Black Pistol Fire is a high-octane rock duo based out of Austin, Texas by way of Toronto, Canada; composed of Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums. New album ‘Look Alive’ is almost upon us, and Eric was on hand to talk us through everything that you need to know about Black Pistol Fire…
What are the origins of Black Pistol Fire? How long have you been playing together? And, (apart from the weather) what made you relocate from Toronto to Austin, Texas?
Kevin and I have been friends since Kindergarten. We grew up together, and music was always very important to our circle of friends. We started playing together in high school, playing the talent shows and then playing cover bars and then eventually our own material in a different band in Toronto. Eventually, both of us were at points in our lives where we needed a significant change. Kev was in a long-distance relationship and I had always fantasized about trying to start over somewhere new. Austin seemed really cool, affordable (compared to Toronto), and low pressure. And the music scene was obviously world-renowned.
How did you feel performing your first gig as a band? And how was it?!
I think if you’re going back to the first gig in high school, or even officially as Black Pistol Fire, there was always just this excitement. Music just consumes our entire being when we play live, it’s very special and hard to fully describe.
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Black Pistol Fire?
When it comes down to it, it’s only Rock n Roll. That said, there’s A LOT of stuff that sneaks into that Rock n Roll, from soul to punk, to dub to disco. If you see a show, imagine two guys having a 12 round Heavyweight Boxing match where there’s a knock down in every round. That’s how we feel after a show, it’s taxing!
‘Temper Temper’ is the latest in a long line of singles to be released from the forthcoming album ‘Look Alive’: it seems that singles are important to the band, especially since they showcase the diversity that will make up ‘Look Alive’…
We’re proud of every song and it’s great when each song can kind of stand out and gets it’s own time in the sun, even if for a brief minute.
In what ways has the band grown since the early days of the self-titled debut album and ‘Big Beat ’59’?
Wow, there’s been A LOT of change. Obviously, as time goes on your influences grow. With those albums, we also did so much of it ourselves with what we had. Back then, we had no budget to record with. Kevin had a guitar, an amp, and one pedal. I had a drum kit. We would record each song within an hour or so since that was all the time we had. Those records have a more raw flavor, which is still pretty rad. Kevin’s pedal collection has grown significantly since then, I’ve got my synths, and we experiment with electronic sounds as well. We’re not “purists” like we used to be. And now we can spend maybe a full day or more on a song in the studio if we need to, which frees things up a bit.
The bass synth sound that you get is wicked! Did you discover the bass synth by accident?
Thank you! Kind of. Several years ago we had discussions on how to fill out the sound more and incorporate more elements. The first sounds we used from the synth weren’t bass until Speak of the Devil came about and we wanted to do a traditional soul song. The song “The Hills” by The Weeknd was definitely an eye/ear-opener. It’s such a gnarly, fat, and explosive tone. And then you have songs like Bully and Level and such where the bass synth just fits in very naturally. We’ve found ways to make the bass even better going forward, splitting the channels and things like that.
Black Pistol Fire supported The Fratellis in the UK during 2018, there wouldn’t have been any difficulties understanding Jon and Co since Toronto has such a strong Celtic background, and Kevin must have some Celtic blood somewhere!? Or were there times when you were thinking -eh?!
That was a piece of cake. They’re great lads! Very kind and easy to get along with. Toronto definitely has a large Celtic population and the culture is very prevalent in Toronto. Kevin’s mother is actually from Scotland and his Dad is from Belfast. My father’s side is Welsh and Scottish as well. So BPF has more Scottish ancestral blood than anywhere else.
In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for Black Pistol Fire to support?
Arctic Monkeys are one of our biggest influences and favorite bands. We’ve been with them since the beginning! FOALS is another great act we’d love to play with. Another high energy show.
The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?
There are lots of little things you can do but it really comes down to two simple things… Have good tunes and put on a great show! You get those two down, the rest is easy.
What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
The music video for Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” was a live performance from Holland. Seeing that thing over and over again and how it made the audience go crazy, that definitely sowed the seeds at a very young age.
Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician?
Dave Grohl, hands down.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
Wolf Parade. It was right before we went on tour which was cancelled a week in when the world shut down.
What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?
All of them. The world is insane right now! People need to be better to each other, to themselves, and to the environment. Love EVERYONE!
What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of the year?
The Strokes- The New Abnormal. Got a rad 80’s vibe. Every track is terrific!
Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?
Kevin McKeown. He’s one of the best out there.
What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!
The band will hopefully get back to playing gigs. We were supposed to have a big 2020 tour wise including a big European tour that obviously got scrapped. I just want to play gigs and go to gigs! That is all.
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
I personally am not that active. But the band has all of em- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc