Soulgaze, Tacos, and Texas Jams: My interview with Black James Franco

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By: Harrison Giza

Black James Franco.

Black… James… Franco.

Black. James. Franco.

There are truly few great bands and even fewer great bands with great band names. The act of naming a band something cool is a lost whisper, a musical hush of a lost art that kids with instruments and dreams had long before our time. Back when the radio was on and the TV was a jukebox when it needed to be. Sure you’ve got The Band, N.W.A, and Boston, but I’m talking about today. Who do we have? Juicy J? 2 Chainz? American Authors? I mean, COME ON PEOPLE. We are scrapping the bottom of the barrel if we’re resorting to general phrases from your local library! AMERICAN AUTHORS? Hemingway would be ill.

Black James Franco go beyond an ill name. Their title alone mocks one of Hollywood’s most famous stars… what else can top that? Being the white Donald Glover?

The band describes themselves as an “indie-soul-rock trio,” but are so much more. With blistering guitar, leeches of drum-smash, and bass that bumps with headbanging bliss, BJF know what the fuck is up. Solos appear. Delay ensues. Distortion topples. Screams, shouts, love, loss, Houston chillin’… songs that make you want to get in the back of your best friend’s car and just drive away… like a plastic bag blowing ninety miles an hour down lit highway roads.

chaa

I talked with the guys about their shows, the first sounds they ever created, and the taco-seasoned adventures of drunk show-goers just trying to get by. Out of all the bands I’ve met, Black James Franco is beyond the typical interview. They have a character about them that you just want to meet.

It’s about time you did.

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HG: Why not just change the name to Black James Danko? You know that’s what the fans want.

BJF: Because with great power comes great responsibility.

HG: Where did you guys start off? What did the first sounds feel like?

BJF: We started as a duo, just Elliot and Eddie, that’s where the first songs got written like Fifth Floor. Then we added Julio to the mix and he gave us the fire power we needed to take it further. It’s hard to say in what way the sounds are different now than when we started but we’ve gotten better at knowing how each members style can be worked into a song, whether it be the vocals, the bass or the guitar. I want to say the music has gotten heavier too but our two newest songs aren’t very metal so I have no idea what our trajectory is.

HG: First jam session and first song you played together?

BJF: Me and Elliot’s first session was cool, he showed me a part written in 7/8 and we ended up writing a whole song in that first day. I can’t remember the first session with Julio but it must have been productive because we played a show not too long afterward.

HG: Where do you get more inspiration from… black people or James Franco?

BJF: James Franco hasn’t made any music so I’m going to pick Black People.

HG: Guilty pleasure music?

BJF: Alan Jackson – “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”

HG: Artists that you admire and why?

BJF: Frank Zappa, King Crimson, The Mars Volta, 2Pac, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye. I wish I could go into detail for each of these artists as to why they are important but honestly it would require an essay for each one so I’m just going to say that we appreciate people who’s work lives beyond their time and we appreciate artists who do it for the love of doing it, for the love of creating, and who distinguish themselves in the context of their time and place.

HG: What is one song you would and will never cover?

BJF: Would – Isley Brothers – “Voyage to Atlantis.”

Wouldn’t – Crazy Town – “Butterfly.”

HG: You guys have tremendous soul influence but experiment more often than others would. What would you label yourself?

BJF: Soulful/Psychedelic/Indie/Metal/Hip-Hop/Jazz/Soulgaze

HG: Who is Julio and where did you buy tacos from him?

BJF: Julio has been making some hefty profit selling tacos at the house parties in Denton, since there’s so many drunk people everybody wants to buy dollar tacos. It’s for his baby girl who’s due in August.

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HG:  “Black Roach” completely shifts it’s sound three minutes in. To me, BJF constantly is refuses to settle stylistically – you use delay, distorted bends, and dementedly computed computer noises  for a six string. Julio – what did you do to reach your level of solo prowess? Would it be fair to say there is a bit of Omar Rodriguez Lopez?

BJF: Blending genres and keeping people on their toes is something we always like to do because it helps us stand out. Black Roach is one of the most apparent examples of that. As soon as you think you know what kind of a band we are we show you a new side. I think a lot of bands these days pigeonhole themselves by only using one vibe over and over. Like a lot of the indie bands stick to that “feel-good” vibe, which is great, but it leaves something else to be desired. We want to explore the many layers of humanity, from the good all the way down to the bad.

I don’t know if I can accurately speak for Julio but I’ll do my best! We’ve always encouraged him in kind of creating the anti-solo, something that is based more on texture and attitude than grace or melody. Not to say he doesn’t take melody into account but you know what I mean, he gets those fierce lines that sound like they are bursting out of the songs like a runaway train.

As for Omar Rodriguez we are all very inspired by his work so the sound of Volta is very much on our minds when we want to go to the darker places in our music.

HG: Where do you see yourselves next year? Where do you see the band going?

BJF: We’re just going to keep pushing and developing more material over the months and hopefully have another album ready in 2015. Julio is going to be a father soon so he is going to be leaving the band unfortunately. We wish him all the luck in the world and are very thankful to have had him for as long as we did since he helped us take the songs to where they’re at now. We plan on playing more shows and continuing to develop more material with a new guitarist. A couple of new songs have already been written and we have enough ideas going around to make the pursuit of the next album a natural progression from the last one. There’s gonna be some more soulful and sophisticated songs as well as some psychedelic, hip-hop and punk influences.

HG:  “Fifth Floor” is terrific. Where was that song created? How?

BJF: Fifth Floor is based on Elliot’s bass lines. It was just one of those things that came together really well. We wrote that one in a day, while the lyrics were shaped over time. When Julio joined we started to develop the blow out at the end and it got more and more aggressive till now that solo feels like the highlight of the song.

HG: What’s it like to be a soulgaze indie band from Texas?

BJF: It’s awesome. People in Texas are very chill for the most part. Especially in Denton where there’s so many different types of artists who all encourage each other. We love it here, though we can’t wait to push out further across the nation.

HG: Why should fans see you live? Tell us what your concerts are like.

BJF: It kind of depends on the venue and the crowd, like at a bar it will just be a big fun singalong with people being jolly and drunk but if we’re at a house show it will be that but even more wild. We’ve had shows where our friends had to block the crowd/mosh pit from spilling over into where the band is set up. House Shows are always way crazier just because the close proximity to the music and the feeling of being in someone’s house gives you this weird entitled sense that anything goes. Also, when you’re hanging out in the backyard of a house and you hear a band inside you’re more likely to give the music a chance than if you were at a bar. I don’t know why, something about it is just more organic. People get way more hype.

HG: How often do you get down in Houston with your family?

BJF: Twice daily.

If ya want more music… click here http://blackjamesfranco.bandcamp.com/

What else is there to say, y'all? BIG BOOTY.

What else is there to say, y’all?
BIG BOOTY.

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