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Blues Pills: Old Is The New New

Monday, 21 July 2014 Written by Alec Chillingworth

We have reached a point in time when, regrettably, just about everything has been done before. Every genre in the game has been manipulated, perverted and left broken on the floor.

The way forward, then, seems to be to go back. A renaissance of sorts is carving its way through the catacombs of rock 'n' roll, with Gama Bomb, Evile and Shrapnel repping the ungodly thrash sound of the '80s, Airbourne doing a good job of being AC/DC and a slew of bands harking back to the psychedelia-drenched noise of the late '60s and early '70s. Among them are Blues Pills, who will release their debut album next week, and they're pretty bloody good at it.

Formed in the winter of 2011 and based in Örebro, Sweden, the multinational troupe play a blend of blues and rock 'n' roll, with a pinch of soul, that makes for terrific results. With the potential to appeal to Jimi Hendrix fans, Clutch lovers and Led Zeppelin maniacs, Blues Pills could soon blow up. But what is it exactly that sets them apart from the pack?

“I guess that a lot of bands doing this whole retro thing sound very different to one another,” Elin Larsson, the band’s vocalist, said. “We get compared to Kadaver, but we're both so very different. We have a lot of blues and soul within our music, and I think that sets us apart. And we have a female vocalist. That's about it!”

Dorian Sorriaux, Blues Pills’ guitarist, threw in some more comparisons, adding: “We're definitely inspired by older bands from the '60s and '70s, so we get compared to Janis Joplin and all that stuff. Then we also get compared to these newer, retro-sounding bands like Rival Sons and Graveyard, bands who we're in the same musical scene as. We take it as a compliment.”

And so they should. Blues Pills are more than a throwback, managing to embellish classic rock 'n' roll with their own charisma and charm. Even though they’re happy to cite their influences, even to the extent of re-interpreting their music, the band have no interest in just emulating their heroes.

“We covered Gypsy by Chubby Checker, and that's on our album,” Sorriaux said. “We chose it because we all really like the song and we love the vocal melodies. We're still open to ideas for cover songs, but it has to come naturally – whether it's in our style or from a completely different genre, it has to feel good and right.”

Much like Marilyn Manson's twisted version of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) or Johnny Cash's take on Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, good covers need to stay true to the original while breathing new life into it. Blues Pills succeed on this front. Gypsy slots straight into the tracklisting of their album, almost masquerading as one of the band's own songs.

“Stuff like Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix, I don't think that we'd want to do that,” Larsson added. “They've already done their stuff and it's so good and we can never do that, but playing Gypsy was just so good. We were playing it in soundcheck once and it climbed into the setlist, then we recorded it and it ended up on the album. We definitely put the Blues Pills feel into it, which is important if you're gonna do a cover. You have to put your spin on it.”

Its bluesy swagger goes hand in hand with stuff like High Class Woman, the first single from the album. “I get, like, a Tina Turner feel and I'm really into that stuff lately,” Larsson said of the single. “We have that Fleetwood Mac kinda jam in it, because it's so simple yet so musical – I love Dorian's solo part because when my words stop, he kind of keeps telling them.”

It's the cover art for the album that really ties everything together in a neat, trippy-as-balls knot, though. Music is seen as something of a disposable commodity nowadays, so lavish artwork really hammers home the idea of an album as an all-encompassing, genuine piece of work.

“The album artwork is by Marijke Koger-Dunham. She's a famous artist who's painted a lot of stuff,” Larsson said. “She painted the Incredible String Band's 'The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion' cover, which is one of our favourite album covers.

“We always liked the Incredible String Band Cover, so whenever we had artists doing stuff for us, we were like 'can you paint something like this?'.  Zack [Anderson], our bassist, just thought maybe we should get in contact with Marijke. He sent her an email and told her about our band, and to our surprise she wrote us back.

“She said we could pick something she did in the '60s or she could make something new. She sent all this stuff she did in the '60s, which included the one you see on the album cover, and we knew we wanted that one. We're just so happy that she wanted to be part of the album, because it's important that so many people are helping out and her painting is really fitting with the music.”

The music business is a saturated, fickle one. Bands are picked up, dropped and shat upon from a lofty height on an almost daily basis. Maybe Blues Pills will never fill an arena, but no matter. Their imminent LP is one of the coolest, most poignantly honest rock albums of the last few years – make some room on your shelf for it.

Blues Pills Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon July 28 2014 - LONDON St Pancras Old Church

Click here to compare & buy Blues Pills Tickets at Stereoboard.com.



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