ONE'S TO WATCH: An Interview with BLACK PAINT!
Further proof that rock n' roll is certainly not dead.
I'm gonna tell ya how it's gonna be!" These words came searing out of my speakers with such fierce attitude I thought Sid Vicious had come back from the dead. Well, my attention was certainly caught. The song continued, ripping with intensity, and wailing, distorted guitars, somehow sounding refreshingly new yet connected to the past. That song was "Born Again" by the band Black Paint. I quickly checked their Spotify profile, eager to hear more, except there was nothing else, just that single piercing song floating on the dark screen. But I was hooked. Who was this band?
In early December of 2022 I made my way down to Sneaky Dees, an iconic Toronto venue, to see Black Paint for the first time. Their Instagram account gave little away about who the people behind the music were and, based off that anger filled song, my mind had conjured images of hard-warn stalwarts of the dive-bar rock scene, maybe approaching their thirties, who perhaps considered themselves just a bit too cool for it all. How very wrong I could be.
I watched with surprise as three young men, dressed in matching navy blue boiler suits, and looking not a day over twenty, took the stage. They proceeded to launch into a heavily distorted original song, commanding the space as if they’d been doing it for years, which it turns out, they have.
“We were kinda always playing together, me and Steven knew each other since Junior Kindergarten and we jammed out through elementary, then in highschool we started taking it seriously.” Tyler, Black Paint’s bassist, tells me, sitting across from me in the green room of Lee’s Palace, another great Toronto venue. We’re meeting at Lee’s preceding Black Paint’s first gig of 2023, supporting other Toronto based bands Wiener Kebob, Cigar Club, and El Paladin.
In contrast to their snarling vocals and seething music, the members of Black Paint turn out to be three extremely friendly young men with great senses of humour. They were lovely enough to agree to this interview despite this being my first foray into rock journalism.
The following is our interview, edited slightly for clarity. Now, without further to do, here is my conversation with BLACK PAINT!
Let’s start with you introducing yourselves. What’s your name, where are you from, and what instrument do you play?
ERIC: Hey I’m Eric, and I play Drums.
TYLER: Uh…Tyler, fine I guess we’re just doing first names, eh? Tyler, I’m the bassist.
STEVEN: Sin Number? [This interjected by vocalist Steven who continues after a round of laughs] I’m Stephen, from Ajax, I play guitar and sing.
Can you guys tell me a little about how you all met and how long you’ve been together as a band?
TYLER: I think we were kind of always playing together. Me and Steven knew each other since JK, and we kind jammed out throughout the years of elementary, and then highschool we started actually taking it seriously and we got Eric and it’s pretty sick. We found him and it was like a…
STEVEN: It was the glue.
TYLER: Yeah it was the glue that held it together.
STEVEN: Yeah we met because Tyler and I were, well all of us, initially we were the pit band in the high-school musical. So Eric was the drummer, we need a drummer...
What was the musical?
STEVEN: Jesus Christ Superstar. I think that was the first thing we ever did right?
TYLER: Nah! We did Paranoid Android at those coffeehouse things.
STEVEN: Oh yeah that’s right.
TYLER: Which was crazy for teenagers to make people sit through that.
STEVEN: yeah there was a bunch of parents and kids, it was like, in the cafeteria a little coffeehouse thing, we played Paranoid Android, a Radiohead song like 7 minutes, proggy and stuff. We had teachers calling us pretentious.
Because you played Radiohead? I think you could be more pretentious.
I have to ask about your band name. Is there a meaning behind it?
ERIC: It’s named after a song by a band named Death Grips.
Tyler: sick band.
Is that a song you collectively liked?
ERIC: So when we were recording some music probably back in 2019 we were called Obsolete at the time. I don’t know where that name came from, but anyway, we wanted to change it because we felt like the music we were recording then was more professional. So we were coming up with names but having a difficult time and our producer suggested that uh you know maybe…
TYLER: ‘Obsolete’ sucked.
STEVEN: Yeah he did say that, yeah.
ERIC: So, he was saying if you guys need inspiration maybe name it after a song you really like. So originally because we were big fans of the White Stripes we were thinking of calling ourselves BLACK MATH.
STEVEN: That’s a White Stripes Song.
ERIC: I didn’t even know that, but then we found out that ‘Black Math’ name was already taken by another band, so I thought instead of trying to come up with a completely different name what if we just keep one word from the name ‘Black Math?’ So Black something or something math. And then Tyler was like ‘oh Death Grips, they have a song called Black Paint.’
Perfect. And it really does suit your sound.
STEVEN: Oh good.
Speaking of, I do really love your sound. It’s feels sort of old but also really fresh and unique, so can you talk a little bit about your inspiration and where that sound comes from?
Steven: Yeah well I think…You want me to? (looking at Tyler)
TYLER: I was just gonna say White Stripes
You can for sure hear that.
STEVEN: For sure, that is the thread that runs through all of our influences pretty well. All of what Jack White does, especially the White Stripes. Then we get into a little of the heavier stuff like…
TYLER: like some math…not math but just kind of more intricate stuff. I guess kind of Radioheadish with some of the riffs.
STEVEN: I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just we…I think we appreciate more complex experimental music but it always comes down to this wat…not watered down but very basic bluesy riffs. Gets straight to the point ‘cause we don’t have the chops.
Why do you like the White Stripes so much? Is there something particular about them?
TYLER: They’re awesome.
ERIC: That’s it.
It’s just…He’s ground breaking, he has a unique sound?
STEVEN: Oh yeah very unique. I don't know, I was a young kid when I first started getting into him. I think there's just so much about them that was so intriguing to a child, like the colours and stuff and the stripped back sound, and… it's almost like childish music sometimes. And then you get older, you kind of grow with it. It’s very timeless. It does feel timeless. It could've been made in like…the 30s it feels.
ERIC: You’re the one who showed me Jack White and I was like…um who’s this guy? Tyler told me to listen to one of the documentaries, I checked it out and ever since then I was like…wow.
TYLER: Man, amazing.
STEVEN: And we kind of grew with Jack White, too, of course. We were seven when the last White Stripes album came out. But he has all these other bands and stuff…
Do you guys mind saying how old you are?
STEVEN: I’m 23
TYLER: 23 as well.
Ok awesome, so you’re young. So Steven, I love your voice you have this old soulful sound beyond your years. How did you develop your voice?
STEVEN: I think I was always as a kid trying to sing like a blues singer. That's what I kind of imagine myself being. I always thought of myself as, or wanting to be when I was older, like a blues guy singing and just like…playing leads. And then as you start getting into the band, playing heavier and stuff I have to try to match the heaviness. So I started scream- not screaming but it's more… shouty. It just got angrier as the music got heavier. But I still feel like it's so rooted in classic blues singing, that type of thing.
Yeah, for sure. And you just developed it by listening?
STEVEN: Yeah! No lessons or anything.
That’s really cool. And Steven I think the bass really is a big part of your guys’ music, did you take bass lessons or did you teach yourself? Ah sorry, Tyler.
TYLER: No that’s fine Steven, Tyler.
TYLER: I was taking guitar kind of around the same time Steven started and then, we actually were a five piece at one point, and then once we went to college, university and stuff, kind of everybody dismember--
TYLER: Yeah basically we all died.
TYLER: Our bassist left and I had to take over and then I realized how much fun it is to just chill in the background and jam out with the drums.
STEVEN: I do think it is a crucial part to the band as well, the bass playing.
Totally. And Eric are you a trained drummer or did you just learn yourself?
TYLER: You took lessons for a bit.
ERIC: Originally I started playing guitar and I did some lessons and our teacher was also kind of a drummer so I took lessons per-say but he basically just told me how to hold the sticks and I just learned from there. So mostly self taught. But he did show me some techniques, but he was mostly a guitar teacher for me.
Ok so a good mix of some self taught some learned. That’s awesome.
So, last time I saw you guys you were all wearing the same outfit. Is this a normal thing? Do you have a unified stage look?
STEVEN: Yeah. Yeah every show we wear the same coveralls.
What led you to that? It’s kind of hot to perform in, no?
TYLER: It is hot.
STEVEN: We realized that too late.
TYLER: Summer shows sucked.
STEVEN: Initially I was wearing these shirts and they would be all colorful and stuff, and I would get nervous on stage, I’d be sweating, I’d be like ‘oh no I don’t want to be sweating in front of everybody, got to get something to cover it up.’ So we got the coveralls…they’re so hot I just sweat through that too. It’s just a disaster.
TYLER: Yeah they’re hot but they’re fun and they kind of give you like a…chance to just be your alter ego, just not be yourself. Just vibe to the music. Makes it about the music mostly.
STEVEN: Yeah there’s nothing to…there’s not much to look at apart from us playing, it’s fun to see people play music but we’re not focused on any style.
TYLER: It’s nice to take our personal personalities from the outside world forget about them and just…music you know…
I totally get that.
So, being a band in this modern age do you guys feel a lot of pressure to be on social media, and do you feel like it helps you?
TYLER: ahhh…I feel like it would help us. We don’t feel pressured enough to like, even care to do it.
STEVEN: There’s definitely the pressure. We know it’s an inevitability that we have to do it but-
ERIC: -We just don’t want to.
STEVEN: Yeah we’re pushing it as far as we can. It’s not helping us that we’re not doing it…yeah.
TYLER: We would probably be a bit more known if we took it seriously.
Do you feel like you're busy writing music and you want to just focus on the music? Is that more…?
STEVEN: It’s not so much that were busy doing that, it’s just the only thing we want to do. So it's hard to make yourself. And I don’t want to be on video or making a video of myself. I do it, I tried. But it hurts. I can only do it for like…2 weeks.
TYLER: Because I feel like we…that the idea of the band is very dark and gloomy but then when we’re together we’re just joking around and not…
STEVEN: that is a good point.
TYLER: If we tried being on video and stuff we would feel fake.
STEVEN: that’s actually an interesting point. Yeah if we…
TYLER: We want to make it look mysterious but it’s just like we’re joking…
STEVEN: Yeah it’s a good way to let your fans know who you are but maybe that conflicts with what we’re trying to do, but maybe it would have the exact opposite effect. I think if I saw a band and they were like playing heavy but just goofing around type guys…I don’t know, we should think about that.
Yeah. Or maybe you want to keep your brand in like…this dark…because when I first saw you I think you had like one post on Instagram.
STEVEN: oh really?
I had no idea what your ages were. I thought you were these older guys, you had such a mature sound, and then when I saw you, you were so young and wild on stage…so maybe the mysterious works and you can lean into that on social media. But it’s cool though that you’re young people and you don’t gravitate towards social media.
STEVEN: Yeah. I tried, I had a Tik-Tok and I was making little videos. I’d post it and then I’d remember the next morning that I posted one and then I got so embarrassed to even look at it.
Yeah? STEVEN: It was bad.
That’s rough. Well there’s worse on social media I’m sure…So Kind of in that same vein you guys are young and you’re in the rock scene. Do you feel like people around your age understand what you’re doing and they come out to support you at shows? Or do you feel like the audience tends to skew older?
ERIC: I think there's a good mix. old and young, yeah.
TYLER: A lot of friends that come. Or friends of friends and their friends…
STEVEN: I think that’s where we lose them, though, the more friends we bring they don't…I don't think they really understand what we're trying to do. It’s more like we have a better chance of playing these more strategic shows with bands we also like that are doing similar things. That's how we're going to reach the most people that are really going to dig in to what we do. We can invite our friends all they want, they’re still not…they’re listening to like, pop radio.
TYLER: They say that they love it but it’s not like they’re listening.
They’re not paying attention.
STEVEN: It’s a night out for them, which I understand.
What would you say to people who think that rock is dead?
TYLER: Obviously there’s Jack White, it's not like he's doing arenas still, but like, he's still selling out Budweiser stage for a couple of nights.
STEVEN: Yeah but he's kind of grandfathered in. Rock wasn't dead, or maybe people thought it was…
TYLER: It’s just like almost like a…
STEVEN: It’s a niche. You have to find your own pockets. It’s never going to be as mainstream as it was, it’s never going to sound like it was. I think what we’re doing is borderline…a dying situation. I think guitar solos and stuff like blues influence…if you’re calling yourself a rock band you have to find a specific little pocket that hopefully we can make ourselves into.
ERIC: I think it’s not the dominant genre anymore I think rap has taken over in a way but I think there’s still a need for rock in some people.
STEVEN: For sure.
STEVEN: I’d actually like to reiterate what I said. I think there is mainstream rock that sounds like what were talking about…classic rock, southern sounding rock. But that’s not cool to me at least, I hear it on the radio and I think it’s…bad.
TYLER: But there’s people like IDLES say, they’re doing heavy shit and there’s still a following, so it’s still there, it’s just hard, you know…
STEVEN: It’s going to exist in certain subgenres and grow in certain weird places that it hasn’t yet, which makes sense…IDLES is not…you wouldn’t hear that…this is a rock band.
TYLER: Yeah but it’s like, it’s kind of close to some of the heaviness we portray sometimes.
STEVEN: yeah. Yeah that’s true.
Cool! Well it’s very insightful and I think that there is a lot of hope in terms of rock still being one of the best selling…people actually buy rock albums so there’s maybe potential for making money in that sense.
ERIC: I think like, ‘cause I do know some people from college who, even though their main genre is hip-hop and pop, they listen to some random rock bands. Like ‘oh yeah I love that band.’
STEVEN: That’s a good point.
ERIC: I think that now of days there is more of an appreciation for rock in the younger audience. Although like most of the younger generation what they mostly listen to is rap they still like some rock stuff.
STEVEN: It’s also, it hasn’t been going away from that long…we can say going away…I don’t know what the right word is for it. It hasn’t been out of the popular, mainstream limelight for that long. So there’s still a group of people who were obsessed with rock in the early 2000’s there not like, dead now from old age. They’re like 40 years. So they still go to shows, they’ll buy albums and stuff.
TYLER: I feel like there’s been a lot more hype towards the shows and stuff after Covid. Either they’re just going out or they’re actually enjoying seeing live music. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not.
STEVEN: I think the pandemic made people have a need for like a high energy anger. To get something out of your system and hiphop can provide that but…
Would you say you guys mostly listen to rock or do you also enjoy the top charting music?
TYLER: Listen, there’s a bit of hiphop. I feel like there’s some hip-hop influence in some of our tracks.
STEVEN: Oh yeah we like hiphop for sure.
ERIC: I’m mostly a rock guy but there’s some hiphop…
STEVEN: Yeah. We branch out a lot, we like a lot of stuff. I would say I don’t just listen to a lot of just rock music…
TYLER: I own a lot of different, everything.
Yeah. That’s maybe what helps your music sound unique because you listen to a lot of different genres.
Does the band have any long term plans or are you just taking it one day at a time?
TYLER: I think we have the plans but we just take it one day at a time. We know what we kind of want which is…just like, at least I kind of figure we agreed on…it would just be cool to go to a city and play at a place like Lee’s Palace and have it be packed.
STEVEN: Yeah. Playing clubs wherever we want and people are there is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.
ERIC: I think our plan is just…be as big as we possibly can.
Yeah and you’re doing the hard work just playing lots of shows—
STEVEN: yeah the shows.
ERIC: Is this a really vague plan?
TYLER: We’re just taking it one day at a time, trying to get there, just playing shows and stuff.
That’s great. Well you’re in Toronto now…
STEVEN: Yeah, yeah. I don’t think we have thoughts of like, stardom or anything-
ERIC: I Do.
[Rounds of laughter]
TYLER: I’m into just like, what Steven said, just going somewhere and people are there. That’s cool.
Yeah of course. People invested in your band your sound…
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the band?
STEVEN: We could say…we could promote our upcoming show.
TYLER: Oh yeah! We have a-
STEVEN: We don’t know when this interview is coming out. Someone could read this…
ERIC: Yeah this interview’s livestreaming right now.
TYLER: We have a show in February at the Horseshoe Tavern.
TYLER: But other than that…not really.
And where can people find you on your socials?
STEVEN: Oh Instagram-
TYLER: -You’re good at this.
STEVEN: @blackpaintofficial that’s our big social media platform that we have.
Not Tik-Tok, eh?
STEVEN: No we haven’t branched into Tik Tok yet.
TYLER: Instagram’s the one we post the most out of because it’s way easier.
STEVEN: yeah and you can find our music on Spotify and Apple music and all that.
Wonderful. Did you record the music yourselves?
STEVEN: No. No, we used a producer and uh…it wasn’t great.
But the tracks sound good.
STEVEN: Oh good! Ok.
TYLER: We went to this place called Union Sound Company and that’s a nice Toronto studio we got to…we recorded 4 or 5 tracks in one day.
STEVEN: Yeah that’s how we record like a...
Live off the floor?
STEVEN: Live off the floor.
That probably helps captures the energy of…..
STEVEN: That’s what we try to do.
You can definitely hear it in the tracks, they have a fantastic energy to them.
STEVEN: Oh perfect.
Well I better let you guys go get ready for your show. But I appreciate you taking the time tonight and I look forward to writing this up!
STEVEN: Awesome. You coming to the show tonight?
I did of course proceed to watch Black Paint play an epic set at Lee’s Palace that evening. As if fulfilling their wishes, the venue was absolutely packed. I’ve never seen that many people come out for any upcoming original artists, and the air was electric with youthful energy.
If you spend enough time watching original bands, you might start to notice the stand outs. You'll notice the chattering disengaged crowd stop, maybe just for a second, maybe for the entire set, to turn and see who the heck is playing like that. Sometimes it's because of amazing technical abilities, sometimes it's an emotional connection, often it's pure raw stage presence gravitating audiences towards the band like the tides to the moon. I saw this happen with Crown Lands, with Grandson, with the Glorious Sons. All Canadian bands that were playing in tiny clubs when I first saw them, who in a few years, went on to playing packed stadiums opening for massive rockstars and headlining their own tours.
It’s not totally clear whether Black Paint had brought a lot of fans to the audience to Lee’s that night, or whether the audience was just discovering the band for the first time, but their attention was certainly caught. By the middle of Black Paint’s 45min set, “Black Paint” was being chanted on multiple occasions, and there were demands for encores after they finished. I’m no expert, but I’d say there’s a good chance Black Paint may be the next band on the path to stardom. So go see them in small venues while you have the chance!
Black Paint’s next show is February 3 at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern.