Black Country, New Road on “Ants from Up There” and “Live at Bush Hall” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Black Country, New Road on “Ants from Up There” and “Live at Bush Hall”

The New Road Ahead

Jul 26, 2023 Photography by Holly Whitaker Issue #71 - Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout
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2022 was an odd year for Black Country, New Road. The British rock band released their second studio album, Ants from Up There, in February, to immediate critical acclaim. Ants’ tracks such as “Chaos Space Marine” and “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade,” with their unique experimental style, etched the then-seven-piece into the canon of classic contemporary indie rock (the former track, according to the band, is the best they’d ever written).

But the release of their dazzling sophomore effort was hardly the most significant event of the band members’ lives. Just four days before Ants was released, frontman Isaac Wood announced his departure from the band.

“It’s been such a weird year,” says drummer Charlie Wayne of 2022. “I don’t think any of us were expecting to be in any sort of position like this.”

The band (which also features Tyler Hyde on bass and vocals; Lewis Evans on vocals, flute, and saxophone; May Kershaw on vocals and keys; Georgia Ellery on vocals and violin; and Luke Mark on guitar) pulled out of a U.S. tour, and vastly altered their setlists for upcoming festival shows, vowing to not perform songs from Ants live without Wood.

While a shock to the band’s fanbase, the news of Wood’s departure didn’t come as a complete surprise to the rest of the band, in large part because the original intent of Black Country, New Road was to never have one focal point, no one singer.

“When the band started in the first place, Isaac wasn’t the lead singer,” says Wayne. “We were going to be an instrumental band with guest vocalists. The reason why Isaac ended up as the singer is because he just offered a voice first, and it just worked and he was good at it.”

After Wood’s departure, the remaining six members put their heads together to assemble a setlist of all new material in a matter of months.

“People had been sneakily sitting on things,” explains Hyde, “and it gave people confidence but also a slight bit of pressure: we had to gather what materials we had, quickly, and assemble something. So if you sat on anything, you had to bring it, we had to talk about it.”

Those difficult few months brought a refreshing, invigorating energy to rehearsals. And soon enough, the band had about a dozen new songs, featuring different vocalists, ready to road test. These songs eventually formed the basis for the recent Live at Bush Hall concert film and live album.

“The conversation had already begun before Isaac left, about someone else singing and gradually more voices taking over and leaning away from the idea that any one person is the main vocalist,” says Hyde.

As for Ants from Up There, the band think of it as a snapshot, a moment in time. While they won’t be performing any of its songs for the foreseeable future, they look back fondly on the album and all they were able to accomplish with it.

“I’m incredibly proud of that album,” says Wayne. “But personally, I had to emotionally disconnect from it when it came out. If we weren’t going to be performing it, then it was super important to find satisfaction in something that we were doing at the time.”

What’s next for the band?

“All of us are kind of itching to write new music,” says Wayne. “We know that we can create something that is of the same quality, that is musically as interesting, and is conceptually well thought through, and that feels like a whole. We want to go and do that again. It’s within us.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 71 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.blackcountrynewroad.com

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