By Tara Bennett
Black Pistol Fire is on the rise in the music world. Comprised as a Canadian duo who splits their time between Toronto, Ontario and Austin, Texas, their wild and energetic rock-and-roll sound has been described as a mix of classic Southern rock and garage punk, garnering comparisons to early Kings of Leon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The White Stripes and Clutch. The band has seen great momentum recently – rocking the Baton Rouge Blues Festival in April, completing a successful tour with Australian hard rock band Wolfmother, and being personally selected by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips to play the Bonnaroo Festival earlier this year. Now they are promoting their new LP “Hush or Howl” with The Toadies on their 20th Anniversary of The Toadies 1994 release, “Rubberneck.” The tour stops in Baton Rouge on August 14th playing the Varsity stage, and in the meantime, DIG had a chance to catch up with guitar/lead vocalist Kevin McKeown.
DIG: So how did the band form?
Kevin McKeown: Well, Eric, the drummer, and I have been pretty much best friends since kindergarten. So we’ve always known each other since we were little tykes. We didn’t start playing music until high school, and we had different incarnations of different bands. We formed a trio when we got out of high school, and we were playing in that band for a little while and made a record. Then things kind of weren’t progressing as much as we wanted them to, so I decided I wanted to drive down to Austin, and try to see how the music scene was down there. Eric also said he wanted to go, and that’s what happened. We both went down to Austin and started playing shows, and people were really into it so we just kind of kept at it.
DIG: You describe your music as delta blues meets heavy metal. Can you tell me who your musical influences are?
KM: Yea, sure. For me some of my musical heroes are from the old rock and roll era and 50s R&B. My hero is Buddy Holly. I’m a big fan of Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan. We’re both real big fans of Creedence Clearwater Revival. We also like a lot of Southern rock as well, like the Allman Brothers. And the blues. We both love Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy. We love anything being picked up by revival bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks. I can go on forever, but those are some of the bands who have inspired both of us.
DIG: Who composes your songs?
KM: I do the writing, and usually if I have an idea, I will bring it in when we are rehearsing or jamming. I’ll try to incorporate that idea into our jam and see if it fits in or works well. Or sometimes we’re just improvising, and if something feels good, I usually take that home and work on it and see if I incorporate that to a verse and then come back and try it again. That’s kind of the way we’ve been doing it from the beginning.
DIG: When you compose a song, where do you get your ideas from?
KM: I feel that when it comes, it just comes naturally. You don’t know where. So if I’m sitting at home, just strumming my acoustic guitar, and I feel an idea coming, or really like either a riff, or a simple melody that has potential, I just kind of let that direct the attitude of where the song is going to go. It all depends on what’s going on with me. Sometimes they come fast, sometimes they come easy, and sometimes they take a while.
DIG: You released a new LP, “Hush or Howl.” Can you give us some highlights of the album?
KM: It was a really cool recording process because we had originally recorded 12 or 13 songs the year prior, and we didn’t really enjoy the production value so much on the first batch, so we decided to re-record them. We usually do it all on analogue take reel to reel. That process has always been appealing to us because it’s kind of got that graininess to it, and it’s got a very raw feel to it. We had a lot of time to really live with these songs and really pay attention to what each song needed – if some parts needed to be reworked, or if some parts needed to be taken out or if some songs needed to be taken out. It was the longest time we ever had to live with a batch of songs. It was a really interesting process because I think taking our time was what was beneficial because now we are really happy with the results. I really love “Alabama Coldcock.” I love how that kicks off the record, and the way that song flows. And “Dimestore Hearttrob” is another. We’re real proud and happy with how it turned out.
DIG: Let’s segue way into the tour. How does it feel about to be on the road with The Toadies?
KM: We’re really excited. Us being from Canada, we weren’t too familiar with their music, but living down in Texas you hear them quite a bit on the radio. They were one of those bands that for a long time I never knew who they were, but I would hear a song on the radio and say, “Oh that’s a cool song, I like that song.” We’re just really excited to get to tour with them, and hope to have a lot of fun on the road, and also pick up some fans, and hopefully their fans will like what we’re doing. Either way I think it will be a good little tour.
DIG: Which songs do you enjoy performing for your audiences?
KM: I think a song like “Hipster Shakes” off the new album is very fun. It’s just a hard-hitting song that I think you’ll enjoy. “Run Rabbit Run” also from the new album has become a real favorite of ours to play because you have a lot of dynamics, a lot of breakdowns and a lot tempo change, stuff like that. That’s always a real fun one. And then we also have fun playing some of the old ones like “Where You’ve Been Before” from our first record because now we have stretched it out into a nine minute song jam where we insert an improve section into the song. I think when that song comes on, we know we can let our hair down, improvise and let it flow freely.
DIG: What can you tell me about the upcoming show at The Varsity?
KM: I can promise you that show is going to get wild. It’s going to get crazy. Be prepared to go all out. We’re gonna try to one up ourselves and try to get a nice, sweaty reaction from the crowd. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.