One of the newest signings to NJ label Mint 400 Records roster is Glasgow garage rock band Black Cat Revue. The band is a mix of psychedelic 60’s inspired garage rock tunes but with a bit of modern influence kind of in a similar way to how Brian Jonestown Massacre was very 60’s Rolling Stones inspired but had their own style and vision for their project. We sent a handful of questions to the band about their formation, influences and their upcoming EP. We hope you enjoy what they had to say:
How did the band meet and form?
David and I (Garry) met around the Summer of 2013 through some mutual friends. It would be roughly a year later before we started jamming together socially in the kitchen of his old flat. Just the two of us with two acoustic guitars, playing some covers and showing each other what ideas we had been working on whether it be a riff or a chord progression or anything really. We share a lot of common ground in terms of influences and music we’re passionate about so it was pretty easy to get on the same page as one another.
After about 8 or 9 months of sporadically jamming in the kitchen, we had slowly but surely acquired a nice handful of songs. I hadn’t co-written/collaborated with anyone in a few years and I had sensed that David was a bit creatively stifled from a song writing perspective in the band he was playing with at the time.
It didn’t take much for us to decide to keep pushing forward and start looking for other members and shows to play on. We played our first show, as a two piece, in March of 2015 in Broadcast, Glasgow. Soon after Gary (Bass) and Mick (Drums) joined on bass and drums to begin with and then those guys were replaced by Tony (Bass) and Alex (Drums) a few years later and we’ve never looked back since.
You guys seem to have a Brian Jonestown Massacre meets all of 60's garage rock like The Seeds, Love, The Yardbirds type sound. What would you consider your biggest influences? Original Garage rock of the 60's or more of the 90's/early 2000's revival stuff?
I think there needs to be a healthy balance of influences old and new. When we first started back in 2014, outside of the BJM and Black Angels, I was initially quite ignorant to what contemporary garage and psych bands were putting out. I didn’t want to muddy my own pool of influences while writing. On the flipside, David was really tapped into what was currently going on as well as having his own influences and older band and artists he was into.
Eventually I let my guard down and I now admit to liking a lot of what is would be described as contemporary garage or psych in this day and age. We’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside a lot of great psych and garage touring acts such as Night Beats, Mystic Braves and former Brian Jonestown Massacre guitarist Matt Hollywood & The Bad Feelings as well as more prominent legendary artists like The Fall.
As much as I do love Spacemen 3 and the Brian Jonestown Massacre etc, my heart does really belong to the 60s stuff. From Buffalo Springfield to 13th Floor Elevators to Love and the MC5, I find them all as inspiring as each other in their own unique ways and whenever I’m at a loose end, this is the era I inevitably drift back to.
Our influences don’t just start and finish with garage music though. As musicians, Alex is a hard hitting rockabilly style drummer, Tony’s a virtuoso musician with pretty much any instrument I’ve ever seen him pick up, David’s an unsung blues guitar hero and I’m a frustrated folk singer. There’s a lot of ingredients thrown into our melting pot outside of garage and psychedelia.
Who is the main songwriter and what is the process for writing songs?
David and I carve up the song-writing between us. There isn’t any one fixed formula we stick to as an idea could come from anything. A melody, a chord progression, a riff or even a song title. For the most part though, we write separately and then come together and show each other our progress and collaborate from there, suggest or offer changes whether it be structurally, lyrically or whatever.
From there we’ll present the songs to the rest of the guys and start working out from there what serves the song best. There have been exceptions to the rule of course. We have occasionally just played around on a riff or a chord progression that’s grown legs and eventually becomes a song.
Serving the song is the number one priority though. Always.
You are from Glasgow, what is the music scene like over there? Have you toured to other areas of Europe? How does it differ? Do you often play the entire UK or just stick to Scotland?
Glasgow has famously always had a very diverse music scene which has produced a bunch of influential bands over the years such as The Vaselines, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Belle & Sebastian to name only a few. The influence of these bands is still felt in the city to this day.
We’ve been fortunate enough since 2015 to play in pretty much all the small venues around the city and even a few of the bigger ones but we’ve never truly felt accepted as a “Glasgow band” the way some of our peers like to identify themselves, and by this point nor do we really want to be. The music scene in Glasgow faced some major revelations over the Summer concerning a few prominent people in the scene misusing their positions of power, and the lack of accountability of people who allowed this behaviour to go unchecked for so long. It’ll be interesting to see the lay of the land of the music scene here post pandemic.
Glasgow’s music scene is very compartmentalised and people tend to stick to their cliques within genres or within certain venues. We’re not big fans of the social climbing and nepotism that is inherent within the music scene here so we’ve undoubtedly missed out on opportunities due to our inability to schmooze, but it’s always validated when we go somewhere out of town or down South and turn heads and stir up a buzz. That’s always a good fuck you to those who overlooked us at home.
We’ve yet to play outside of the UK though and with the monumental fuck up that is Brexit, I don’t know how feasible it’ll ever be to make it to mainland Europe; however, we’ve been fortunate enough to play shows in most major UK cities such as London, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh.
We had plans for a tour of Ireland as well as dates in London and Liverpool in 2020 but everything was put on hold or cancelled. It’s disappointing but there are more important things in life right now than us getting to go on adventures.
How did you guys find about Mint 400 Records and eventually get signed?
In a funny twist of fate it was Mint 400 artist Tom Preisler who really put this whole thing together. Tom and I have been friends on social media for a couple of years and he must have been paying attention to what we were doing. He contacted me one night just asking a bit more about us, if we were signed with anyone, etc.
When I told him we weren’t, he started telling me about Mint 400 and how he would put a word in for us with Neil (Label owner Neil Sabatino). Within a few days we had spoken to Neil and learnt about the label and his vision. Everything sounded good to us so we got the contract sent over and signed and were glad to be onboard!
On the Mint 400 Instagram bio it reads “Socially Distant & Anti-Fascist before it was cool”, which really resonated with me as I felt it definitely applied to us as well. On top of that, the label name being a small nod to “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” was a cool wee cherry on top!
Big thank you to Tom again! If you ever make it to Glasgow, the milky bars are on us.
The band is currently re-releasing "Fortune Favours The Strange" on February 5th with Mint 400, has the band produced anything newer than that or is the band working on new material at the moment?
We’re delighted and very fortunate that Mint 400 are going ahead with the re-release of “Fortune Favours The Strange”. We put a lot of love into that EP so to see it have it’s proper moment in the sun will be great!
We’re currently in the process of recording the follow up EP entitled “The Ballad of Django and Fuzz” which we are hoping to release during the Summer. We’re keen to have a reasonably quick turn-around from the re-release of “Fortune Favours The Strange” to the release of “The Ballad of Django & Fuzz”.
We’ve also written about 80-90% of what we hope will be our first LP, which we will maybe get started recording later in the year, dependent upon whether live shows make a comeback.
How bad is the pandemic in your area? How is it effecting the ability to perform or practice with your bandmates?
The pandemic has hit a lot of people really hard around Central Scotland; however, Scotland has managed the virus slightly better than the other nations of the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) and with the vaccination program now rolling out, we remain somewhat optimistic that we may have turned a corner and better times are perhaps not too far away.
As a band it affected us greatly to begin with though. The last show we played was on the 8th of March 2020 and the 4 of us weren’t in a room at the same time again until we moved into our own rehearsal space at the end of August. Getting our own space was a real turning point as we’re no longer at the mercy and hourly rates of the rehearsal studios around the city, many of which have now went out of business due to the pandemic.
Since then we have been pretty disciplined about our rehearsals and managed to get a lot of writing and planning done. It’s been a blessing and a curse though, as we are undoubtedly missing playing live but on the other hand we’ve never afforded ourselves the time to focus purely on writing and recording without the need to be “gig ready”. I don’t think we’ve ever had more a prolific run of song-writing than we have in the last 9-10 months.
What's other arts or cultural aspects influence the band? Like is the band very into movies, books, artists, comic books, etc.?
I don’t want to speak for the rest of the guys, as they have their own diverse influences but for me personally, I try and mine influence from pretty much everything I encounter, whether it’s people or art or other. Film was really my first love growing up but I found music to be more accessible as a teenager so got tangled up in that. I later studied TV and Film at University where I was able to learn some serious skills of the trade but directors such as Francis Ford Coppolla, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and The Coen Brothers, to name only a few, remain some of my most potent influences to this day. I don’t consider myself a comic book guy by any means, but I absolutely adore Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta). I could listen to that man speak all day. I think he is one of the best critical thinkers the UK has ever produced.
I also listen to a lot of film scores to try and conjur up a mood or a feeling. From the likes of Morricone, Lalo Schifrin and Luis Bacalov to name a few.
In terms of literature, I’m a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson, George Orwell and Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy in particular has had a massive influence in the writing process of the what will be our first album.
What are your lyrics about on the "Fortune Favours The Strange" EP?
David and I co-wrote the lyrics on the EP, so I can only really speak for what I wrote. Our previous single (Them Red, White & Blues/Gravedancer) ended up being a double A side of protest songs. Things were a little more political than I think we had envisioned at the offset so for me personally on this EP I was looking to take a step back from that sorta thing and move a little more in an esoteric direction.
I know what message I was trying to convey in the tracks; for example, “Death To The King” is a upbeat track about realising one’s own potential, perseverance and standing up for number one, however, if someone were to find their own meaning then even better, I’d be delighted. Everything’s open for interpretation.
Of the tracks available on your bandcamp it says Garry Thomson and David Mcilwraith write the music along with Gary McCrossan, what is his relationship to the band?
Gary is our former bass player and one of David’s old school friends. He played with us from 2015 til he left to start up his own band in 2018. Gary is a very talented songwriter and guitar player in his own right, so when he told us he was leaving, it wasn’t a total shock to the system. I’d be lying if I were to say I didn’t see it coming.
He has since went on to form ‘Las Acuarelas’ who are absolutely worth checking out if you’re looking for some Latin influenced garage rock n’ roll! It’s been really cool to see Gary go on and captain his own ship!
It also lists your drummer and bass player (Tony Brennan and Alex Abate) as the producers and engineers of the record. Is there more or less fighting when you are working with your bandmates as the people in control of recording your record?
Tony and Alex are both University degree holding sound engineers with plenty of experience between them in that field. When Tony was joining the band he had made it clear that producing is an area he would like to focus on and sink his teeth into if the opportunity ever arose. As it happened, at the time we were sitting on a big backlog of songs and were keen to get recording. David and I are both absolute Luddites when it comes to recording so it just made the world of sense to be as efficient as possible and let Tony, and Alex to a lesser extent, take the reins doing these EPs.
So far, everyone has remained level headed and no equipment or punches have been thrown so I’d have to say less. There has been the occasional bump in the road but we’re able to handle things diplomatically without anyone’s feelings being hurt. Everyone of us is invested in making whatever we’re doing the best it can be, so if there is ever any sort of issue during the recording, we’re able to be pragmatic about what we’re trying to accomplish. Most importantly, we keep it fun and we have a good time while we’re doing it.
It’s hard to be creative when tensions are too high or tempers are flaring. Luckily, we’re a pretty easy going group of guys.
- Sam Lowry