Black Kids on fast track to fame

Emma Lee America’s hottest musical export, Black Kids, play a sold-out show in Norwich on Sunday. EMMA LEE spoke to bassist Owen Holmes.

Emma Lee

Are you an unsigned band? Are you looking for your big break? What you need is the new, improved internet. Its miraculous concentrated formula has the power to turn you from an underground indie band into a bona fide music sensation.

Say goodbye to dingy pubs, hello to stadiums - overnight.

When you look at some of the big names that have made it on the music scene in recent years - Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Kate Nash, for example - they've got one thing in common: there was no waiting for the A&R men to come knocking for them.

Thanks to websites such as MySpace they were busy building up a fanbase while their songs were still in demo format.

And Black Kids, one of the US's hottest exports, are another one to add to the list of internet success stories.

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The band - singer and guitarist Reggie Youngblood, bassist Owen Holmes, drummer Kevin Snow, keyboardist Dawn Watley and vocalist Ali Youngblood - formed in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, just two years ago.

And in that short time they've had a top 20 hit with their debut UK single, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You, and have recorded an album with the acclaimed guitarist-turned-producer Bernard Butler, formerly of Suede.

Owen, who's just flown into London from the States for the festival season and a string of gigs, including one at Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday, takes up the story.

“We were playing about once a month, practising once a week at best - we had full-time jobs. It really was something that we did as a hobby,” he says.

“Then, last August I think it was, our friends convinced us to play a festival in Georgia. We had the worst slot - at 2pm, playing in broad daylight and a rubbish sound system. Everyone was hung over and we played a fairly ordinary set and there was a crowd of about 40 - but they seemed to like most of the songs. And most of the people there turned out to be bloggers - maybe they got us on their sites or something.

“Somehow the right people found out about us and the rest is history.

“It really hasn't sunk in that this is my job. I can't say that I had a rubbish job before [Owen was a writer on a Florida arts magazine], but this is amazing,” he says.

Although the band hasn't been together long in its current incarnation, they've known each other for more than a decade.

“We met in Sunday School and we've kind of been in bands together ever since, having fun but never really getting anywhere with it,” Owen says.

“It used to just be the guys - and then the first band the girls were in we got somewhere - they got on the gravy train,” he deadpans.

The band's first single proper, which Owen calls “the Boyfriend song”, mixes up baggy-era indie dance with some Bearsuit-style shouting. As Owen explains, the band members bring together a wide range of musical influences.

“I was really into punk music. I remember when I was about 15 going to the music store with my mom. She's not a musician, but she was convinced I wanted a regular guitar and I didn't know what I was talking about, but there was a guy in one of the bands that I liked that played bass. I'd just kind of hammered away on it for a while and started a punk band. My musical taste has evolved, so to speak.

“I imagine that the others had similar starts. Kevin, the drummer, his first band was a Beatles covers band which was more sophisticated than my beginnings. Reggie was in to R&B. Dawn has been playing piano for ages. She's probably the only proper musician in the band. She's the only one who can read sheet music,” he says.

Black Kids play a sell-out show at Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday. You can also catch them later in the summer at Latitude.

t The band's debut album, Partie Traumatic, is out later this summer. The single Hurricane Jane is out on May 23.

t The lively New Zealanders Cut Off Your Hands are supporting Black Kids at Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday. The quartet, fresh from opening shows for the Wombats, caused quite a stir when they toured the UK at the end of last year and this tour sees the band gearing up for the release of their killer debut album produced by Bernard Butler. Cut Off Your Hands are pure post-punk with an undeniable pop edge - a combination which has earned them a huge amount of interest in USA as well as the UK.

t P 01603 660352 (£8 adv, £9 door - returns only) Norwich Arts Centre box office; www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk; www.myspace.com/blackkidsrock