​black midi Push Back Against Being Labelled "Post-Brexit"

"The scene-ness is definitely overwrought, and made too much out of I think, but it's useful for us," says bassist Cameron Picton

Photo: Atiba Jefferson

BY Sydney BrasilPublished Oct 14, 2022

Leading a perceived scene with some of your best friends must be a bewildering weight to carry. With that, it's easy to see why black midi bassist Cameron Picton doesn't get why they — along with tourmates Black Country, New Road — have been pigeonholed as "post-Brexit."

The term has become a genre signifier of sorts for the slew of post-punk bands coming out of the UK, including Dry Cleaning, Squid and Shame, among others. They don't have much in common besides angular guitars and the rough time and place they formed. Political implications and black midi's pivot from post-punk aside, Picton doesn't seem to think Brexit has impacted these acts as much as music media leads on.

"I don't think there's actually any bearing of Brexit on any of our music. And if you were going to call anything post-Brexit, it would be the bands that are starting out now, maybe," he explains to Exclaim! over the phone. While he goes on to say that post-Brexit is a "really poor term to lump these bands together," he's aware that the grouping of these acts has been at least somewhat advantageous. 

"The scene-ness is definitely overwrought, and made too much out of I think, but it's useful for us," he says. "You know, I don't think any of us can say that we haven't benefited from the fact that all of these bands sort of come together as a package."

This packaging has been especially of service to black midi this fall, as they've been touring North America, in part, with Black Country, New Road, whom Picton calls "very close friends."

Because of the two band's overlapping fanbases, the rooms they play stay full for both sets, despite their respective changes in sound. While black midi have fully embraced jazz fusion and avant-prog on their two latest efforts, Hellfire and Cavalcade, Black Country have lost their frontman and co-founder Isaac Wood — though that fact doesn't phase crowds whatsoever.

"It's amazing to have seen the almost 100 percent crossover in fanbase for two bands that, essentially at this point, don't sound anything like each other whatsoever, apart from maybe a few things here and there," Picton says, optimistic that crowds will be just as enthusiastic when the pairing parts ways. 

Following their US tour, black midi will make a pitstop in Toronto with Horsegirl before playing their first stadium show in New York, opening for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. According to Picton, their fans are always grateful for the supporting act, no matter who they are. This is heartening for him, as North American fans have especially taken to their music.

Considering the band's debut Schlagenheim only came out in 2019, the trajectory of black midi's growth across the pond is somewhat astonishing. Picton tells me about a time when he was stopped multiple times for photos while killing time before a soundcheck in Athens, GA — a testament to the band's stateside popularity, as well as fans' dedication to queuing before doors. This is the sort of concert culture black midi aficionados subscribe to without hesitation — the same kind of culture that makes it a far less risky venture for them to play unreleased material live. 

During the promotional tour for Cavalcade, which wrapped up this spring, much of the band's setlist was dedicated to upcoming songs from Hellfire. In fact, because of delays in Cavalcade's tour, the new record was already finished before they hit the road. "One of the benefits of lockdown and not being able to tour was being able to get all this new material together," Picton says of Hellfire quickly falling into place. "Which was why, after Cavalcade came out, we basically just started touring all the new songs."

Since black midi's recorded material has notoriously crisp production that balances their music's many moving parts, translating their songs to a live setting takes some work. Even if Picton, band leader Geordie Greep and drummer Morgan Simpson are profoundly tight as a trio, their shows will always vary slightly from their albums.

This also gives them a chance to workshop what sounds best in each setting. For example, Picton cites the growth of live performances of bossa nova-inflected track "Dangerous Liaisons," as well as his choice to sing "Still," one of his lead vocal tracks, an octave higher.

"Hopefully we just continue to sort of find those little things in songs that we can change, to make it much easier to play live and make it much more satisfying for us and the audience," he says, noting that North American crowds have been especially receptive to their experimentation. When asked if he would consider singing more than two songs per black midi album in the future, he says it comes down to what suits the songs best, but he remains open.

Fourth album speculation aside, there's still much work to be done — that's a post-tour endeavour after some well-deserved rest. Once he gets back to London, Picton's plans include possibly going on holiday (if he can bear the thought of traveling any more), as well as enjoying Christmas before hammering out some more songs. While he's not sure exactly what's next for black midi, he's "really looking forward" to what the band gets up to in the spring. 

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