By Niki D’Andrea
photo by Bryan Sheffield
I first saw Blackmarket at the 2007 SxSW festival. The band was performing on a bill with retro-metal monsters Danava, and they went on early, to a mostly-empty club.
What struck me about that performance was all the heart Blackmarket put into it -- they sounded as professional as any arena band, and they had the rapt attention of every single person in the thin, earlybird crowd. Blending the melodic sensibilities of bands like The Beatles and Radiohead with the dark lyricism and artistry of artists like David Bowie, Blackmarket immediately struck me as the next Arizona band to make a mainstream splash.
But like Jimmy Eat World, the last Arizona band to make a mainstream splash, Blackmarket has had to build an audience (and revenue for stateside touring) by playing overseas. Blackmarket’s already got a substantial, enthusiastic following in Japan -- they played a sold-out show in Tokyo last December, and have been invited to play the massive FujiRock Festival there in July. They’ve also been picked up by Japanese label FAEC. The video clip below captures part of Blackmarket performing their song “Night in Question” on their recent tour of Japan:
Watching the clip -- which is as sonically and visually clean as most professional footage -- it’s almost baffling to me that these four guys from Lake Havasu City, Arizona who’ve been playing together since junior high are not signed to a record label. I say “almost” baffling because the record industry as we once knew it has gone tits-up, and the revenue and traditional methods labels used to employ to find new acts for their rosters (like the dying breed of A&R reps/talent scouts) are long gone. If it were 1998 instead of 2008, I’d bet a hundred bucks that Blackmarket would be signed and riding a big, nationwide promotional push.
But as it is, Blackmarket is an entirely indie band. Their self-titled, self-released EP hits the streets on June 24, and not without some stellar credentials behind it. The album was recorded by the superstar team of Sean Slade (Radiohead, Hole, Dinosaur Jr.) and Matthew Ellard (Weezer, Elliott Smith, Morphine). “It was great working with Sean and Matthew,” says vocalist and guitarist Daryl Lamont. “The contrast between Sean’s ability to capture the feeling of a song and Matthew’s technical standards really contributed to the overall sound of this album. For a group of kids that have played together for so long, the album feels more like an accomplishment than any sort of pretentious satisfaction.”
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The EP, which I’ve been playing over and over for the past three days, doesn’t contain any sense of pretention, which is a nice change of pace from most “radio-friendly” releases. The opener, “Magic Tricks,” is a jangly jaunt through mid-’90s college rock, followed by the single “Sheila,” which merges the raw energy of garage rock with the pop of early Knack songs and a modern rock edge borne on low-moving bass lines and emotive vocals (the EP contains a radio edit version of the song, as well). The other three tracks on the CD display the band’s diversity -- there’s the acoustic-based “White Lie,” which is driven by multi-layered vocal harmonies patterned after The Beatles and Beach Boys; “Bad Call,” a fast-paced hard rock number with a catchy chorus that sees Lamont weaving in and out of vocal registers like Thom York on a bender; and “Drag Addict,” a woozy, borderline prog-rock number decorated with keyboards.
You can hear some of the tracks on Blackmarket’s MySpace page, but I recommend catching them live, too. And you’ll have two great opportunities to see these Lake Havasu lads this month.
On Sunday, May 18, Blackmarket will open for Texas coed rockers Eisley at the Brickhouse Theatre. The Myriad, Vedera, and Envy Corps are also on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $13 pre-sale or $15 at the door.
And on Friday, May 30, Blackmarket will play the PHiX with Scout; Sleepwalk, A Robot; and Summit Dux. Admission costs $10.