Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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Blown away.

No, I’m not talking about the underrated 1995 Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee Jones action movie. No, I’m talking about the feeling I got after listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s (or BRMC as they’re affectionately known as) latest record, Specter at the Feast (Vagrant, 2013).

The record is a masterful blend of two very distinct sounds. The first is a down and dirty rock ‘n’ roll vibe complete with rip-roaring guitars, sneering vocals and pure, unadulterated bombast. The second sound is a more ethereal, chilled out vibe, one that you’d expect from a group like UK psychedelics like Spiritualized. Mashed together on one record these two opposing sounds should not work. In fact it should’ve made for a terrible album. Yet, BRMC was able to find a perfect balance, a harmony of the two vibes. The band was able to fuse the ying and yang of chaos and calm and produce an unapologetically amazing record. Best album of 2013? You bet your ass it is.

BRMC will be rolling into Pop-Break’s home away from home, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. on Thursday, October 3rd which allowed me to connect with the band’s guitarist Peter Hayes. We discussed the new album, working with Dave Grohl and the emotional cover song the band recorded.

Photo Credit: James Minchin
Photo Credit: James Minchin

Pop-Break: Specter at the Feast is an amazing record — I absolutely loved it. It shows so many shades of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s musical personality. So with that being said, how do you feel this record stands out from the rest of your catalog?

Peter Hayes: Thank you for the kind words, I can’t say for sure how this record stands out from the others. We are never trying to repeat ourselves so the hopes would be they all just stand on their own.

PB: Your bio calls this record your “most ambitious offering yet.” Sometimes ambitious offerings don’t always jive with a fan base, so how did the BRMC faithful respond to this new record?

PH: We are still able to tour and play music for a living. I’m forever grateful for that, if people only wanted to hear the old songs then so be it, we’re still playing music.

PB: You recorded Specter at The Feast at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 which is now home to the famed Neve 8028 console from Sound City. This was the same console that recorded your debut album. Besides the fact it’s Dave Grohl, can you talk about why you chose that studio to record this new record and what it added in terms of sound, production and even music inspiration to the record?

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PH: We were recording the song with him for the movie and he offered his studio to us for doing our album, so we said great. He has a really nice studio and engineers working with him there it was really nice. We did what we usually do with our records we went in for 2 days and cut all the drum tracks and then went home and did the rest. I’m a fan of getting music done however you can, board or no board old gear or new gear. At the end of the day you need a song the gear doesn’t write it for you. Well that’s not true really some of the new gear does right it for you.

PB: Speaking of Sound City, you guys were part of the documentary film that Grohl made. Can you talk about the significance of Sound City (the movie) and what it meant to BRMC?

PH: At the time to us it was a fancy big time thing, a lot of the comments were how much of a shit hole it was, we didn’t know any better it looked like the big time to us. I’m really glad we got to use that gear though and on tape, it really is a very different way of doing an album and it’s a great way.

PB: You guys cover The Call’s “Let the Day Begin” in tribute to the passing of Robert Been’s father Michael. How important was it for you guys to have this song be a part of the new record? Also, as someone who has lost a dad, I know that sometimes the memories, even the good ones can be tough to deal with. Does that song still strike an emotional chord when you perform it live?

PH: Michael was always wondering how one of his songs might sound if we did it. I kind of wish we did it sooner so he could hear it and give his opinion it would be fun to hear him scold us for the mistakes. It just fell into place really we were just jamming and Rob started singing the words to “Let The Day Begin” and it worked. On a good day everything strikes an emotional chord I think we all are supposed to be connected to that part of ourselves as much as we can, for all the good and bad. Not easy though.

PB: The band is currently touring the U.S. but will crossing the seas to Australia and Japan very soon. You’ve toured the whole world, but the question is — where does BRMC get the biggest crowds and the best responses? In essence, where are the hardcore fans of BRMC located?

PH: We are lucky as fuck they are all pretty hardcore.

PB: My final question is…when’s all said and done in 2013, where would you like to see the band both creatively and commercially?

PH: Oh my, I have no idea, plans are not my strong suit.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performs tomorrow night, October 3rd, at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. Click here for tickets.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites