It takes a special kind of band to bag slots supporting both Tool and Deftones in arenas on their debut album: Black Peaks are exactly that kind of special band. And with the attention and love that first record gained, not to mention the strides they have made ever since, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that they could be finding themselves in arenas more often in the coming years.
However, on this night they play in the much more humble setting of the Academy 3, Manchester as they bring their brand new album out on the road for the first time. In October they unveiled All That Divides, a record which has expanded on what the Brighton quartet started on Statues and made it clear that they are not content with standing still. The album has not only expanded their sound, but along with tireless touring over the past few years, has expanded their audience as well, as the long queue of people outside the venue shows. I got the chance speak to guitarist Joe Gosney about the record, their rapid rise since the release of Statues, their lofty ambitions, and how the strength and depth of the UK scene at the minute has led to everyone stepping up their game.
As I sit down with Joe in their dressing room at the venue, the effects of being on the road are clearly setting in for the band. They might only be a week into this cycle, but it seems like Black Peaks have been on tour in some form or another ever since Statues came out in 2016. Speaking of the shows so far, including a week of in-store performances surrounding the release of All That Divides, Joe is overjoyed by the growth the band has seen over the past couple of years. “We’ve come back to a few of the same venues but they’re full. It’s felt like such a reward. Behind the scenes we’ve been working so hard for the last six years, but especially over the past couple of years, to put something special together for people. This for us is the pay out.”
With such a tremendously loved debut, following it up was always going to be a challenge, especially with a lineup change during the writing process. Dave Larkin joined the band on bass last year which Joe feels changed the dynamic of the band and spurred them somewhat. “I think we had written about half the record before last summer and then went on this huge European summer tour. Off the back of it we maybe fell into a little bit of a slump creatively. Just everyone was exhausted and we just weren’t quite ready to start writing again. Dave came in and brought a new lease of life to this band but also different influences. Obviously there are four of us and a quarter of that is a big chunk. Now it’s just a different sound and I think that was really exciting for us. We weren’t just making Statues again and it was like a whole new project.”
It’s particularly noticeable how All That Divides feels like Black Peaks have reigned themselves in somewhat. Songs like ‘Aether’ still retain the complexities and intricacies of their past work but feel much more focused than before. When asked if this was a conscious decision by the band, Joe isn’t too sure. “It doesn’t feel like it was but listening back to the record, even for us, we feel like it’s a more concise version. Dave, Liam and I listened to the desk mixes of the album from start to finish at the end of recording That was the first time we properly got to hear the album flow as one piece. Listening to that I felt super proud of what we’d done. It felt like it was a more concise piece of work as opposed to Statues [which] did feel quite erratic at points”.
It feels like British bands have been spoilt for choice when it comes to potential touring partners over the last couple of years. There seems to have been an injection of a number of incredibly diverse and talented bands. Artists such as Marmozets, Milk Teeth, Creeper and Black Peaks have not only released stunning debut albums, but have gained the traction and support which had eluded their predecessors. We are now reaching that exciting time where these bands are following up their first release and more firmly establishing themselves in the consciousness of UK rock fans. The most promising thing about this is how it is providing opportunities to even more acts through support slots, as can be seen through the opportunity being given to the acts opening the show tonight; Gold Key, and Bossk. The strength and importance of the UK scene is something Joe is keen to emphasise when talking about how his band have grown.
“Brighton especially has been amazing for that for the last couple of years. When we were just playing as a local band in Brighton the other bands we were surrounded by were so fucking good, and are so fucking good, that it pushed you to write better songs and be a better band. It’s really healthy. The state of music in the UK at the moment is incredible. We are never hard pushed for good bands to play with.”
That is definitely the case here tonight. Gold Key have a much more laid-back approach, offering something a little different compared to the following two acts. There is a little bit of that early 00s Brit rock scene in their sound but with a much harder edge and some really soulful vocals but are still capable of ramping everything up from time to time.
There are moments during Bossk’s set where it’s easy to forget they are not the headlining band. Incense is burnt on stage during the change over meaning this is a performance which stimulates all the senses and is a nice change to the stale sweat and beer musk which usually fills these sorts of venues. It’s extremely rare that a support act can create such atmosphere and hold a crowd in the palm of their hand like these guys do. To the point of near silence during some quieter passages. They sound as if they are a band fighting between two sides of themselves, one calm, dreamy and cinematic, the other hell-bent on creating the most disgustingly heavy riffs possible. Vocalist Sam Marsh, occasionally appears on stage to unleash his inhumane growls and it is these moments where the band seems to stop pulling against each other and form an unstoppable unit, hammering the senses of everyone in attendance.
Finally Black Peaks receive a hero’s welcome as they walk on stage kicking off with lead single ‘Can’t Sleep’. It’s a massive testament to the songwriting ability of the band that despite their usually progressive and challenging nature, there are so many hooks which the audience can latch on to and scream back at the stage. Material from the newly released All That Divides makes up most of the set, with ‘Eternal Light’ and ‘Aether being particular highlights as they really benefit from the power and energy which the band brings to their live shows. Even with the strength of the new record, ‘Glass Built Castles’ still provides the main exclamation point to the night with the entire room screaming along with the gargantuan chorus.
Before the encore performance of ‘Home’, which seems to hold equal parts disappointment in, and hope for, Britain’s current political state; frontman Will makes a short statement that, ‘No matter what happens in the next couple of years, we’ll be alright… I think.’ Those last two words really do add a sombre note to what was up to this point a relatively celebratory and uplifting show.
The political themes in Black Peaks lyrics seem to have been highlighted more on this record than before. Gosney feels the time that the band has spent together on tour over the last few years and their joint experiences has meant that the lyrics on All That Divides are more representative of the band as a whole, rather than just Will, who had been driving that process before. “For the first album we had only been playing music together for a couple of years and I think a lot of that writing process, lyrically speaking, was done away by Will from the band. Also we weren’t really touring before we put out Statues so we weren’t spending tonnes of time together. This time round a lot of the lyrical content had come from things the four of us had experienced over the last couple of years together so that’s where he’s drawn a lot of his lyrics from. As opposed to him just talking about his experience of that, it’s more of a general band experience.”
With songs this size, and those arena support slots, it seems that the band are slowly gathering the pieces of the puzzle to break out in an even bigger way. Although Joe doesn’t think there is any one way to achieve it, headlining those same arenas in their own right is something Black Peaks are definitely aiming for.
“I don’t think there is a set formula for that otherwise everyone would do it. For us we are learning that we have just gotta write the music that resonates just with us and makes us happy to play and that is powerful to us. As long as we’re doing that then if there is a chance of that ever happening then we are doing all that we can to achieve that… Not even just with the music but with everything we do. We want to work hard. We want to be creating chances for ourselves and doing as much work as we can to make ourselves the best and biggest version of this band it can be. But I also think our route to getting there will be different from any other band and any other band’s route might be different from ours…What I’m trying to say is we’re all here ready to work and make that happen.”
With that work ethic, and the huge success the quartet have found already, including prime time airplay on BBC Radio 1, it doesn’t take that much imagination to see Black Peaks making the jump up to those bigger venues. However it is certainly going to be a long road. Yet as they continue to go from strength to strength, it is a very real possibility that they make it there one day. You only have to look at a band like Biffy Clyro to see that eclectic, interesting yet undeniably catchy songs can lead an artist to the very pinnacle in this country.
Amid all the uncertainty and likely chaos of the next few years, nights like these, where such a great variety of live music is on offer within spitting distance of each other are going to be vital to cling on to. Seeing the amount of people coming down to see Black Peaks tonight is heartwarming and really does make you think we could be on the cusp of one of the current crop of bands breaking out in big way.
Miss Black Peaks on their last tour? No worries, you can catch them at the dates below. Don’t miss out!