Night Beats were originally a duo consisting of singing-guitarist Danny Lee Blackwell, and drummer James Traeger. They have since expanded to a trio with the addition of bassist Jakob Bowden.
Whilst the band may lift their name from Sam Cooke’s classic Night Beat album, that’s about where comparisons with the King of Soul end. Night Beats sound is far more routed in good old fashioned Texan garage rock than it is soul. The band site the likes of The Red Krayola, The Butthole Surfers and The Moving Sidewalks as influences, whilst also expressing an admiration of The Elevators, with Danny quoted as saying, “The Elevators were one of the reasons I decided to become a singer and form the group. I loved their attempt to play R’n’B music, but from a distinctly Texan approach”. This is where as a blog we must admit to not knowing anything about any of those bands, but we know that Night Beats cover their records in electrifying guitars, driving bass lines and intense persistent drums, bringing to minds bands like Black Lips, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Black Keys but sadly, not Black Sabbath or The Black Eyed Peas.
Night Beats might be proud Texans by birth but they’re now based out of Seattle. The largest city in Washington State, Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Seattle initially grew out of the logging industry, but is now more reliant on its heavy links with internet and technology companies; famously it was the birth place of notorious tax-dodgers Amazon and Starbucks. Arguably Seattle’s most famous export though is it’s music scene. As well as being known as the “birth-place of grunge”, thanks to the like of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney, it also played a key role in the history of jazz: Ray Charles and Quincy Jones both found their early breaks in the city. Add to that other famous musical offspring, Jimi Hendrix, Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold and Carrie Brownstein and you begin to get a picture of just how prolific and varied the Seattle music scene has always been.
Night Beats formed in 2009 after Danny and James first moved to Seattle. Two years later the band signed to Trouble In Mind Records and released their self-titled debut album. The follow up, Sonic Bloom came out in 2013 through excellently named label, The Reverb Appreciation Society. These two records, along with a live set at Liverpool festival Shipping Forecast, caught the attention of Heavenly Recordings, who will release the bands third album Who Sold My Generation this month.
Signed to one of the hottest labels in the UK, Heavenly Recordings, and getting heavy rotation on 6Music, Night Beats are a band quite clearly on the up. This is slightly odd, because their sound is so entirely out of fashion. They’re a band who makes you utter phrases like, “they don’t make them like that anymore” and reach for age old clichés about how guitar music isn’t dead after all. They produce the sort of foot-stomping, blues rock meets garage noise that always threatens to go away and never does. They would fit equally well alongside The Kingsmen and The Sonics in the 1960’s as they would with The D4 and The Soledad Brothers in the early 2000’s.
Night Beats are at their best when they expand on their basic R&B template; the psych-boogie meets spoken word sampling of Celebration #1, the slinky strutting of the seriously cool Porque Mañana and the extremely good soul-tinged pop of Bad Love, which sounds a bit like a Mark Ronsons record if you got rid of the problem with Mark Ronson records: namely Mark Bloody Ronson.
More than anything this is a record that is built around a whole lot of energy, everything crackles with an intensity, and a slight ramshackle nature that has been almost polished out of so many modern rock records. Loaded with just enough variety and new ideas to keep this record fresh, Who Sold My Generation is a pleasantly groove laden psych record, which more than anything makes you really want to see them live.
The record is probably two songs too long and slightly outstays its welcome. Add to the fact that like anything that gets unfairly tarred with the retro brush it’s hard to hear this record without constantly playing a game of “who’s idea did they pinch here?” Like the best musical magpies though Night Beats stitch just enough ideas together to never quite sound like anyone in particular for very long, and for sheer noisy thrills there’s few better acts out there.
Who Sold My Generation is out January 29th via Heavenly Recordings. Night Beats are currently on a European tour, click HERE for details.