Sat, relaxed, sipping a beer were Kay, Brian, Alain and Magnus Box of Black Orchids. From the initial greetings, it was obvious that all the members hailed from different countries. Naturally, noting this observation, my first question asked of their origins. Kay adamantly stated that they were Londoners but after a little digging it came that Kay hailed from the Bay Area in California, whilst the other members hailed from Finland, Denmark and Belgium respectively. However, they had all met and formed Black Orchids in London. Kay was the central point in the Band as she brought the other members into her project and her writing. When asked about what bound them together as a group, Kay stated it was their outlook, love for heavy riffs and heavy music, and “joy for the unseen things that life has to give”.
As the group is formed of 4 people, I asked for the artists that inspired them individually and as a group. I was initially referred to listen to their mix on RinseFM and it was apparent that some their favourite artists were Pu Manchu, Ringo DeathStar, Jane’s Addiction, Helmet and Black Sabbath. However, Magnus did state that he listens to the latest thing out there to find the most interesting bands, signalling that he had no specifics but rather was a lover of all. Kay then added that she had no specifics either as she can enjoy the most delicate of music to the heaviest that is out there. If it was obvious that the band’s love of music is a versatile one, Kay added that she, in general, is a “lover of performing arts and arts”. She has many friends who paint, dance and work in theatre and their work inspires her, especially their way of interpreting life via frequency.
With their reason behind their passion for heavy music explained, I then asked of the Rock Scene in London. Not being a rock listener and not hearing that much heavy rock within mainstream culture, but rather genres such as Grime, I was curious about the dynamics of the London rock scene. Kay responded that Metal is alive and well but nestled in London, which could be the reason as to why not too much of the genre is heard mainstream. Alain added that our knowledge is dependent on the area we reside in, and noted that Camden still has an alive and kicking rick scene.
Now established that there were many venues and a large scene for rock and metal in London, I asked the band why they chose to perform at Afropunk. Kay quickly responded stating that Black people like punk too and she as a “the only coloured girl in pit” of rock, punk concerts had to fight for her place to express her genuine love of the genre. Her and her band’s presence at Afropunk was to allow those like her to enjoy and express their love for the rock/punk genre. Curious of her experience as a coloured girl in the rock scene in California, I asked if there were differences between the reception she got as a rock frontwoman in London and in California. In her experience, due to her upbringing, growing up with members of Exodus and Steve DiGiorgio, she never needed to feel validated. From her audience, she and the band have never felt any negative vibes, as the fans were all were lovers of heavy music who were “open minded and lovely”.
Drawing to the close of our interview, I specifically asked Kay if she had any advice for women, especially of colour, who wanted to enter the rock scene and she responded that “they should simply do what they fucking love”. Slightly underwhelmed by this answer, I attempted to dig a little deeper and spoke about Shingai from the Noisettes and the record labels adverse reaction to black women doing rock. Kay responded that she is proud of Black Orchids achieving such success in the indie way, and although she wouldn’t be against being signed by a big label, they are established and thus don’t need to make compromises. She explained that each member has been through enough to feel self-validated and therefore, if anything, they need to become “heavier and not lighter” in their music. Hinting that they were definitely not making any changes to their music to become more “mainstream friendly”. Alain followed by encouraging all budding artists to practice as much as possible, write and work with those that you connect with. Magnus and Brian both added in unison with Kay and Alain that success is benchmarked by yourself only and never the money. This brought up an important point about the state of the music industry, as it is harder to make profit as a record label than ever before. This topic obviously was a passionate one for Alain as he then took lead of the interview. Whilst explaining the panic in the industry due to its inability make music easily off artists, he revealed that he used to own a record label as well as publishing company. He noted that it is now difficult to find a set business model and monetise singing talent within the industry. The middle men have been cut out due to technology, as artists don’t need PR, distributors, or retailers as they can engage the audience themselves. Alain highlighted the opportunity for artists in this state affairs but again reiterated that music is an industry you go into due to your love rather than the money. Closing the interview, I asked who they would love to work with and Nightverses, Gary Clarke Jr., and PJ Harvey were picked without hesitation.
Black Orchids are a relatively new band with an EP Black Moon released 2 years ago, so if you are into psychedelic hard rock and ethereal sounds, Black Moon is one to listen to.
Their new single ‘Still Remains’ from their upcoming album as well as Black Moon can be found at https://blackorchids.bandcamp.com/By Adaobi Nezianya