The situation It's a recent Tuesday night and I'm at The Lookout on Capitol Hill at a corner table with a lovely view of the city. Drinking beers with me are four members of Black Whales: singer/guitarist Alex Robert, guitarist Alan Foote, bassist Ryan Middleton, and keyboardist Dave Martin (drummer Davey Brozowski is absent).
How They Got Here All the Whales have full-time jobs. Foote is a produce manager at Ken's Market in Greenwood (his favorite veg is spinach). Martin is a lab assistant at Group Health. He wears a white coat and confesses to sometimes pretending to be a doctor, but much of his job involves dumping tissue from surgical procedures--an "organ janitor," as he puts it. "I've poked a brain when no one's looking," he says.
Robert and Middleton both work as graphic designers. Middleton says his favorite font is Garamond. Martin chimes in to say that his favorite font is New York Times, until I point out to him that that is a newspaper, not a typeface.
Shop Talk It's been over a year since Black Whales released their Origins EP. Since then they've been working on a full-length, which they recently recorded with John Goodmanson, and which Robert says is a departure from the songs on Origins.
"I think the first one was simple and poppy, and [the new record] is way more complex," he says. "I don't know if trippy is the right word, but it's going that direction."
Psychedelic rock is discussed. Names like 13th Floor Elevators, Fresh & Onlys, and the more current Tame Impala are dropped. Later, more bluntly, Robert puts it this way: "I don't like the indie-rock thing anymore, I don't like the folk thing anymore. I just want to get back to Lou Reed, the basics."
Evidence of that return to simplicity can be heard on the new album's incantational first single, "Rattle Your Bones," and its B-side "Outta Yer Mind," an exquisitely solemn and spare piece of drone rock.
BTW: Black Whales are about to embark on a tour, including a stop at SXSW, and the new album is slated for a summer release. The only thing that's missing is a record label. But they're not too concerned with that.
"My take on it is, the new record industry is doing it yourself," says Robert. "I want to keep having fun. I'd like to continuously put on 7-inches, you know, maybe a record a year at this point. It would be less fun to link up with somebody who wanted fully composed records in the whole traditional style . . . It's no fun to be told what to do."
Black Whales headline the High Dive this Friday, March 11. Joseph Giant and Monarques will open; the show is at 9:30 p.m. with an $8 cover.