Miss Black America (MBA) were a punk-influenced rock band based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England. Its original line-up consisted of Seymour Glass (voice/guitar), Mike Smith (bass) and Neil Baldwin (drums).
The band formed after a chance encounter between Glass and Smith at a drum and bass night at The Junction in nearby Cambridge in October 1999. Baldwin and Smith had been playing together for several years, having attended neighbouring schools (Baldwin attended St Benedict's Roman Catholic Upper School in Bury St Edmunds, whilst Smith attended County Upper School nearby; the two would meet in the music practice rooms of County Upper School during lunch breaks). Glass (also a County Upper School alumnus) had been writing a fanzine entitled Planet Of Sound (after the Pixies song of the same name) alongside local singer-songwriter Greg McDonald, who at that time was fronting folk-influenced band The Hip Down; Glass briefly joined The Hip Down on bass guitar in late 2000. During this time, Glass took on the pseudonym Seymour Glass, after a character from the stories of J.D. Salinger, in order to write for the fanzine with a degree of anonymity, but credited himself by this name on the very first MBA demo (recorded in March 2000 at Fat Music Studios in Southwold); the name then stuck for the duration of his time in MBA. Following Glass's departure from The Hip Down, McDonald changed the name of his band to The Dawn Parade.
The four demo tracks recorded at Fat Music Studios (Miss Black America, Strobe and Don't Speak My Mind) were distributed by the band throughout 2000 as the Miss Black America EP. Promo copies of this EP, featuring the edited and full-length versions of the song Miss Black America as well as a "secret" track entitled Leopardprint Lives, were sent to press and radio; the EP was never officially released but the edited version of Miss Black America featured on a 2000 Repeat Records compilation entitled It Takes A Nation Of Miltons To Hold Us Back, whilst Don't Speak My Mind was released as a 7" single in October 2011 (the other tracks from the EP have not been reissued).
Miss Black America entered the Cambridge Band Competition in early 2000, also held at the Junction, and came runner-up. This led to a slot supporting The Dandy Warhols, which earned the band a considerable local following. Following an industrial accident in September 2000, which resulted in Glass losing the little finger of his left hand (the digit was successfully sewn back on with partial loss of movement), Glass's school friend Gish was drafted in on guitar. Following success at another band competition (Burysound in Bury St Edmunds) in December 2000, Gish was made a full-time member of the band.
MBA's self-financed début single, the Adrenaline Junkie Class-A Mentalist EP, sold out within weeks of release when John Peel pushed the band on BBC Radio One. Second single Don't Speak My Mind (taken from the 2000 demo "EP") was also championed by Peel and attracted the attention of Bedford-based Integrity Records, who signed the band to a one-album deal. Key to the band's increased popularity during this time, in addition to national airplay, was support from many UK music fanzines and music websites, in particular Drowned In Sound (DiS). Many DiS contributors submitted positive reviews of numerous MBA shows during 2001 and the band's progress was charted via regular news pieces and interviews on DiS.
Debut album God Bless Miss Black America was recorded at the Magic Garden studio in Wolverhampton between September 2001 and January 2002 (the recording process was punctuated by live dates, including the inaugural Drowned In Sound tour with Antihero), with producer Gavin Monaghan at the helm. The first three singles from God Bless (Infinite Chinese Box, Talk Hard and Miss Black America) were well received by the British Music Press and received moderate airplay in the UK. All three singles fared well on John Peel's Festive Fifty at the end of 2002, with Talk Hard at No. 3. 2002 also saw MBA touring almost constantly, often supporting other "buzz bands" including The Libertines, Parkinsons, Doves and Liars.
Problems set in during a tour of the UK to promote Talk Hard, when constant touring and personal matters external to the band exacerbated Glass's mental health problems (including long-term problems with Bulimia nervosa and self-injury); this reportedly led to tensions within the band. The band's live performance received some poor reviews in the music press during this time. When God Bless Miss Black America was finally released in September 2002, it received poor reviews from the NME and The Fly; problems with distribution meant that many shops did not stock the album, and sales did not match those expected of such a relatively high-profile release. However, other UK magazines, (including Rock Sound and Q Magazine) were more positive, and Rolling Stone writers Michael Krugman and Jason Cohen voted God Bless... their Album of the Year 2002.
In October 2002, following a disastrous tour to promote God Bless Miss Black America (supported by Leeds-based rockers Parva, later known as The Kaiser Chiefs) and on the eve of a performance at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen, NL (at the personal invitation of John Peel) and a UK tour supporting Kinesis and Reuben, the band underwent a radical shake-up, replacing all except Glass with Mat Anthony (guitar/voice), Jonny Steele (bass) and Simon Cooper (drums). Mike Smith and Neil Baldwin went on to form a new band fronted by Smith, My Hi-Fi Sister, and were later joined by Gish. Gish joined Bournemouth-based "noise collective" Krayon, releasing solo/band recordings on Dirty Demos, Sound Devastation and Krayon labels; he also joined Tex La Homa (nom-de-guerre of Bournemouth-based songwriter Matt Shaw, who had produced MBA b-side All I Want Is Out) as live guitarist.
Miss Black America released two singles through Cambridge-based Repeat Records in 2003 (Drowning By Numbers and Beautiful Velocity) but these were not widely-promoted or particularly well received. Further line-up changes came in October 2003, with Jonny Steele replaced by Ryan Banwell on bass. Then, in April 2004, Simon Cooper quit and was swiftly replaced by Simon Chapple, former drummer of Bury St Edmunds-based punk band Chevette.
The line up of Glass (guitar/voice), Mat Anthony (guitar/voice), Ryan Banwell (bass) and Simon Chapple (drums) went on to record a second album, Terminal, again at the Magic Garden with Gavin Monaghan once again producing. The album was part-funded by a grant from the Arts Council England.
A first single from the album, Dot Dot Dot, was released through Repeat Records in April 2005 and was declared "Single Of The Month" in Rock Sound magazine. Terminal followed, also on Repeat Records, in May 2005. The album was largely ignored by the mainstream UK music press and radio stations, but eventually outsold the much-hyped God Bless.... The album was re-released (with an expanded CD booklet) by London-based Ruby Slippers Records in November 2005.
Ongoing problems, both personal and financial, continued to cause instability within the band; in June 2005, Ryan Banwell was sacked as bassist and replaced by the returning Mike Smith. The band toured with additional live guitarist Richard Phillips (from fellow Bury St Edmunds band The Khe Sanh Approach) in October 2005. Then in December 2005 Smith, Simon Chapple and Richard Phillips all left the band. Remaining members Seymour Glass and Mat Anthony were joined by Laura Kidd (bass) and Dan Smart (drums) for a final UK tour in May, June and July 2006, (supported for the most part by We Start Fires).
After a performance at the Camden Underworld in support of the charity Liberty on 31 July 2006, Miss Black America went on hiatus.
Post-Miss Black America:
Seymour Glass and Mat Anthony reunited for a one-off acoustic gig at The Bell, a small pub in Hove, on Saturday 29 March 2008. Posting on the Miss Black America Facebook page on 26 October 2009, Seymour announced that "there's a possibility of a sort-of 'Best of' cheapy thing for iTunes"; to date there has been no further news on this project. However, on Saturday 9 October 2010, Seymour and Mat reunited a second time to play at set of MBA songs for John Peel Day at London's Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes.
Seymour (now going by the name Seymour Patrick), Mike Smith and Neil Baldwin reunited as rock band Ten City Nation in early 2007. Their eponymous debut album was released in May 2008 through Repeat Records; a second album, At The Still Point, was released to some critical acclaim in August 2009 on Seymour's own imprint, Sturm Und Drang Recordings. Both albums are available to download from the Ten City Nation website. A song from the eponymous debut, TDK 90, was used on the soundtrack for a film by the SuicideGirls, entitled The Suicide Girls Guide To Living, in late 2010. Former MBA guitarist Richard Phillips joined Ten City Nation (to date, as live guitarist only) in November 2010.
Seymour also released a solo album, Import/Export, under the name Open Mouth, through Repeat Records in May 2007. He has recently contributed guitars to the second album by former The Dawn Parade frontman Greg McDonald and occasionally plays bass guitar for country band The Blazing Zoos, alongside journalist Andrew Mueller and members of Jesus Jones. In early 2011, details were announced of a new art rock project, You Killed Me First, which features Seymour alongside present and former members of art rock bands Popular Workshop and William. Seymour currently presents The Painter's Radio Show, which broadcasts weekly on Shadwell-based station Xstream East Radio; the tagline for the show is, "Interesting stuff you might not have heard before".
Gish has continued to create music as a writer, performer and producer. He has been involved in numerous collaborations and installations, and continues to record and release as a solo artist.
Mat Anthony has since been involved in drum & bass project Baron Greenback and a solo venture under the pseudonym Mat Hudson, as well as playing for Italian singer songwriter Elena. He currently fronts hard rock band Alita's Curse. In 2012 Mat joined new rock band CURRAN as lead guitarist!
Laura Kidd works as a session musician (previously playing bass for Tricky, Alex Parks and Lil' Chris), filmmaker and photographer and has released two solo albums under the name She Makes War. Performing solo on Telecaster, ukulele and loop pedal she has toured supporting Chris T-T, Midge Ure and Viv Albertine as well as singing on stage with Viv Albertine and Carina Round.
As well as playing with Mike Smith in My Hi-Fi Sister, Neil Baldwin played drums for the Khe Sanh Approach until that band's demise in 2007; he also played bass guitar for three-piece Garage rock band The Siamese Sluts. The Siamese Sluts recorded an album with MBA co-producer Andy Taylor; CD-R promo copies of the album (some copies of which were entitled Big Tiger whilst others were entitled The Best Of The Siamese Sluts) were circulated in late 2004, but the album has not to date seen an official release.
Simon Cooper went on to form a "crushing metal" band entitled Methods Of Punishment, who have since been renamed A Horse Called War.
Richard Phillips continued playing guitar for The Khe Sanh Approach until that band's demise in 2007, before joining live guitar for East London-based post-punk influenced three-piece Deep Sht alongside fellow Khe Sanh Approach member Tom Watson. In late 2010 he joined former MBA members Seymour Patrick, Neil Baldwin and Mike Smith as live guitarist for Ten City Nation. Richard currently plays in the touring band of singer Kate Jackson, formerly of The Long Blondes.
Simon Chapple currently plays drums in Bury St Edmunds-based hip hop collective Scare The Normals.
Jonny Steele went on to join Bury St Edmunds band Opposite the Hotel until that band split in 2008. He currently runs the Ditchlicker Sound System.
They then reformed in November 2011. Hurrah!
"Miss Black America EP" (2000, CD only) (Self-release),
"Adrenaline Junkie Class-A Mentalist EP" (2001, CD only) (R*E*P*E*A*T Records),
"Don't Speak My Mind" (2001, 7" only) (Dental Records),
"Infinite Chinese Box" (2001, CD/7") (Integrity Records),
"Talk Hard" (2002, CD/7") (Integrity Records),
"Miss Black America" (2002, CD/7") (Integrity Records),
"Drowning By Numbers" (2003, 7" only) (R*E*P*E*A*T Records),
"Beautiful Velocity" / "All I Want Is Out" (2003, 7" only) (R*E*P*E*A*T Records),
"Dot Dot Dot" (2005, CD only) (R*E*P*E*A*T Records),
"Drowning By Numbers" (2005, CD only) (Ruby Slippers Records),
"Emotional Junkmail" (2006, 2-part CD only) (Ruby Slippers Records)