Glasgow’s Black Star Jackals introduce themselves to us and talk about their hopes of filling in the gap for Rock music in today’s charts. We also talk through their latest release ‘Party People’ and how they would tackle the issue of streaming services being more favourable in their payouts to working artists…
For our readers who may not have heard of you before, give us the lowdown on who ‘Black Star Jackals’ are…
Sure. We’re a 4-piece alt-rock/indie band from Glasgow. We formed in 2019 and were brought together by our love of the same type of music, most notably stuff from what we consider the heyday of bands which was the 90’s and early 2000’s. Bands like the Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Muse, Rage Against the Machine and many others all had a massive influence on us growing up and we feel like this kind of great, band based music has been absent from the mainstream for far too long and our aim is to help bring it back but in our own, unique, contemporary form. There’s absolutely a huge thirst for it and rock concerts and festivals are still some of the most popular and well attended out there.
So the new single ‘Party People’ came out last week, how has it been received so far?
Amazingly well to be honest. We’re a young, relatively unknown band with not much money to put behind any big PR budget and so the majority of the promo we do is organic, done by ourselves and our brilliant manager Jay, from Reaction Management. Its already well on track to surpass the success of our previous single Always the Same and what’s cooler still is that magazines, radio stations and music sites are reaching out to us unsolicited to ask about the song and play it on their platforms, so it’s obviously resonating. We kinda suspected we had a winner with this song when we wrote it – it’s super catchy, has a great drum beat and just makes you wanna move. Pretty much everyone who’s heard it has really liked it, which is exactly what we want!
Your sound is pretty distinct, particularly in comparison to other bands on the Scottish scene right now. Is there a desire to stand out from the rest or is it more a case of harnessing a sound more in tone with your influences?
I think every band wants to sound unique/distinct, which of course is harder than ever to do now, so the fact that you think that of us is pretty much the highest compliment we can ask for! We’re just pretty open and genuine when it comes to song writing and our sound. We don’t try and force or fake anything. We’re lucky to have Kieran as our lead singer, as not only does he have a fantastic set of pipes and a unique quality to his voice, he also has this knack for writing brilliant melodies, which no doubt comes from hours of him listening to amazing songwriters like Chris Cornell and Dave Grohl. Our guitarist Steven has a background in classical music and tends to be the one to ‘orchestrate’ the songs. We write out our ideas in music software like Cubase – meaning we can pretty much hear what the song will sound like before we’ve ever even jammed it together- it really streamlines the process. As for our influences, we pretty much wear them on our sleeves and people are very perceptive to the fact we’re clearly taking a lead from those bands we mentioned earlier, as well as lots of other sources like jazz, fusion, hip hop and more.
You have received backing from the likes of BBC Introducing and featured on Rapal Radio, how invaluable do you feel such airplay is for independent acts right now when trying to push your sound, particularly given the difficulties of the past year?
Its impossible to overstate just how grateful we are to anyone who plays our music. They have no obligation to do so as they do it for free, so the fact that so many do and are so supportive to bands like us is amazing. Getting on the likes of BBC is great, as obviously that has a huge audience, but we don’t underestimate the importance of smaller stations putting our music out there. It all adds up. And with us having not being able to play any live gigs for over a year and that looking likely to continue for most of this year, radio and streaming services are all we have.
How as a group have you used the downtime over the past year, has it spurred you on creatively?
We’d be lying if we said we hadn’t been negatively affected by all the lockdowns. In one sense, we are lucky that we are still at the beginning of our journey; a young band just starting out and as such we didn’t have any big tours or shows planned that got cancelled like so many others. But at the same time, momentum for a new band is so important and Covid was like a big brick wall to all the progress we were making.
Here in Scotland restrictions have been a little stricter and longer than rest of UK too on the whole. After the first lockdown was lifted last summer, we got a lot done in the preceding months; writing songs, creating online content, shooting videos, doing online live sets and of course recording our 2 most recent singles. We even took part in some online festivals, so we were ‘gigging’ in a way. We were actually booked into a studio for 11th December, with the plan being to record two follow up singles to Party People, but that turned out to be the day that the new lockdown kicked in here in Scotland, which we’re still in now at the end of January.
As for creativity, with everyday being so monotonous and repetitive its tough to really get inspired. Sorry to be such a downer, but we aren’t gonna pretend like all is well right now. But there are positives, and we are still making forward strides, despite the obstacles.
There has been some light shone upon streaming services of late regarding their pitiful pay-outs to artists. Given the chance, how would you seek to even out the playing field for musicians?
Steven actually watched a Joe Rogan podcast with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys recently where they talked about exactly this, and he had a great idea, which was that each member’s subscription is distributed evenly between only the artists they actually listened to that month. So instead of the £10 (or whatever’s left after Spotify and the labels take their cut) being pooled into a big pot and given to everyone evenly, its distributed in a more fair and representative manner. So, let’s say you only listen to the music of 4 artists for a month, the £10 only goes to those artists and is distributed based on how many times you streamed their songs. It seems a no brainer in regards to fairness, but we imagine the algorithms and stuff required to make it happen are probably crazy complicated.
What are your earliest memories of music from being young? Could you give us one song that is to this day a guilty pleasure?
There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to music! Let’s just say we all had great taste from a young age. Take Steven, whose first CD purchase was The Witch Doctor by The Cartoons, which he followed by buying his first album: The Wombles Greatest Hits – it’s really little wonder why we have such a refined and polished sound after early influences like that.
What can we expect from the band by way of new music over the coming year then, do you have tracks waiting to go? EP maybe?
We’ve learned during these times not to lay any concrete plans for obvious reasons! So much we had planned last year got ruined by COVID. Sadly, we currently don’t have any more material recorded, which we planned to do last December. We do have a tonne of songs pretty much ready to go that we’ll be recording and releasing ASAP. An EP is definitely a possibility, but at this stage, we get a better ‘return on investment’, so to speak, on just doing singles.
Keep up to date on all the latest news with the band on the following links below…