Black Country, New Road, after just two early singles, were declared “the best band in the world” by The Quietus, with glowing reviews from The New York Times to NPR, to The Guardian. The band arrived via the Brixton, Windmill scene in the UK in 2019, seemingly fully formed and bristling with a wiry tension that merged post-rock soundscapes with jazz-inflected post-punk.
Having played together in various guises previously, as BC, NR, they found a deep rooted sense of harmony and unity as their core foundation. Some members go as far back as school, some would go on to live together, whilst others went to University together. This has created a cohesive spirit and profound bond in the band that is reflected in their instinctive collective creativity. The band’s background of melding classically trained players with self-taught ones, also results in a unique concoction, combining precise technical skill with a raw, and often unpredictable, primal essence.
In early 2022, Black Country, New Road released their UK #3 album “Ants From Up There” (their second Top 5 UK album debut in 12 months, following their Mercury Prize shortlisted debut “For the first time”), which was lauded by fans and critics alike, gaining numerous 5* reviews and appearing on end of year lists across the globe, including being voted #1 by fans on r/indieheads, Rate Your Music and #3 by Pitchfork readers. All of this despite being released just days after frontman Isaac Wood announced his decision to step away from the band.
Fresh from the success of “Ants From Up There” and with a full touring schedule ahead of them in 2023, remaining members Lewis Evans, May Kershaw, Georgia Ellery, Luke Mark, Tyler Hyde and Charlie Wayne, now a six-piece, decided to write an entire new set of material to perform. They played to swelling crowds at festivals, including triumphant performances at Primavera, Green Man and Fuji Rock, entering a new musical phase as they navigated and developed songs that were just weeks old. They also toured the US with black midi and headlined two sold-out shows in New York.
Choosing to lose the idea of a front person entirely, the band instead now share vocal duties with Tyler taking the lead on a number of tracks including “Up Song”, which celebrates the friendship and success of the band with the lyrics “Look at what we did together, BC,NR friends forever.” Elsewhere, May leads on vocals for “The Boy”, as well as “Turbines/Pigs”, an instant fan-favourite as well as one the band’s most vulnerable tracks to date. Whereas Lewis sings on “Across The Pond Friend” and “The Wrong Trousers”. This move has seen the band’s sound continue to shift, allowing for further influences and diversity to permeate their songwriting.
These new performances saw the band garner widespread support for this new material across the board with Rolling Stone UK describing their Green Man set as “unmissable”, and the Guardian going on to say that they were “greeted by something close to rapture.” These performances have also attracted a profile from the NY Times, multiple glowing live reviews, and a nomination for Best Live Performer at the AIM Independent Music Awards last year.
As the songs continued to develop on the road they decided to avoid conventional next steps. People waiting on new material have eight new, excellent songs to hear, but not in the way they might have expected. “We didn’t want to do a studio album,” says BC, NR pianist May Kershaw. “We wrote the new tracks specifically to perform live, so we thought it might be a nice idea to put out a performance.”
The result is a filmed and recorded live performance, directed by Greg Barnes and mixed by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, that took place over three nights at London’s Bush Hall. “It’s about capturing the moment,” says saxophonist and now vocalist Lewis Evans. “A little time capsule of these eight months that we’ve had playing these songs on the road.”
Despite the lack of studio material up to now, the three sold out shows in December saw an audience there ready to sing back every word of these new songs, learned from online clips and YouTube recordings alone, a nod to both the band’s resilience and to the dedication of their tight knit community of fans.