Do your thing. Don’t worry about conforming and pandering to the masses. You can’t please everyone.
Billie Blue & the Nowhere Men are by no means strangers to the Kuala Lumpur music scene with regular gigs in some of the cities most recognised venues. Having just dropped (8 Sept 2018) their debut album "Find Gold" we sit down with Lead Singer Billie Blue Blackstone to discuss the story behind its title, some of her personal favourites and experiences whilst gigging as a four-piece.
Hi Billie, Welcome to The City List, How did the band first form and who exactly are the members?
Thank you for having us! There are four of us in this band. Soheil is from Iran and he plays lead guitar. David is PJ bred and he’s our bassist. Our drummer, Reuben, is from Kajang and he’s the noisemaker. I’m Billie Blue, I sing, and I’m from all kinds of places – including Malaysia.
Describe your sound as a band?
The core of our music is rock n roll, but we’ve injected heaps of folk, blues and psychedelia into it. We all grew up listening to a lot of what people like to call, “old school” music, so I suppose those sensibilities have informed our approach to songwriting.
What are some of the band's musical influences?
There are so many! But I’ll try to keep the list short. Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and many more.
You've just released your debut album 'Find Gold'. Why did it take so long to write it?
I wouldn’t say it took a long time to write the album. The recording process is what took time. There was a lot of trial and error, and we were involved with a couple of studios before deciding to work with Ash Gobinath from Nadir Studios. Once we found him though, the process was relatively fast, especially given all of our busy schedules. The album was recorded live, and that means we had to wrap up recording in just a couple of takes. It was challenging, but we didn’t want to compromise on the energy and feel of playing a song in the moment, together.
What’s the story behind the title?
“Find Gold” was taken from the first line of our single, “Emperor”. “Emperor” is a somewhat observational track about power and politics. When we wrote this, I was reading a lot of historical fiction by Robert Graves. That, coupled with our unanimous love for Game of Thrones and our personal lamentations about the state of the world, is kind of what birthed the track. But I think “Find Gold” can mean a lot of things. Not to sound trite, but most of us hope to strike gold – literally or figuratively – at some point in our lives, but I think that process or the search for gold is more valuable than the pot at the end of the rainbow. But it is part of human nature that “gold” is quite out of reach. As we approach a pinnacle, we are already looking ahead and chasing the next best thing.
Any personal favourites on the album?
My personal favorites are Sea Salt Slide and Old Friend. I dug deep when I was writing the lyrics, and Old Friend, in particular, is very emotionally charged. I always feel like I’m rooted to the ground when I sing it. Reuben loves Sea Salt Slide as well because it makes him feel all of the feels. David really digs Red Corduroy because he gets to have a lot of fun with the bass, and Soheil likes Seven Cities of Love, which is an instrumental track he composed. It’s based on the Persian poem, ‘Conference of the Birds’, which he feels a strong connection to.
What has been your most memorable moment as a Band?
Performing at the Langkawi International Blues & Roots Festival last year. The stage was smack in the middle of the Cenang beach. The energy was incredible and there’s nothing like playing by the sea, especially when so much of our lyrical imagery references the ocean. Also, three days in duty free Langkawi – I don’t need to tell you that the band had a ton of fun together. ;)
Without naming names what’s the worst experience as a band to date?
We were performing at one of our favorite venues in KL. At the peak of our second set, as the music was getting heavier and we were really vibing, the bass amp malfunctioned and David had no sound for a good 15 minutes. We somehow played a few acoustic driven songs sans bass while the engineer tried to sort out the problem. It turned out okay, but it was horrible while we were up there. We had no idea if the problem would get fixed at all.
If you had one bit of advice for up and coming artists what would it be?
Do your thing. Don’t worry about conforming and pandering to the masses. You can’t please everyone. If you believe in your art and you put in the effort to do it well, you’ll find your place and your people in the music world.
Name one band you’d like to open for and why?
Maybe Fleetwood Mac, because we’re all crushing on Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham.
What frustrates you and what do you love about the music scene here?
We love that people are consistently putting themselves out there despite the scene’s limitations. There are a lot of inspiring people who are seriously passionate about keeping the scene alive. Still, we think that there needs to be more unity between the different pockets of the music scene. We can only benefit from creating more opportunities for one another.
What else have you got lined up for BBTNM in 2018?
We are organising a mini-tour to promote the album, so stay tuned for that.