Indie Rock
The Blakes -­? Art of Losses BIOGRAPHY
“I love older music, the stripped-­?down, straight-­?forward approach,” says Snow Keim, one of the two brothers and founding members of The Blakes. “But we don’t want to replicate the past. We’ve tried really hard to push ahead and still do our own thing. We’re classic in who we are, but we sound modern in the 21st century.”
It’s a noble idea in rock’n’roll – honoring the past without simply copying it, moving ahead while looking back. For their new album Art of Losses, The Blakes (rounded out by Garnet Keim and Bob Husak) didn’t have to push forward –everyone was already enjoying their classic-­?leaning sound. Tastemakers like KEXP, Spin, NPR and Pitchfork raved about the group. MTV was a fan, featuring the band’s videos on Subterranean and their music in shows like Two a Day, Jersey Shore and the Video Music Awards. Their songs were popping up regularly in movies and TV (How I Met Your Mother, Royal Pains, Beverly Hills 90210, etc.). They were even featured in a cool, artsy coffee table book, Seattle 100 Portrait of a City.
Live, when the guys weren’t too busy playing festivals (including Lollapalooza, Sasquatch, Block Party, Noise Pop SF, Bumbershoot, Eurockéennes, SXSW, CMJ and Musicfest Northwest, among others), they were touring around the world with the likes of The Gossip, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Kills. They played Le Olympia in Paris for a national TV show, landing on France’s Letterman equivalent Taratata (with Michael Stipe), scoring a Top 40 hit and even getting a personal tour of Paris from Serge Gainsbourg’s personal driver.
To begin working on Art of Losses, the band chose to leave their urban Seattle trappings for the Maine countryside. When asked what prompted the non-­?conformist move, Garnet Keim lead singer for The Blakes noted, “Seattle is an exceptionally supportive and musically diverse city and ultimately inspired us to follow our own musical path.”
While not necessarily a hotbed of music, the move to Maine offered the band a new sense of creative freedom and time to reflect. “It was weird—Snow and I used to make these weird audio stories when we were kids in my parents’ house, and 20 years later we were right back in the same place,” says Garnet. “It was like nothing had changed.” The brothers started recording in their parents’ living room, eventually building their own studio on the property.
The isolation proved liberating. The brothers toyed with new instruments (synths, Hammond organ, maracas, tambourine, xylophone, wood blocks). They became more spontaneous – instead of endlessly rehearsing songs and overdubbing later, the brothers would often construct songs piece by piece over the course of a night, starting with a piano track, synthesizer or whatever instrument they felt like building around. And for the most part, the group shunned the outside world. “We unplugged the TV, radio and Internet,” says Garnet. “That’s why we have some softer, more emotive moments on here and some new sounds. This record was about listening to ourselves. Lyrically there’s an overarching theme of sadness and loss – as the album title suggests. We had a lot of loss during the recording, in both friends and family. It was everywhere around us.”
That last quote isn’t some kind of zen statement – The Blakes really were listening to themselves for new ideas. Credit that inspiration to a side project; in March 2009 the brothers released a psychedelic, experimental album No One Knows under the moniker BEADS that not only earned its own fanbase, but proved to the band that there was more than one way to make music. “That side project got a life of its own,” says Snow. “So in essence, we’re now recording The Blakes in the same spirit as BEADS.”
Initially, The Blakes recorded songs for what was going to be a reverb-­?drenched surf rock album called Low Low, performing several of the tracks during their 2010 U.S. tour. Ultimately, the band decided to focus on the BEADS follow-­?up, releasing the stripped-­?down, psychedelic odyssey Thin Air in early 2011 and garnering praise from KEXP, MTV and Grammy Award-­?nominated music supervisor Gary Calamar (Six Feet Under, House, True Blood). Following that success, the band revisited the Low Low material, deciding to forge ahead with 30 new songs, many of which made the new album.
So nearly three years after their last full-­?length album, The Blakes’ long-­?awaited Art of Losses finds the group turning the “retro” tag on its head, reimagining the band’s sound as a potent mix of organic and electronic. In 34 minutes, the
band zips through dreamy pop (“Old Gal,” “Surf’s Up”), electro-­?tinged rock (“Narwhal”), moody post-­?punk (“Dark in the Night”) and lo-­?fi guitars mixed with big harmonies (“New Friends”).
Although the record is full of new sounds, the group’s garage tendencies may take over when they tour. “There’s a bit of a Ramones vibe when we play live – we like to just hammer out those songs in 40 minutes, no gimmicks,” says Snow. (Interestingly enough, the band’s name is either an ode to groups like The Ramones or The Smiths...or inspired by a dream of 18th century poet William Blake bestowing the name on the group. It depends on when you ask them.)
With Art Of Losses, The Blakes continue their vein of straight forward, harmony driven, no-­?frills rock and John Richards of KEXP has praises the new album saying, "The Blakes return with yet another stellar record proving they're one of the best rock bands out there today.
The Blakes/BEADS discography
2001 The Blakes The Blakes
2003 The Blakes Marine Sailor 2004 The Blakes The Bottle EP 2005 The Blakes Little Whispers EP 2007 The Blakes Streets EP
2008 The Blakes Lights On EP
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2008 The Blakes Cereal Box (fan-­?only album) 2009 Beads No One Knows
2009 The Blakes Souvenir
2010 The Blakes Low Low (unreleased)
2011 Beads Thin Air
2012 The Blakes Art Of Losses
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