Words by Lily Moayeri
From now until the start of Noise Pop, we’ll be profiling some of our favorite artists playing the festival this year.
Today, we check back in with Bay Area natives Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
“A couple of weeks ago I was in a store and I saw a T-shirt from Day on the Green 1991,” says Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been. “That was the first big festival concert I had ever been to, my first experience with arena level stuff: Metallica, Queensrÿche, Soundgarden, and Faith No More. The T-shirt has a dragon and the Bay Bridge and this metal monster coming out the Bay. I was there. I had to own it. The older you get, the more sentimental you get. Nerdy metal East Bay days.”
Been is on a short break from rehearsals for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s upcoming tour in support of the group’s seventh studio album, Wrong Creatures, which includes a stop at Noise Pop. This is a first-time appearance at the festival for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — unusual, considering they are Bay Area natives for the most part, but as Been says, “When we first came out, people thought we were a British band, then we became LA-based, so there’s mass confusion out there as to where we come from.”
There is a universal appeal to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s black-clad, dark-tinged, static-laced, unapologetic rock and roll, a factor that is ever more realized on Wrong Creatures. The irresistible melodies of “Spook” and “King of Bones” have a sinister shade to them while the bluesy strains of “Haunt” splinter with ache and the twangs of “Echo” soften its edges. The signature Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ragged and jagged tones, underscored by doom, are still embedded in Wrong Creatures. At the current point in musical time, when traditional instruments aren’t very fashionable, there is an honesty in the group’s consistency, even though some might argue otherwise.
“We’ve been honest before and people didn’t appreciate that,” Been points out. “It’s heartbreaking when you’re not in tune with where people are because you can feel it. And then there are other times when what you do matches and you’re part of this frequency that everyone’s feeding on. That’s cool, but you don’t want to chase that. You can lose yourself in chasing what other people want. You’ve got to be uncool sometimes to be actually cool when it counts.”
Producer Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) tapped into the essence of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, encouraging them to remain true to their rock and roll selves for Wrong Creatures. “It took us a frightening amount of time to let someone into the room to share in the ego match that has been in this band for so long,” says Been, referring to the stubbornness he and guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes share. “The irony is,