A self-styled Sad Boy Indie Rock Band from Tennessee, Blvck Hippie is the project of Josh Shaw. Setting out with the aim of, “tryna show Black Kids they can be weird too”, Josh’s music takes the sound of the indie rock he loves and fuses it with a creative spirit of always making something different, for which he credits the likes of Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Catching the attention of an ever-growing audience since releasing his debut single back in 2018, last week saw Josh team up with The Record Machine label for the release of the debut Blvck Hippie album, If You Feel Alone At Parties.
Tracked over just three days in his home city of Memphis, If You Feel Alone At Parties is a step up in ambition for Blvck Hippie, Josh joined by a rotating cast of bandmates to bring his musical ideas into lush technicolour glory. The album opens with Art School, instantly greeting the listener with a clatter of drums and wiry-guitar lines that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by The Mars Volta or Slint. Much of the record seems to exist in the hazy glow of the afterparty, in his words, “menthol-infused musings that dominate DIY scenes across America”. The stand out moment is arguably the title track, as a rapid tumble of lyrics meet a driving The Walkmen-like rhythm, and Josh taps into the loneliness of feeling like you don’t belong, “you say these parties are all the same, while you’re too drunk to know my name”. Elsewhere it’s a delightfully varied record, Bunkbed tapping into the same buzz-saw indie-punk of We Are Scientists, while Technicolor is a swooping melodrama, bringing to mind Guillemots with its playful vocal melody contrasting with its half-cut, self-deprecating lyric, “I promise one day I’ll clean up my act for good, just say you love me, I don’t know who could”. For anyone who can still remember those blurry late nights of feeling simultaneously surrounded and alone, Blvck Hippie has written the perfect soundtrack, awash with coming of age thrills and all the self-doubt that came with them, a reminder that If You Feel Alone At Parties, you’re most definitely not alone.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Blvck Hippie?
Blvck Hippie is my band which started as a solo project where I would just write sad songs. Now we’re a full out band still making sad songs. Blvck Hippie is a nickname my mom gave me when I was little and it stuck because it encourages me to be my whole self and not try to fit a stereotype of what I’m supposed to be like. I was born and raised in Memphis, TN and that’s where the band is based.
I call the music we make Sad Boy Indie Rock which my old roommate and I came up with one night when we were drinking and trying to write a band bio. We came up with that to describe the sad songs I was writing and it just kind of stuck.
My goal with Blvck Hippie is to break into the Indie music scene and show weird black kids that they aren’t alone and that they belong in these spaces.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first show was at a really cool venue in Memphis called P&H. It shut down recently because of gentrification – this big luxury-type apartment building is being built where it used to be. P&H was a really special place to me and a lot of people in Memphis – it’s where I got my start playing in front of people at open mics and my first full band show was there too. For that first full band show I was performing under the name St. John. I was super nervous, drinking PBR and Crown Apple, I threw up a $12 burger right before I got on stage, and I was shirtless two songs into the set. I had the time of my life though and we killed that set. It was the first time I ever played a guitar solo in front of people. We covered “Someday” by The Strokes and I got into Joyce Manor the next day.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
When I was in high school going through a lot of mental health stuff I didn’t have a lot of Black men who were vulnerable about that kind of stuff until I found Kid Cudi. I want to be that for other weird Black kids, to show that they’re not alone in what they’re going through. It’s also the only way I feel like I can talk about my feelings. Making music makes me happy and is something I enjoy doing. It helps me reconcile with a lot of stuff that I’ve been ignoring and avoiding dealing with.
The funny thing about making music is that I come from a family of graphic designers, film makers, and visual artists, but I was just incredibly bad at all that so I found music to be my thing. It’s the only thing I ever really liked or took seriously besides basketball but I can’t hoop much anymore because my knees are bad. I do have plans to get into film one day but music is my main focus now.
FTR: What can people expect from the Blvck Hippie live show?
Lots of head banging, and a lot of energy. We come with all the hypeness and energy every night. I scream way more than I do on the record and everything is faster and angrier live. You can also expect awkward stage banter and the best band intros of all time.
FTR: What’s next for Blvck Hippie?
We’ve got this upcoming Fall tour we’re going on. We have some more tours we’re planning for next year. Basically we’re going to tour until we all get tired of the songs and then we’re going to write another record.
They Listen To…
M.A.G.S – Forever
M.A.G.S. and I have similar influences, we’ve talked about the Strokes albums before and how they influence our songs and you can really hear that in this track. It sounds like the songs I like writing and it’s cool to pull from other Black artists for inspiration.
Four Tops – Bernadette
I work as a tour guide at Sun Studios and every tour guide gets to choose their song to start their tours to and this is mine. The bass line is super interesting, the horn arrangement is bomb, and the background vocals are sensational.
McKinley Dickson – Mama’s Home
I’ve been listening to this record on repeat ever since it came out earlier this year – the harps are beautiful and the intro with the harmonized vocals is really cool, and the lyrics are super deep.
Indigo De Souza – Bad Dream
I’ve been waiting for the recorded version of this song to come out since her Audiotree. It gives me super (Sandy) Alex G vibes, I feel like a lot of the music coming out of Asheville has those textures and I’m digging it.
Proper. – Zuko Alone
I’m a huge fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and I just re-watched it with my girlfriend so it was the perfect timing for this song to drop. Proper. always inspires me to work harder as a Black artist because they show me that it’s possible to be successful as a Black artist in this scene.