Black Star Jackals Q&A
The new EP 'Hollow' from Glasgow band Black Star Jackals is out tomorrow (15th October 2021) and is a potent stew of rock, indie, and alternative sounds with a few funk touches thrown in. The guys kindly answered a few questions for BBMATB on the band, the EP, their music and lyrics and some of their favourite shows (see below).
Black Star Jackals are Kieran McFarlane (vocals and guitar), Steven Joseph (guitar and vocals), Max Lamprecht (Bass) and Calum MacPherson (Drums).
'Hollow' is out on the 15th October and will be available on all the major digital sites. Singles 'Maybe', 'Off The Table', 'Problems' (2019), 'Californication' (Live) (2020), 'Party People' and 'Down This Road' (2021) are also all available on Spotify, Itunes etc.
Hi Guys, thank you for taking some time out to answer a few questions. First off, for those readers who might not be familiar with Black Star Jackals, could you give a short history of the band?
We’re a 4-piece alt-rock band from Glasgow. We formed in early 2019 and started gigging
shortly after. The band was formed by lead singer Kieran as a vehicle for his own songs,
which until then he’d been singing solo in various open mic nights around the city.
Initially a 3-piece (drums, bass and guitar/vocals), Kieran realised he was going to need
another member to help share the guitar work and expand the sound. He placed an ad on Facebook, which is how Steven discovered him. After sending Steven some of his demos and chatting online, the two hit it off immediately, having very similar tastes and musical influences.
Come early summer, the original bassist and drummer had been replaced by Max and Calum respectively (again, thanks to Facebook) and the line-up as it is today was formed.
And who would you say were the main influences on Black Star Jackals?
I think our most obvious influences come from the hey-days of alt-rock in the 90’s and 00’s. Bands like Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Muse, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus and so on. Kieran’s vocal style harks back to this era somewhat.
But individually we all have a very wide-ranging personal taste and musical upbringing and whether intentional or not they definitely seem to seep into our songs, and we think this mixture of genres is what gives us our own unique, yet familiar sound.
Calum for example has a strong connection to the folk/trad scene, having also played
bagpipes growing up. And both Max and Steven are classically trained, having each attended Royal Colleges of Music.
Your new EP 'Hollow' came out recently - where did you record the EP and did you have an outside producer or was it something you self-produced yourselves?
4 of the 5 tracks were recorded at Venice of the North studios right here in Glasgow. The
songs were mixed and produced by Jamie Martyn and since the first time we worked with Jay when recording Party People in 2020, we haven’t thought about working with anyone else. He has the ability to take what we record and just explode it into something way bigger and more engaging. When he emailed us his first draft mix for Party People it blew us away. So much so we genuinely thought he had overdubbed or rerecorded most of it!
I gather that COVID affected the recording / releasing of the EP - would anything about it have been different if we hadn't had the pandemic?
Yeh, it would’ve been out a lot sooner! We were due to enter the studio late 2020 to lay
down the final 2 tracks but, as you all know, we went back into lockdown and pretty much
didn’t see each other again until April 2021. Despite the fact that we formed in 2019, since
the start of 2020 we, like so many others, have effectively been on hold for around 18
months. So, in reality, we’ve only been able to perform/record as a band properly for about a year in total. Covid was a real momentum killer, but we stayed as proactive as we could and kept writing tunes in lockdowns regardless.
Do you have a favourite track from the EP and if so, why?
To be honest our favourite track probably changes from day to day depending on what
mood we’re in as they’re all so different. 'Hollow' is just all out energy, great for letting of
some steam. 'Down This Road' is a life affirming anthem. 'Party People' is our best attempt at a dance track and 'Always The Same' is the most deep, complex and contemplative of them all.
Secretly, I think we all have a soft spot for the live acoustic version of 'Down This Road' (well, maybe not Calum as he isn’t in it!), because it’s unexpected and very different, much more chilled vibe to what we normally do. Plus, it shows off Max’s double bass skills!
Your lyrics are quite powerful and affecting - where do you draw your inspiration for these?
Kieran is pretty much solely responsible for most of the lyrical content in our songs. Not
everything we write about is autobiographical, but a lot of it does hit close to home and
deals with issues we’ve faced and continue to battle to this day, most notably mental health and relationships.
The energetic and upbeat instrumentals in our music can often disguise the more dark and serious themes being addressed in the lyrics. But we’re not trying to bring everybody down! Far from it. All of our songs are designed to be positive; Overcoming our fears and vices, whatever they may be, to emerge as better people out the other side.
Were there any tracks that you'd written and were considering for the EP but decided to leave them off, and will we get to hear them at a later date?
There were a couple of tunes that were a toss-up against others that didn’t make it onto the EP, but ultimately, we decided we wanted this record (being short and sweet as EP’s are) to demonstrate as much of our range and variety as possible. And yes, we’re actually heading into the studio in a few weeks to start recording some new material including those tracks. We’re not yet so prolific in our song writing output that we can afford to just not record the songs we’ve written!
With shows now back on the table, what do you have coming up in terms of gigs? Any that you're particularly looking forward to playing?
Since gigs started back up again in August here in Scotland, we’ve been amazed with the
amount of shows we’ve been able to put in the diary! Our manager Jay at Reaction
Management is doing a great job of keeping us very busy and long may it continue! Our first gig in 2021 took place 21 months after our last gig pre-covid, so needless to say we’ve been dying to get back on the stage.
Without doubt the biggest gig we’ve lined up before Christmas is our slot at Monsterfest
2021 in Inverness. We’re playing on the final day on November 13th and it’s a stellar line-up all week at a great venue – The Ironworks. Cannot wait!
Do any past shows that you've played stand out as favourites? And any favourite venues?
Funnily enough, before last night (9th October) we would’ve given you a different answer to what we’re giving now, but I think it’s fair to say our gig last night in Mad Hatters, Inverness may have been our best show so far.
We’d never played Inverness until then and we were unknown to pretty much everyone in
the crowd, which considering we were the headline act and also playing our first ever full
length (1 hour) show, made us a tiny bit nervous…
But the crowd were amazing and so welcoming and after just a few songs they were up
dancing and singing along, which was impressive considering they’d never heard them
before! It was the kind of crowd response you dream of in a situation like that and a great
feeling to know our music can win people over on first hearing alone.
In terms of favourite venues we’ve played in, it’s a tough call, but often you’ll find the
smaller and more intimate a venue, the better the gig, as you just have more open and
direct contact with the crowd. So, based on that we’d have to say The Hug n’ Pint, which has a tiny room in the basement. We put on our show there in 2019 with some of our favourite local bands supporting and even though there was probably only 40 people in the audience, it felt packed and everyone had an amazing night. Better yet, all proceeds went to the homeless charity Shelter, which was the icing on the cake.
Is there a good rock scene in Glasgow at the moment? Any other bands from the city and surrounding area you'd recommend to readers?
It’s not an overstatement to say that Glasgow is one of the musical capitols of Europe right now. You’re spoilt for choice in terms of venues and there are gigs of all genres happening constantly. It’s tough to think of a better place to be right now for rock bands, or musicians and artists in general. The majority of the Reaction Management roster are Glasgow based rock bands and they all super talented and very varied.
Indie-rock band Arcade State recently joined the Reaction family. We supported them a few months back at their first show back since Covid and based on the crowd reaction alone, we’d say they were ones to watch. Same can be said for Layaway, who are also on our roster.
Another ‘none Reaction’ artist to keep an eye on would be Lo Rays. She’s a Norwegian singer songwriter creating some super interesting and original electronic rock/dance music. Definitely worth checking out.
And finally, what plans for Black Star Jackals for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
Post Covid the word “plan” has taken on a whole new meaning! We think “hope” would be a more appropriate word after all we’ve been through in past 18 months! All being well, we’ll be back in the studio end of October to record two new singles for release late 2021 and early 2022.
As mentioned earlier, we’re playing at Monsterfest in November and we’ve also some really cool support slots in and around Glasgow from now up until mid-December, details of which can be found on our Facebook page.
We’ve only ventured south of the border once so next year we’d really love to head down to England and Wales to do a few gigs and branch out a bit.
Momentum has really begun to build nicely since we started gigging again recently. Covid all but halted the progress we’d made throughout 2019 and it felt like for us the reset button had been hit and we were back to square one. But with the help of our management and contacts we made early on we’ve been able to hit the ground running post-lockdown and we’re just really excited for what the future holds, whatever it may be!