INTERVIEW: Dane Robertson (Black Fox)

In the lead up to the release of Line of Sight, and in the wake of the Day In Lieu/Monarch release I got to find out a little bit more about Melbourne band Black Fox.

Can you tell us a little about how the band got together?

Leigh, Daniel and Myself have been friends for years and played together in a band called The Smoke. At the end of 2010, we had a bit of a line-up change and began working on a new sound that became Black Fox. We wrote songs and played live as a four piece with our longtime friend and drummer Ryan Ferguson for about a year.

Unfortunately for us, Ryan bought a lovely house with a lovely girl and wasn’t able to continue to make the time commitments that a band necessitates. That’s when we found Mitch and Andrei who joined the band on drums and bass respectively and completed the Black Fox lineup. We were very lucky to find two guys that we immediately became great friends with. Being in a band is probably the most intense and testing type of creative group work that a person can engage in, so it’s nice to be in a band with guys that I know I can work with and look forward to hanging out with.

How would you describe your sound?

Black Fox is really defined by pounding bass lines, big drums, hypnotic guitars and hazy vocals. We really wanted the songs to be like electro dance songs that are performed with guitar-based instrumentation.

BlackFox

Who are your musical influences?

I’m really influenced by bands like The Cure, The Smiths, and BRMC. These bands seem to be capable of making music that is devoid of a ‘used by date’. When you listen to a lot of music from the 1980s and 90s, it sounds dated and irrelevant now; but bands like The Cure and The Smiths sound like they could have just come onto the scene. I think the ability to do your own thing and not just follow suit with the stylistic values that are currently in vogue is a difficult thing to do, and these bands did just that. They are also very lyrically brilliant. So many modern-day bands write music that is lyrically like an intellectual desert. They tend to use throw-away lines that fit the song and be happy with it. I’ve always loved the way that bands like the Arctic Monkeys are very thought provoking and poetic. You can really tell that some thought and effort has gone into Alex’s words.

Daniel arranged and wrote many of the synth parts on our record and he was quite influenced by Pink Floyd and the way in which they use synths to add subtle textures to songs. Many of the synth parts on the album don’t sound very good in isolation, but sound perfect in the context of the whole song.

Can you tell us a bit about the Day In Lieu/Monarch single?

It’s a double A-side 7-inch vinyl that we have out at the moment. It’s the first release from Black Fox, so we wanted to make sure that we chose two songs that represented the band well. Although these songs are quite different they definitely showcase the Black Fox sound. Day In Lieu is a really euphoric dance number, while Monarch is a very dark, mournful number that builds up to an epic sax solo.

Line of Sight is due out later in the year, can you tell us a bit about the album and when we can hope to see it?

It’s a 9-track album that we’ll be putting out on vinyl, CD and via digital download. We’ll be releasing it in the middle of the year sometime. We haven’t yet decided on a date but June or July sometime is looking pretty good. The album is quite dark lyrically, but most of the songs are pretty upbeat musically. There are lots of hazy vocal harmonies, big drums and textured synths throughout the album. We spent a lot of time making sure that the songs blended together really nicely. Some of the tracks run seamlessly into one another like a single piece of music.

The Bio on your website states that Line of Sight was written and recorded in NYC and Japan as well as Melbourne, were you over there for the album or another reason? And did you perform while you were there?

Daniel wrote and partially recorded one of the songs while he was living in Japan a few years ago. He has a Japanese girlfriend these days, and actually recorded some piano parts on the old piano in her family home when he was in Japan last year. I traveled over to NYC towards the end of last year to record some parts on the album with a good friend of ours, Callum MacBain.

He’s someone that we’ve played with in the past and he always has plenty of great ideas for songs. We had a riot of time while I was over there. There was lots of partying at night, and during the day we worked on our various musical projects. The best thing about that trip was being able to show the songs to someone who had never heard them before and get their first impressions and ideas. He ended up laying down some great vocal harmonies on a few of the songs. It was a really fun trip. At one stage, a category 5 hurricane tore through New York, so we spent 12 hours bunkered down watching movies and drinking mojitos. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to play any shows over there. Perhaps next time.

Where is the furthest from home you have performed?

At this stage, probably just Brisbane.  We came very close to playing a show in Japan last year over Easter, but in it fell through in the end.

Black Fox

What is the most memorable gig you have ever played?

When we went by the name ‘The Smoke’ we opened up the main stage at the Pyramid Rock Festival in 2010. That show was a real blast to play. I think Leigh was playing so hard he broke the strings on his guitar and the backup guitar.

How do you relax and unwind?

I hate to relax. I’m always looking for adventure and distraction rather than relaxation. All the guys in the band love skating and riding our bikes, so if we have any time spare we’re usually at the skatepark or on a bike trail. We’re also really into urban exploration, so we frequently find ourselves in drains, tunnels, abandoned factories, etc. Last year we traveled over to Japan to explore a bunch of abandoned theme parks and hotels. It was truly amazing. One of the theme parks was the size of Disneyland and still had absolutely everything there—but it was all starting to rust and become overgrown with vines. We tried to fire up the monorail and take it for a drive, but alas there was no power.

What is your favourite album of all time?

Jeff Buckley’s Grace. It’s perfect.

What is your career highlight to date?

Probably playing the Pyramid Rock Festival. Although, the current 7-inch record that we have out has been the most personally satisfying thing I’ve done musically so far.

If you could choose any one person to share a stage with who would it be?

Johnny Marr. I’ve never seen another guitarist who can write the kind of riffs he does. He’s also remained so relevant in music over the years with his work in bands like Modest Mouse and The Cribs. He’d probably hate me though, and I’d end up being really disappointed because one of my heroes hates me.

What’s next for Black Fox?

A great record and lots of killer live shows. We’ll be announcing some more interstate shows soon.

Thanks for your time Dane, and I hope to see you playing in Adelaide some time soon!

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