Nearly a decade after their first full length Partie Traumatic debuted, Black Kids is finally back with their sophomore follow-up and it was well worth the wait. Released fully last week, Rookie features 10 new tracks filled with the band’s signature quirky and infectious style of pop rock. It has those carefree dancey moments and witty lyrics that satiate everyone’s cravings, but the new album also shows off a more mature and evolved Black Kids.
Right from the opening track “IFFY,” your ear gets hooked by this sort of B-52’s meets The Cure kind of sound that’s reminiscent of Partie Traumatic. It’s the perfect opener to the album, filled with danceable and bright melodies led by catchy lyrics and sticky sweet vocals. It’s also the kind of track that's guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days.
More nonchalant tracks like “Rookie” and “Illin’” cool things down a bit and show off Black Kids’ slower side, as they caress our ears with more lyrical stories backed with similarly cute melodies. Naturally with so much time between albums, we’re bound to get more grown up feels off the album. EARMILK was lucky enough to chat with lead singer and guitarist Reggie Youngblood on one of his off days in Athens, Georgia. We got to learn a lot about the band and how we’ve landed at Rookie.
EARMILK: How did the band first get started?
Reggie Youngblood: Oh wow. Well, Owen the bass player and I had a band before. It was with two other dudes. We were a band for like a year and kind of broke up and so I was kind of just thinking about what I want to do next. It just occurred to me that Ali my sister was very talented. I’m five years older than Ali, so we don’t really hang out or in the same social circles, but she just started hanging around whatever came out of all the bands. So it just became pretty obvious, I just had an instinct that Ali would be great in a band because she hadn’t been in a band yet. Then she suggested her best friend Dawn, who is our keyboard player and yeah—just an instinct, just thinking “I think this would be good, I think this would be good,” and it worked out.
EM: Did you ever imagine yourself fronting a band?
RY: I guess so, yeah. [Pause] I was just kind of thinking I’ve fronted every band I’ve ever been in—it's kind of by default. I can play rhythm guitar and I can sing a bit and those are my strengths. Like, I can’t really do anything else. I can quarterback but I definitely can’t be any of the other positions.
EM: Yeah, like a drummer is kind of meant to be a drummer.
RY: I desperately wish I could play drums.
EM: Me too.
RY: I have friends who can do everything and I envy them. But yeah, I think I have a specific skill set and so I’ve just learned to accept that [laughter].
EM: No, that’s cool! In addition to having really interesting lyrics that tell these little stories, musically your songs are incredibly catchy and sonically complete. How would you describe the band’s songwriting process if you could?
RY: Well, I think that’s the trickiest bit. That is like the reason we’re not a prolific band is because we’ve never quite nailed down the songwriting process. I guess it’s mostly I come up with the melodies or like the bare-bones of the song, and present it to the band. Then we just kind of see if we like it or not as a group. But the lyrics come from random snatches of conversation I overhear, or bits of television dialogue. I love television.
EM: What shows are you watching right now?
RY: When you called me I was watching Ozark, I love that show. I just finished watching Better Things. Have you seen this one?
RY: It’s so good. It's Pamela Adlon, she is this hilarious actress. She was on some—she’s been on some Louie stuff. She’s like his kind of girlfriend, but like really funny. I don’t know, but yeah.
EM: That’s cool. Are there any favorite bands or songs that you listen to or are listening to right now?
RY: Um, there must be. I’m kind of in the phase right now where I’m revisiting music a lot. I don’t’ know, I probably really get into like 4 or 5 new records a year. Like the Slowdive record was one.
EM: Oh that was a killer record, that’s one of my favorites too.
RY: Yeah, so good. And the last Angel Olsen record, but aside from like—that Solange record too. I feel like I’ve been revisiting stuff. I’m in a revisiting phase.
EM: A lot of people say you sound like Robert Smith from The Cure, is that a sound you try to achieve?
RY: I love Robert’s voice. I think I can distinctly remember when I started singing the way I do, and I think if you compared our voices it’s obvious he has a topshelf unique voice. Really I’m just trying to put some affectation in my voice and I think that’s where the Robert comparison comes from. And also lets be honest, it is a fake British accent so… [laughter]. So I might as well be Robert. I don’t think of it like conscious really, “Okay, this is Robert that I want to sound like.” But I take that as high compliment.
EM: Have you ever thought of fronting a cover band for The Cure? You have the hair for it too.
RY: That would be a lot of fun. I would love that. Here in Athens every Halloween there are probably at least couple cover bands and I would gladly do that.
EM: That’d be really cool. Going back to the band’s first album, how did Partie Traumatic come together?
RY: Well we had released Wizard of Ahhhs on Myspace which were, I mean, most of those songs we re-recorded for Partie Traumatic, so that was out already. And I don’t know, there were some labels that wanted to release Wizard of Ahhhs as our first record, a first proper record. But we just had it in our heads that we could do better on the performances and maybe the sound. So we got together with Bernard Butler, who recorded the record and was already like a hero of mine, like a guitar hero. He’s the original guitarist of Suede. And that was a band that we all loved a lot so we thought that we should re-record these. We loved Bernard’s sensibilities and we wanted to record in London, so yeah we got hooked up with that.
EM: You guys had tracks everywhere after that first album, it was undeniably a hit—then the band kind of disappeared. What happened? If you can say.
RY: We toured that record a lot. Like maybe for two years and it was exciting, but it was definitely very taxing and exhausting. So we went home and we just tried to chill out for a bit and relax. Then we began in earnest to write another record. And I don’t know, the process was a little different. I think I mentioned earlier that usually I come in with a song and then we just see if we like it. I think we tried to approach it like “Alright let’s get in a room and let’s make these new songs together,” and while that yielded some big stuff for a decent record, it just wasn’t the most conducive way for us to make new music. And so yeah, it was just us kind of experimenting with different ways of coming up with stuff and then just trying to—I don’t know. It felt like we were writing this set for our audience and it just took longer. It was a different dynamic than before we were like, a full-time band.
EM: Do you think it resulted in a different sound for the new album Rookie?
RY: It’s funny, I kind of feel like we came up with a lot of songs. Like, we probably could have put out two records in between Partie Traumatic and our new one. We would come up with songs, and record and play them and stuff for the audiences, and decide that we just didn’t like them very much. So we would ditch them and go back to the drawing board. So our sound kind of fluctuated, because it changed dramatically, and then we reined it back in to what we sounded like before.
EM: Do you have a favorite track off the new album?
RY: I think it’s either probably going to be “If My Heart Is Broken” or “In A Song” because those two songs kind of represent what I definitely wanted to be different from Partie Traumatic was there weren’t a lot of earnest moments on Partie Traumatic. There’s a lot of, I guess like bratiness, bratty attitude, bratitude, which is fun and we enjoy that. And so I kind of wanted to dial that down a little bit and have a just slightly more earnest moment, or it doesn’t need to have that kind of like tongue-in-cheek sort of lyrics.
EM: Also with the release of your new album, the band is set to go on tour. Are there any cities you’re looking forward to playing?
RY: Yeah definitely, we’re doing the West Coast and Los Angeles has always been a really great show for us. Looking forward to there. We’re playing the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco which I hear is pretty intense, it’s like Leather Pride Week, so that’s going to be amazing. Just all of the West Coast will be great for us.
EM: Are there any musicians that you would love to see perform live? It doesn’t have to be someone that’s still alive, if you could.
RY: New Order is one of the big ones that I’ve yet to see and they’re going to play days after we’re in Los Angeles so I’m heartbroken about that. Really that’s like the big one, is New Order. I would have liked to have seen Prince more, I only saw him once in Jacksonville.
EM: That’s cool, I never got to see him.
RY: He was phenomenal. And I would have like to have seen Bowie perform.
EM: Yeah, of course! Any last words of wisdom? Any Reggie words of wisdom?
RY: Oh boy. Let me peruse. [Pause] Aww man, I’m just reading my potential lyrics to see if there’s anything there.
EM: Oh, this is serious.
RY: And now it’s like these are not ready for… [trails off].
EM: Most people go with YOLO, I appreciate this!
RY: Yeah, oh god, I’ll get back to you about that.
EM: Hey thanks again, I’m a huge fan!
RY: Aww thanks so much!
Look for Rookie, out now and available via the Black Kids Bandcamp page. Also, don't miss the band live for a string of North American tour dates which can be found listed below. Their live show is just as fun as imagine.
Black Kids on tour:
Fri. 9/22 – Seattle, WA
Sat. 9/23 – Bend, OR
Sun. 9/24 – San Francisco, CA
Folsom Street Fair
Mon. 9/25 – Oakland, CA
The New Parish
Tues. 9/26 – Santa Ana, CA
Fri. 9/29 – San Diego, CA
Sun. 10/22 – Washington, DC
Mon. 10/23 – New York, NY
Baby’s All Right
Tues. 10/24 – Philadelphia, PA
The Boot & Saddle
Thurs. 10/26 – Cambridge, MA
Sat. 10/28 – South Burlington, VT
Sun. 10/29 – Montreal, QC, Canada
Mon. 10/30 – Toronto, ON, Canada