BLACK PISTOL FIRE
- July 2015 -
HAVE A BEER WITH BLACK PISTOL FIRE
Black Pistol Fire is a Canadian rock-‘n’-roll duo that splits time between Toronto, Ontario and Austin, Texas. Their wild and energetic 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. It's clear that the band's sound spans many different eras and subgenres, relying on a classic rock-‘n’-roll sound that has been updated for our modern times.
Black Pistol Fire features Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums. The two have been friends since kindergarten and began playing music together when they discovered a shared passion for rock-'n'-roll music in high school. The two became founding members of the trio, The Shenanigans, and recorded an LP titled Bombshell Baby. After things with The Shenanigans and Toronto got stale, the two wanted a change of scenery and to try out something new. They packed up their instruments and a bag of clothes and headed south. The band finally settled down in Austin, Texas, in 2009 and Black Pistol Fire was born. Arriving in Austin, the two began rehearsing as a duo. While they had previously done this to write songs for The Shenanigans, there was one crucial difference this time around: there would be no bass. They soaked up all that the Austin music scene had to offer, and their music developed a more distinctive "southern" sound. Like every good band, they lived in poverty and survived off a steady diet of potatoes while rehearsing, writing and creating new material in a garage they had rented.
We caught up with the guys at Lollapalooza over some beers and discussed their 2014 record Hush or Howl, the creative process behind their forthcoming record and the best advice they’ve ever received (hint: it’s from Lana Del Rey).
The Gig: Black Pistol Fire at Lollapalooza // Friday, July 31 // BMI Stage
Drinks of Choice: Kevin McKeown (guitar/lead vocals), Moscow Mule; Eric Owen (drums), scotch, red wine or a Chimay beer.
Kristen: I like a Moscow Mule as a drink of choice.
Kevin: I didn't know what it was was until three weeks ago.
Kristen: I didn't know until about a year ago. I just love that it comes in a tin cup.
Kevin: That's what somebody said. It's not a Moscow Mule unless it's in a little tin cup; but the ginger beer and Tito’s vodka and a little bit of lime ... I tell you, there's nothing better.
Kristen: Perfect for summer. That's my brunch drink. Do you guys brunch?
Eric: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Kevin: I don't think I'm ever up for brunch. Meaning, I’m never awake.
Eric: I kind of am.
Kristen: If you had to choose between breakfast, lunch or dinner, what would your meal ofchoice be?
Eric: Probably dinner.
Kevin: Yeah, a big dinner.
Eric: I never liked eggs that much or bacon, and those are in every dish.
Kevin: I love blood sausage. Do you like sausage?
Kristen: I don’t eat meat, so I don't even that's in my realm of ...
Eric: It's a Scottish dish. If you eat it, you're going to have a heart attack.
Kevin: Haggis and blood sausage.
Eric: Haggis and blood sausage
Kristen: Sounds like one of the top 10 worst foods of all time.
Kevin: Yeah, sheep's intestines.
Kristen: So, you currently live in Austin, but I read something about Canada in there.
Eric: Yeah, what about Canada?
Kevin: I don't know. Well, we were born there, so that counts. We lived there for most of our lives.
Kristen: You don't have Canadian accents.
Eric: No? [with Canadian accent]. It comes across in certain words. My girlfriend breaks my balls about when I say "tomorrow." Or "hose."
Kristen: Yeah. That's Canadian. That's it. So why Austin, then? Were there other cities you considered or was it always, "Let's go south.”
Eric: I think south was the thing.
Kevin: Nashville was on the list, but Austin was definitely at the top of the list. Music towns ... The main goal was to go to a city to focus on music. It was either going to be Nashville or Austin but Austin won out. We moved there in either 2009 or 2010. It was one of those two years.
Kristen: Did you just pack up your shit and drive there and hope that it worked out?
Eric: I quit my job. I had a pretty good, decent job working at a sales position. I quit and said, "I'm going to give the music thing a shot."
Kevin: Save up enough money because you can't work down there until you get a musician visa. We had savings and just bummed around a long time until we got our proper musician visas and we didn't make any money playing music for a long time. We were just messing around ... Basically, we just went there and the first, however many months or years we were just playing, not making anything.
Kristen: I read that you ate a lot of potatoes.
Kristen: Baked potatoes or raw potatoes?
Eric: Here's the thing. If you aren't making a lot of money, you can buy potatoes and eggs and basically get through a week making a variety of dishes with those two key elements. Potatoes: you can do scalloped, you can do baked, you can do mashed, you can do…
Kevin and Eric: Roasted!
Kevin: Roasted is the way to go.
Eric: Roasted with a little bit of rosemary and garlic, which costs nothing. There are rosemary bushes everywhere in Austin. I used to pick them off my neighbor's bushes. He wasn't happy about that. It was actually Bob. [To Kevin] Do you remember Bob? The one that called the cops on us for the Serenity Project?
Kevin: Oh yeah. Project Serenity.
Kristen: Project Serenity…I’m intrigued.
Eric: We had a party one time and our neighbor was not happy. We were so excited because we got a nice little pod. It was meant for a couple or a single person but we rented it for a little while thinking, "We could practice here. It would be great. It's not an apartment. It's its own free-standing house." Right away, we had a welcome party the first night. It was 10 people, maybe. It's 8:00 p.m. and the neighbor next door came over threatening to call the cops because there was some made-up neighborhood associate he called "Project Serenity".
Kristen: That should have been your band name, right there.
Eric: It might not fit with our sound.
Kevin: It's ironic, then. That would be pretty cool.
Kristen: What are your go-to spots to grab a drink in Austin?
Eric: There's a really great cocktail bar on the east side called the East Side Show Room.
Eric: It's a little bit of a cocktail bar, a little bit of a dive bar. You can go get a two dollar PBR if you want, but they also have the bartenders wearing bow-ties who will make fancy drinks for you if you ask. They’ve got the droplets, the beakers full of something burning on the Bunsen burner. You can get an amazing cocktail. It's got a New Orleans speakeasy-kind-of-vibe. Really cool ambiance. They have good food, if you want to get food there, too. They have a band that plays at night, a ragtime little thing.
Kristen: Sounds like my kind of style.
Eric: They sometimes have gypsy punk bands, too, that play later at night.
Kevin: Yeah, it's a really cool place.
Kristen: Have you had a chance to explore Chicago? This isn’t your first time coming through the city.
Eric: We've played here a couple times—maybe three or four. We haven't had enough time to really take in the city.
Kevin: We played at Subterranean, Double Door, Metro. And we actually shot a commercial here.
Kristen: What for?
Kevin: It was a T-Mobile commercial. We did about seventy-five takes of the song, live.
Eric: The exact same song, seventy-five times over. That song is a sprint ...
Kristen: What song is it?
Eric: “Blue Eye Commotion.” It's a Southern-punk kind of song, if that makes any sense. Southern rock…
Kristen: Did that make you never want to play the song again?
Kevin: We haven't played it since.
Eric: We — literally — have not played it since. For all the work it was — 10 hours of shooting a song, 80 takes — in the commercial, you can see my hair, and you can kind of see Kevin from the back.
Kristen: I'm going to YouTube it and then watch it 80 times. The song “Blue Eye Commotion” was off your 2014 record Hush or Howl. Have you been working on new material since its release?
Kevin: Yeah. We've done a new record. We're just waiting to figure out how and when we want to release it.
Eric: We just finished the mixes. We got them a week or two weeks ago and they’re done now.
Kevin: We’re really happy with them.
Kristen: How was the process of making this record different from or similar to Hush or Howl?
Kevin: We're still recording the same way. Basically, it’s just the two of us going in there and recording with an engineer. But in terms of the writing process, I think the songs on the forthcoming record are a little more “radio-friendly” in a sense than some of the “lower-fi” stuff…
Eric: The songs have a little more mass appeal.
Kevin: But they’re still coming from a pretty rock 'n roll background.
Eric: Then there's also some of our heaviest songs, too, on this record. Or more punk/rock-influenced songs.
Kristen: Which engineer did you work with?
Kevin: We worked with the same guy we worked with on Hush or Howl.
Eric: His name is Nick Joswick. He's a good friend of ours, actually. A really good guy.
Kevin: He works at a place called 5th Street Studios on 5th Street in downtown Austin.
Eric: It's a block away from the Whole Foods satellite store.
Kristen:I've interviewed a band from Austin before that told me they could live in nut section of that store because there are so many options.
Eric: We eat there every day. You can get something different every day. Beyond the buffets and all that, there's a really good barbecue stand, actually. You wouldn't think there would be great barbecue. Really good barbecue, good seafood, good fish counter, and it's pretty awesome. It's right there. The studio though, back to the music —
Kevin: It has really awesome meat…
Eric: Have you ever watched Dave Grohl's documentary “Sound City”? They have the same recording console that they have in that film. There aren’t many of those in the world and to see the process to get something like that in there ... I think they bought it in Canada and had it shipped down in 10 different pieces. It's a really cool place.
Kristen: You guys have been making your run on the festival circuit. How is the vibe at Lollapalooza different from other festivals that you've played?
Kevin: It's massive…so massive. And when it comes to the artists, they really treat us well here. That's what I noticed yesterday. They cater really well to us. The vibe is positive. The stage we were on yesterday — BMI — was really, really cool. It was by the lake and it was in the shade.
Eric: It's a very aesthetically-pleasing stage. And just the sheer amount of people at Lollapalooza is crazy. It seems like a never-ending sea of people.
Kristen: What's the last festival you played?
Eric: Governor's Ball in New York, which is great, too. It was also big, in terms of the number of people, but it's a little easier to get around Lollapalooza. Governor's Ball is packed so tight.
Kevin: I think this is, by far, the biggest one. A mile ... The whole park is about a mile, right?
Kristen: It feels that way when you’re walking from one end to the other.
Kevin: What also makes this cool, too, is that we've got pretty much our entire team here with us. We've got our management, Belly Up Aspen, here. The greatest bunch of guys. Sometimes we get to play festivals but we don't have the luxury of having our team with us.
Kristen: Makes a big difference.
Kevin: A huge difference!
Kristen: What is the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you've done in the past week?
Kevin: The least rock-'n’- roll thing? That's a good question. I probably watched “Beaches” in the last week… It’s got Bette Midler in it…
Kristen: Did you really watch that? That movie’s a downer!
Kevin: [Laughs] No, I didn't.
Eric: Mine was actually — and I’m not joking — watching “Days of Our Lives.”
Kristen: Are you into that?
Eric: Yeah, I watch the show. I find it very comedic. I've been watching it for a long time. It has the most ridiculous story lines ever. It's the worst show on television, by far.
Kristen: I beg to differ. I think “General Hospital” is the worst. My mom watches it and every time I go home to visit she's like, "I need to catch up on my GH," so I watch it with her. There’s always a hurricane and someone is always being held hostage.
Eric: Yeah. On “Days of Our Lives,” someone is always in a coma. Someone is always in a coma or they always flatline. "Bring the crash cart in here, stat! Clear!" Someone is crying as their loved one is almost dying…but they never die.
Kevin: I run at the gym because it's too hot to run outside right now in Austin, and every day during the week when I go there they have “General Hospital” on. But they have it on with closed captioning. You're running and reading this nonsense and you cannot believe what is happening.
Eric: “Rosemary's baby is now possessed by the devil!”
Kevin: You can't help but get involved in the story.
Eric: Someone is always possessed by the devil, or someone has a crazy scheme of making a child injured to get back at their ex-lover who in turn they secretly want, but want to get custody of the child first to get them to marry them a year later. And person always switches the paternity test.
Kristen: Someone will always go missing and all the characters on the show think they’re dead, but then they return…
Eric: And sometimes, they'll bring back a totally different actor or actress and you're like, "That's not the guy."
Kristen: It's confusing for everyone. So aside from the nuggets of wisdom you’ve gained from soap operas, what is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Eric: If you work really hard, you’re passionate about what you do and you're nice, kind and considerate to people, it will pay off.
Kevin: I had the luxury of having a conversation with Lana Del Rey and she said, "Fuck your way to the top."
Kevin: I was like, "You know what? That's pretty good. That's pretty good advice." I've been fucking ever since. As a band, those are two very different approaches to the question. Eric goes the humble route and I just …
Eric: [Laughs] I'm going to quote that whenever I make a toast to you anywhere. Kevin is always saying, "I've been fucking my way to the top ever since."
Kristen: That'll be good to bring up at his wedding if and when he gets married. Aside from that, is there anything else that you want to add or that we didn't talk about?
Kevin: That sums it up, right there.
Eric: End quote. Exclamation point.