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Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

In a fitting homage to their rock heavy roots, Black Rebel Motorcycle have returned to the scene with ‘Wrong Creatures’, an album that delivers exactly what you’ve come to know and love about the band. While Wrong Creatures is a testament to their determination and perseverance, it’s definitely been a long time between drinks for the California trio.

When the opportunity to interview bassist Robert Levon Been presents itself, there is really only one answer. Meeting over an international conference call, it was hard to imagine what the depths of Canadian winter must seem like compared to the persistent Australian heat waves; offering a glimpse into what life was like in the depths of Canada, Been replied that, ‘…the end of the world was going to be quite breathtaking; I can vouch for that.’

For anyone who has tuned into Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s latest release, it becomes immediately apparent that while the band serve as a reminder of the foundations of rock, there is still so much that they have to offer in this modern era of music. After taking a five-year hiatus to facilitate the recovery of their drummer Leah Shapiro, ‘Wrong Creatures’ is business as usual for the band, but not in the way that you’d expect.

One track that particularly stands out is Circus Bazooko, aptly named after the token casino in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What began as a way to pass time in the recording studio, the track was conceived by Been who would spend his mornings looping guitars over one another, creating this obscure mental symphonic that was driven by delirium and repetition.

Growing up on the hardcore scene of East Bay San Francisco, rock was never on Been’s musical radar; while bands such as Metallica and Soundgarden were staples in his childhood, he never felt a connection to their music. It wasn’t until coming across Ride’s single, Leave It All Behind, that his whole life truly changed, describing it as, “…the feeling of everything going from black and white to colour.” Reading into musicians such as The Stone Roses frontman, Ian Brown, it was ‘the contrast of singing these beautiful melodies when you have such a grey and hopeless life’ that really connected with Been, making it harder to believe in the honesty of metal music.

With their Australian tour imminent, it would seem that BRMC harbour small reservations, or at least a sense of nervous energy about returning to the land down under; declaring that Australia is the, “curse of our own Bermuda hexagon, or something along those lines.” Even after battling with super-bugs and chaotic tours in the past, Been is still excited to return, lying in wait of what the universe intends to throw at them this time around, seeing as, “it always feels like we did something special and didn’t give up. We got through, and it’s better than doing it business class with wine and caviar… and casual memories that you forget quite easily.”

For all of the success that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has seen over the years, it hasn’t been without its challenges for the band. With the long hours and stress of producing an album, many of the band’s members have threatened to quit or have indeed quit, forcing them to find a way to put the pieces back together. While creating something with other people, “has the capacity to bring a lot of unexpected magic and help when you need it, it also has the ability to ruin the one thing you care about,” because, “…the leather gets heavy, it cracks and it constricts; [everything seems to] get rough and coarse after a little while.”

While it’s hard to imagine the type of fixation and pressure that must have accompanied the making of ‘Wrong Creatures’, the end result is something that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club should be truly proud of. Life is too short to sit at home, caught up in the nostalgia of past albums, so sit your melancholy aside for a moment and delve into what has been an album worth waiting for.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Live Dates
w/ Stonefield & Los Tones

The Astor, Perth
The Gov, Adelaide
The Tivoli, Brisbane
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
The Forum, Melbourne