“There’s a big problem in the US with people being killed for no reason," says Night Beats' guitarist and singer Lee Blackwell. "Men with egos, power, and too much responsibility abuse it. Our single ‘No Cops’ is a direct attack on the police system in the US.”
The awesome 'No Cops' is the first cut to be taken from their forthcoming album, Who Sold My Generation? - a hedonistic, distorted thrill. The politicised nature of this track doesn’t permeate the whole album, though: “The album is called Who Sold My Generation? so there is the focus on society but it’s far from a documentary of what’s going on in 2015.
"It soundtracks the inward journey you have to question who's made the world fucked up. It also takes aim at radio and asks who sold this shit? Moreover, there’s a pop song, a love song. These are some of the things - it’s got a few different elements to it."
As a love song, ‘Right/Wrong’ stands out and the lyrics reflect an experience he had with his ex-girlfriend: 'What is wrong with you / I can not reply / You don’t need to learn / It’s always in your mind'.
"One song on the album, you'll have to work it out (we're assuming it's this one), is about a relationship that didn’t end so good," he explains. "If you’re touring a lot your partner is convinced you’ll slip. And if you don’t slip they don’t believe you! It fuck's up the whole point of a relationship, anyway. Being accused of something you didn’t do is the worst thing in the world," he pines.
Blackwell’s songwriting began at quite an early age. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, with his older siblings as his mother passed away when he was young and his father couldn’t look after him. “My father is around now. But he had his own issues when we were growing up. He’s old, like 80!"
As a child, Blackwell dedicated himself to his creative outlets, and it's this life long commitment that’s certainly helped him reach the heights that he’s got to now as an artist. “I was a loner, I always have been,” he says. "I didn’t do much going out until five or six years ago. I just kind of stuck to what I could create. I used to love to draw or paint, listen to music and play guitar. I would go into my own zone.”
His interest in music also largely estranged him from the majority of his classmates at school. “We played baseball, basketball and stuff like that but I didn’t like the people I played with and they didn’t like me.” The guitar was where he truly excelled: "It was like holding a pen. I used to love to paint and with the guitar I felt the same way. You can make up your own universe.”
Did smoking weed helped him create alone?
“Well yeah, absolutely. But I struggle with the sentiment that it’s a cause for anything. Like the whole, “Oh, I’m so high right now, I’m going to write the best song. Songs happen to me if I happen to be stoned or not. Sometimes I feel more stoned when I hear something back and I haven’t even touched anything. It’s about the end result and how it makes you feel. It’s all the moods that you can capture and different stories.”
Currently, Blackwell spends most of his time on tour, taking his phenomenal music to many corners of the world. Or he's between Dallas, Austin and Seattle: "I have a house in Seattle that I sublet, that’s where I keep all my books and records and they’re safe because my friends rent there. But I’m kind of nomadic, I guess.”
Tour is something that definitely suit Blackwell’s character: “I love playing in the UK, man.” In terms of the style in which they tour, Night Beats are grafters and still very much take on the responsibilities that they’ve always done, throwing caution to the wind. “In the states we tour manage ourselves unless a friend hops in the van he says. Except when we're overseas we have small crew - two sometimes three people in addition to the band.”
On stage, the band have an energy that’s largely built on the close relationship between Blackwell and the band’s drummer, who he grew up with: “It’s a third arm situation. He has telekinesis with me and we’re best friends, like brothers.” This closeness certainly translates on to the new album live and it's certainly impressed Heavenly Records executive, Jeff Barrett - he signed them for this album after after seeing them live in Liverpool's Shipping Forecast.
“It’s definitely given us a good momentum. I have a lot admiration for Heavenly. I think Jeff is a genius and they understand the music really well.” He's right, in the sense that Night Beats certainly suits the music that Heavenly have done the best with over the past few years, such as Temples and The Voyeurs.
Another notable person who’s helped with this album is Black Rebel Motorcycle club’s Robert Levon Been: “I met Rob when he came to LA about four years ago. He came to a show and we talked and the idea of making a record together came about. I grew up loving that band so there was a lot of mutual respect.
“We recorded the album in his house/studio in LA, he’s for an incredible studio with a bunch of good analogue recording equipment and we cut everything to two inch tape. I believe in controlled chaos so we basically have a live record. It’s definitely a fun, dangerous and awesome way to do it.” We couldn't agree more. It's a triumphant follow up to their album Sonic Bloom.
Who Sold My Generation? is out 22 January.