The Black Tones on Their Nazi-Fighting 8-Bit Video Game - Reflecting the Times | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 27th, 2024  

The Black Tones on Their Nazi-Fighting 8-Bit Video Game

Reflecting the Times

Jun 26, 2020 Photography by Danny Denial and Renato Valenzuela The Black Tones
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Seattle rock ‘n’ roll front woman, Eva Walker, can really talk. And that’s good because everything she has to say is valuable. Walker, who fronts the Pacific Northwest band, The Black Tones, is also a DJ at famed indie radio station, KEXP. But what caught our eye most recently was the band’s 8-Bit desktop video game, They Want Us Dead, in which players can choose between The Black Tones’ founding members, Eva and her twin brother Cedric David, to travel back in time and fight hate groups (Nazis, slave owners, and the like). What an idea! It was such a bold example of what makes The Black Tones remarkable that we had to track Walker down and ask her about the game, the original single it was based on, and what a shout-out to her mother might sound like (hint: space themed!).

The band’s debut full-length album, Cobain & Cornbread, was released in 2019 via Reptar Records.

Coco Freeman (Under the Radar) Why did you write the song “The Key of Black”?

Eva Walker: “The Key of Black” is a response to the violence and murders of American citizens by white supremacists infiltrating the police department. We wanted to write a song that was all emotion. There aren’t any words except for the call-and-response in the middle of the song (“They want us dead”). We’ve been talking about this stuff, we’ve been addressing it—I was at the point where people just had to feel it. So I let the guitar do all of the singing for the majority of the song.

When you think about the time in which you wrote the song and how the song rings as true today as it did then, what comes to mind?

Sadness is what immediately comes to mind. I don’t want to write songs like these, I don’t want to have to perform songs like these. I don’t want to even have to hear songs like these anymore. But it’s what’s still happening. It’s relevant. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s job to reflect the times and that’s what we’re doing.

When you think about your video game based on the single, what come to mind?

Getting the chance to fight these terrible people virtually. I love love love video games. And I’m not a violent person by any means. So the only way I felt I could get the violence out of my system was to do it through a video game.

Have you heard of any stories from fans who’ve played the game and loved it?

Yes! The number one thing I hear is how good it feels to beat the crap out of hate groups. Just simply that. How good it feels.

What have you observed from the recent Black Lives Matter protests that’s heartened you?

Honestly, the amount of white Americans at these protests and the amount of white Americans that are choosing to educate themselves with books and documentaries. To see people, not just around America, but all over the world protesting on behalf of Black Lives Matter is incredible. My twin brother and I asked my mom what she noticed that was different this time around then in the ’60s and she said this very thing, the amount of white Americans and people around the world speaking up against racism. Even states in the U.S. that I would have never expected to be having protests on behalf of BLM are having good turnouts. It’s mind-blowing. But with that said, there’s still a whole lot of work that needs to be done, so I’m hoping people stay motivated. There’s still a long way to go.

The Black Tones is a family band through and through. Can you talk about how this informs your music?

I write songs based on my environment, mood, fears, sexuality, favorite color, food, arachnophobia, striped painted walls, you name it. If it’s been in my life, it’s not off limits to write about. My family is a big influence on me and my music. We are very close, so to have them as a part of this just makes it more fun and, honestly, liberating. We get to create these memories together. We’ve been on some pretty big stages. I love what the Staples Singers had, I love what the Jackson 5 had. The music industry is tough, demanding. So I have to be doing this with people I love unconditionally and that know me and really well. My upbringing made me who I am, so I can’t help but incorporate it into my music.

You’ve shared stages with Weezer, Death Cab, Mavis Staples and Thunderpussy. And Mike McCready of Pearl Jam released your recent 7” on his indie label. But what is your first favorite musical achievement so far?

The best musical achievement so far was creating the first album, Cobain & Cornbread, with my twin brother. Cedric is my best friend. He believed in me and in this project that started in our grandma’s basement. To create something like an album together is like having our very own time capsule. That is something we will always have together and no one can take that experience or achievement away from us. We made our introduction into the world together. Just like when we were born.

You’re a host at the famed Northwest radio station, KEXP. What is it like to be on the mic and spin records there?

I love being able to put other artists on. I love being a curator. To explore music is something that I do anyway, as a musician. So getting the chance to play it on air and give it an audience is one of the best platforms—outside of performing music—that I can think of.

You recently took part in the All In Washington benefit. What was the highlight of that experience for you?

The experience overall was incredible. The day we shot our music video segment was a very bittersweet one. Sweet because we got to work with Jason Koenig who’s done videos for Ed Sheeran and Macklemore, and it was absolutely great and he pushed us to be our very best. It was a true Hollywood experience. Hard work—like a 10-hour day. The day was bitter, though, because before that shoot, my family and I had to take my stepdad off of life support just about three hours prior. So my brother and I were literally mourning but had to work our asses off because we felt like we could honor our stepdad’s memory that way. My mother told me before I left the hospital, “Go do the video shoot, you know Tony would want you to. Make him proud.” So we did it. And we’re glad we did.

What’s one thing about you that your fans have never heard you talk about in public before?

A few things: my new favorite video game is Toe Jam & Earl, I have battled with OCD most of my life, and I love the band U2. Is that good enough?

Yes! Can you give three other Northwest artists to watch out for?

Absolutely! Black Ends, which is fronted by the amazing Nicolle Swims. BEARAXE, fronted by the power-rock vocalist Shaina Shepherd. And Tres Leches, who just kill it! And a fourth, just for fun, Warren Dunes! Look out! These bands rock!

Final question. Wanna give your mom a shout-out?


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