Don't ever let anyone tell you you were late to a party before it's even started. Black Kids might have a shit ton of glowing reviews and blog coverage behind them but they're just getting started. MTV has them up for Spanking New Artist of 2008 contention (along with a grip of other folks from recent FADERses) and they'll be touring the UK for the next couple of months (dates here. In the meantime, click more to read their Gen F from FADER 51 and make sure to download their free EP Wizard of Ahhhs at their website.
Black Kids join the tradition
When listening to Black Kids, recall the goofy pleasures of being young. “I want people to feel good when they hear our music, but also a little nostalgic as well,” says Reggie Youngblood, frontman for the five-piece. “You know when being in love and being horny felt new? Just really potent emotion that eventually fades away.”
By the time this issue reaches newsstands, Black Kids will have been causing love them/hate them debates amongst critics for a good four months, and their debut album will still be just as many months away. The fuss over the band started after a gig at the Athens Popfest in August became legend; the four-song Wizards of Ahhhs EP posted for download on their MySpace page functioned as a digital dinner bell for label reps and cyberdicks alike. Both sides of the argument respond with equal vehemence. Black Kids were either a package of Pop Rocks in your bloodstream or a jar of ants in your pants.
The band hails from conservative Jacksonville, Florida (the same place that birthed Limp Bizkit) and its members collided in Baptist Sunday school. Early incarnations of Black Kids often rocked holy: Youngblood and drummer Kevin Snow anchored a Christian ska band named Honeylocust, while bassist Owen Holmes dabbled in faith-based punk. Two years ago they changed directions, brought on Youngblood’s twin sister Ali and friend Dawn Watley to play keyboards, and began assembling the lo-fi, synth-heavy jams they are now known for.
Perhaps because of this wholesome background—and despite the critical frenzy—something remains refreshingly untainted about Black Kids’ music. They devour their influences the same way you used to rip the shrink-wrap off CDs or your parents pulled records from their cardboard sleeves or how your children will download audio files directly into their brains. Years of geeking out over records and movies and musicals have yielded results fit for both sock hops and midnight graveyard walks. Wizard of Ahhhs’ second half of “Hurricane Jane” and “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” pay homage to the traditions of Sam Cooke and the Ronettes with shades of ’80s English gloom pop. Even through all the fuzz and hiss of MySpace’s shitty audio player, Watley and the twins create music that somehow still sounds timeless. Youngblood recalls a class on the blues he took at the University of North Florida, where he learned how bluesmen used to retool the same songs twice, but always with a wink. “I think that’s what we do,” he says. “We take something that’s obviously so-and-so, and we try and do our take on it, but with a wink. It’s not supposed to be taken terribly seriously.”