.
M: I think that independent venues are really important. The Boiler Room is one of them where we’re playing. It’s our hometown tour venue. It’s not the biggest venue, but like you said, it was a great opportunity for us back then anyway as a decent venue where we come from.
J: It’s rubbish because even though it’s not relevant to us, Fabric in London even got shut down. It’s kind of a disaster for young people. You find that when you go to more and more venues, more young people are less inclined to turn up if they don’t know you, you know? If you’re known in the town you’ll get loads of young people, but there’s only really the older generation that go out to grassroots venues and go out to find new bands. You won’t get younger people going and searching because they can do it from their phones nowadays and all that kind of stuff. It’s a shame.
M: There is a fraction of people that do search.
J: No-one wants to see venues close.
D: They have history and that’s something that people nowadays just completely disregard.
J: When you talk to older people about the town or city in their days, sometimes the name of the venue’s changed and it’s like ‘Oh I went to that, but it’s not there anymore’.
D: The Boiler Room nearly got closed down. Which is like Guildford’s hometown venue, because it’s in a residential area. But it’s so important for it to be in Guildford, where there isn’t a music scene at all.
J: It’s especially like what we were talking about in the last question, about how when you come to our set we want you to kind of forget about everything for a while. I feel like when you’re at school in education, sometimes you do get stressful GCSE times, A-Levels etc. and you need somewhere to go on a weekend to let it go. You’ve just gotta do it from your phone nowadays.
D: Young bands need somewhere to apply their trades like us. We did it in the Boiler Room, we did it in independent venues. You can’t go to Brixton Academy and do your very first gig, you know? You have to go to grassroots venues. It would be wicked if you could, but that’s not gonna work, is it?
If you could collaborate with anyone – dead or alive, solo artist or band – who would it be and why?
M: John Cooper Clarke, the poet. He’s really cool. That’s who I’d go for.
J: Craig David.
M: Imagine Craig David on one of our tunes? That’d be wicked.
D: Just got a brutal breakdown and it then goes ‘Craig David coming in!’.
D: Modern Lovers. Just because they’re so cool, classy. You hear one of their tunes and you know these guys are liked by everyone and everyone wants to be them.
J: They had their moments of like controversial-ness… is that a word? It is now.
M: Oliver – who would you like to collaborate with?
O: Lil Yachty [laughs] Yeah, Lil Yachty. He’s really sick.
J: Yeah he’s so cool.
D: Kurt. Kurt Cobain.
J: This could go on. We could sit here for days.
O: Strange Bones would be sick, cause we’re on tour with them at the moment.
J: Yeah we’re on tour with them and we were talking about collaborating with them, doing something like a Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood cover or something in our own way. That would be cool. Really cool… I think The Ramones would be cool as well. Just because it’s The Ramones.
So we know who you’d collaborate with, but if you had to leave BlackWaters and join another band, what band would you join?
J: Good question.
M: I’m really into Sticky Fingers, they’re a cool band. I’d probably join those boys if they’d let me.
O: Arcane Roots. Or Biffy Clyro.
J: All the other questions I’ve answered quite quickly but I’m genuinely stuck with this one.
O: 5 Seconds Of Summer would suit you mate!
D: Heard they need a new drummer.
J: Sean-a-Paul. [Laughs]
D: Should we just be his backing band?
J: Craig David’s drummer. That’s who I wanna be… No, I don’t.
D: Foo fighters. Just because they’ve always been one of my favourite bands and I was brought up on them.
J: Enter Shikari… I’ve always loved Enter Shikari, they’re cool.
D: Or Rage [Against the Machine].
J: The Bronx, Mariachi. Yeah. If you don’t know… get to know. Right there.
We’re gonna go a bit random now. You’ve been given an elephant – you can’t give it away or sell it, so what are you going to do with it?
O: Keep it in the living room as a monument.
M: That’d be the elephant in the room.
D: We’ll use it for touring. Get on it’s back, strap all the gear to it.
J: Well my shower doesn’t work, so…
J: Keep it in the garden, call it Nelly the elephant.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
J: Pffft… I did work at Boiler Room.
D: We’re promoting a gig there and you parred it off!
J: It was great, and we’ve got a gig there tomorrow… can’t wait to see you guys!
D: [to Ollie] Worst job was probably me and you in a café at M&S back home for 13 hours a day. It was not fun. Then we did a Christmas temp job working in the freezers for three days collecting peoples Christmas orders, starting at 6am in the morning. I had no top lip left.
O: We’d be starting work when it was dark and finishing when it was dark. It’s inhumane [laughs].
M: I used to busk a bit. But I had a bad day once when a deer ran past me, just in the middle of the high street.
J: That happens in Essex, man – there’s deer everywhere. I used to work in a costume factory and go to Soho, pick out this very specific fabric, and I had no idea… I don’t know anything about fabrics. I’d just be like ‘I want this one, this colour, this much, how much is it?’. Then I’d go from shop to shop. Yeah, that was really bad.
M: That’s why we do this.
So what’s the backup plan if the band didn’t work out?
D: Join Foo Fighters.
J: Did I not mention the fabric job? That’s the backup plan.
D: In fact, there isn’t one. We’re screwed.
J: If something did mess up, I’d just go to a different country and work or volunteer or something. I think when you’re in a band, you can’t just jet off for a couple of weeks.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
D: Power ranger. Mighty morphin’. I wanted to be the red one because he was the leader. [Shows power ranger on t-shirt] That’s why I’ve got the red one on me.
M: My mum actually asked me, because I remember this conversation I had with her in the car. I told her I wanted to be a robber. It’s quite concerning. I was about 7 or 8. But yeah, that’s what I used to want to be as a kid. A thief.
D: You nick my boxers so that’s still true.
M: I don’t!
J: I wanted to be a football player. Just because. I was quite good for a bit and then I wasn’t.
D: I was a swimmer. I swam for the county. But getting up at 5 in the morning everyday… something about that just wasn’t that appealing. Being fit was good, though.
O: For ages I actually wanted to join the army because I was in Cadets. But then I actually realized it’s extremely boring and really not worth it. It’s when we just knew like, music was the path.
J: Too much Call of Duty mate, that’s all!