Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's music is disarming in its simplicity. Their success on Virgin Records is testament to this fact. But the noise-drenched urgency and power of the band sets them apart from average major label fare. Take Them On, On Your Own is their sophomore album, in which they continue to hone their sound down to the essentials, focusing on more straight-ahead rock material. BRMC's Peter Hayes recently talked to JM about keeping it simple and life in the majors.
The new album seems more aggressive; there's less of the psych-y songs and more aggressive material. Why?
This album is more of a statement -- or, questions in the form of statements, where the last one was more statements in the form of questions.
More sure of itself?
Not necessarily. We're just trying to get stuff out of our heads and wondering who else is thinking about these things, it's not really pointing fingers at anybody. This album is a little bit more aggressive; we wanted it to be a little more in-your-face, a little more confrontational, even with the sound of it.
Speaking of the sound of it, you guys have been heavily involved in the production of your albums. Going into it, do you have a good idea of how you want it to sound, or is it more of a "see what happens" type of thing?
Guitar-wise I wanted it to be a bit more punchy. We wanted it to be more of a one-take kind of album. Not sure if it comes across that way, but that's kind of how we did it. We didn't want to get involved with too many layers, too many hidden things. We wanted it to be straight forward and simple.
Did it work that way? Because it sounds like there's a lot of layering.
Yeah there is, but it's a lot less than the other album [laughing]. The last one had like sixteen guitars on each track. This one had maybe three.
You guys are on the road a lot. Some of the songs could be taken as criticism of the music industry, maybe as a result of being on the road so much. Is there any truth in that?
Yeah, I guess on the surface some of them can be taken that way. But there's not that many songs that do that. Maybe three or four of them.
Do you like the road?
Definitely. It's a good thing. I love traveling. It's half the reason to do this. Move around, see the country, see the world, if you're that lucky, and we did get lucky. We're not pointing fingers, though. We're just asking questions. Who's out there, you know, thinking about this stuff. And just kind of getting it out of our own head. You can't move on from a spot until you let it out. You can see it in a different way, once it's out there.
How has your experience with Virgin been. Did they ever stand in the way of asking any questions, or did they ever try to?
Not too much. They had ideas. In the beginning they really wanted us to use a producer. We said no thanks. This album they didn't even hear it till it was done.
I guess you earned that freedom.
I like to think so. I can understand it though. On the first album, they weren't sure what the hell we were doing. It worked out in their favor so they let us do it again.
You guys also get a ton of press, and a lot of it makes a lot of the same points. Does the Jesus and Mary Chain comparison ever get tiresome, or do you shrug it off.
You just kind of got to shrug that off. I've heard through the grapevine that Jim Reid said "they don't sound anything like us." It's nice to hear someone from that band actually say it. And I think we sort of did it to ourselves, anyway. In the press release for our first album, we said we liked them. I guess we had the same hair or something like that, and it got turned into something more than it is. They're a good band, so it's nice to be compared to them.
How long were you together before Virgin approached you.
A year and a half, or maybe two. Me and Rob [Turner] played together in high school, so we've been playing together for maybe five years. But we've been a band with Nick [Jago] for about two.
How did they approach you?
I think we'd moved to LA. We were doing shows between San Francisco and LA. MCA were interested. We did some showcases for them, and Radioactive. Then a bunch of other record companies, indies and majors, got interested and we started doing showcases all the time, and that's when Virgin came into it.
So was the first time you went back East in support of the first record?
Part of the deal with Virgin was that they gave us a van so we could tour. Right after that was the tour with the Dandy Warhols, and we've kind of been going ever since, besides a couple months to record this album.
How was touring with the Dandy Warhols?
Really good. They were a good band for us to tour with first. They're friends and they're nice to us. They had a real family kind of ethic around them. It was good for our first big tour not to be stuck on one where we didn't get along with the headlining act. That happens a lot, where you never see or talk to them, and they don't want to talk to you, and they treat you like crap.
What were you doing before all this took off?
I was working at a gas station and a mechanic shop at the same time for a while -- graveyard shift at the gas station and 8am-5pm at the mechanic shop. I was trying to pay off speeding tickets.
That's pretty rock n roll. What music were you into when you were younger? Has your taste changed?
When I met Rob, he was into a lot of English bands, like Ride and the Verve. I was into Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.
What about now?
I'm not really listening to a whole lot. I've been listening more to bands who give us tapes on the road. Local bands, stuff like that. I haven't kept track of too much of what's going on. I know a lot of the bands, but I haven't heard much of the music.
You don't keep tabs on current scene?
Not really. It could be a good time in music as long as you keep your head screwed on straight. We're still trying to kick the door open for more bands, you know? There's so much more room for more music on mainstream radio, but it's not being given its due place.
November 10, 2003