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Technical And Topical: Black Peaks' Guitarist Joe Gosney Discusses 'All That Divides'

Friday, 12 October 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Music critics are often guilty of presenting rock's history as linear. Progressive rock emerged out of pop music and psychedelia in the late 1960s but was ultimately killed off by punk in the late 1970s, so the narrative goes. Punk, with its raw sound and DIY ethic, was also a better vehicle for voicing social and political issues than prog, which was considered more escapist and lyrically concerned with “high culture”.

And yet both the 'p words' have been ascribed to Brighton four-piece Black Peaks since they released their debut album, 'Statues', two years ago. Creating guttural and riff-heavy post-hardcore within complex structures and time signatures, the band continue to eschew all expectations by grabbing the attention of both the Kerrangs and The Independents of the world. If the follow-up, 'All That Divides', proves anything, it's that making intelligent and technical music with a political pulse is more than possible.

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but there's clearly been a pushback in the rock community against perceived polarisation. Records by the likes of Idles, Jeff Rosenstock and Parquet Courts have called out political figures and forces who seek to stigmatise immigrants and divide working class people on both sides of the Atlantic. Black Peaks guitarist Joe Gosney says the band are happy to place 'All That Divides' in the same category, but they’ve put their own spin on it.

“The title was one of the last things we decided,” says Gosney. “We had an album written and recorded and we'd named all of the songs, same as 'Statues', and the name is the last thing we like to do. We wanted to have as big a picture of the album as we could before we put a stamp on it. Lyrically, from Will [Gardner - vocalist], there's a lot he talks about that is of a divisive nature, a lot that talks about how our country has been split down the middle with politics.

“It's not a concept album, but it's a new thing on this record. A lot of the themes on the album are drawn from experiences we've had personally over the past couple of years. As opposed to a band like Idles, who [are] straight up talking about what they want to – and I love how they do it – the way Will sings and his lyrics are different. It's our opinion about what's going on and how it's affected us and telling stories rather than telling folk what to think.”

For Gosney, not being overly blunt in messaging is important. In terms of tradition, the band are inspired by alternative music that's imagery-driven rather than on the nose. He describes cult noughties band Oceansize as “one of his favourite all time bands” and prog metal veterans Mastodon as a “heavy influence”. Black Peaks already have pedigree with artists from that era: Jamie Lenman, of Reuben fame, appeared on their last LP, and they've supported heavyweights such as Deftones, System of a Down and A Perfect Circle.

“We've been lucky to be given all these opportunities,” he explains. “We always take a lot from them, whether it's music, production or just 'Fuck, we really want to be doing what they're doing'. You watch them.  A Perfect Circle, especially, was hands down one of the most inspiring things we've ever done. For us that was musical perfection night in, night out. We'd come out thinking: 'Why aren't we that good? How do we step up our game?'”

That in mind, 'All That Divides' is Black Peaks' big statement of intent. With nine songs clocking in at 48 minutes, it's a trimmed down project which still packs in countless riffs, motifs and ideas. Many artists talk about chopping down from 30 to 40 song ideas before settling on their final run to record, but Gosney says their progressive sound and extensive structures meant this process took a long time.

“We were meticulous,” he says. “We worked as hard and quickly as we could, but we don't ever want to put anything out if we're not happy with it. A lot of the time I'd write a song at home and bring it to rehearsal, we'd piece together the song and work it out. It would be 80% done and then he'd [Gardner] take it away and write his lyrics and melody at home. By the time he'd got back to the rehearsal room, we'd have changed everything again. It's not the most logical way to work, but it's how we do it. It's long. We get the results we want in the end, but it can take any amount of time. Some songs came together in weeks, others in months.”

Despite initially recording in late November last year, Gosney says the album's been through “so many different phases”. The band were left feeling burnt out and “in a low point” following lengthy tours around Europe, which culminated in the departure of bassist Andrew Gosden. His replacement Dave Larkin acted as a catalyst and “gave them the energy to push forward” with the record.

They're currently doing the hard yards on a UK and Ireland tour, but you get the impression there's a lot more to come from Black Peaks. Alongside the likes of Black Foxxes, Tangled Hair and Delta Sleep, they represent a new wave of UK rock acts that are unafraid to conjoin the technical and the topical. Gosney says they're “not too conscious” of the potential commercial success of recognition, but will “take it as far as we can take it.”

“I think everything is right and there to make this thing work at the moment,” he says. “We're dedicated and right now we're just ready to go for it. We've always been focused and enjoyed what we're playing. That sounds cliched – of course you do and everyone does – but nothing gets past rehearsal rooms unless all four of us are 110% happy. We're fairly uncompromising with all that sort of stuff. People call it prog all the time – I'm fine with that. There's too many genres out there these days. So long as we make the music that's good to play, I don't really care.  It's a really awesome thing if our music resonates with anyone.”

'All That Divides' is out now through Rise Records

Black Peaks Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Fri October 12 2018 - DUBLIN Grand Social
Sat October 13 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Cluny
Sun October 14 2018 - GLASGOW King Tut's 
Tue October 16 2018 - LEEDS Key Club
Wed October 17 2018 - MANCHESTER Academy 3
Thu October 18 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
Fri October 19 2018 - LONDON Underworld Camden
Sat October 20 2018 - SHEFFIELD Plug
Sun October 21 2018 - WORTHING Forty Two

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