Best of SXSW: Meet The Blinders

For the past several years, it’s been the general consensus that rock music had lost its place in music —many even argue that rock music is dead. I have to admit, I’ve felt generally uninspired by the genre myself in recent years. But after a trip to Austin for SXSW, I’ve learned there’s a bright class of young musicians ready to breathe life back into the genre. The Blinders, a three-piece rock band based out of Manchester, England, are part of this class and represent rock music’s future.

When I looked at The Blinders’ SXSW schedule, I never thought I’d actually see them play a show since they were scheduled at either 12AM or 1AM each night. But I’d also never been to SXSW and had no idea what was in store for me that weekend. I found myself standing front row at their 1AM show at the British Music Embassy, completely captivated by their performance. This is part of what makes SXSW magical —time dissipates and suddenly it’s 1AM and you’re watching your new favorite band. Their set was captivating from start to finish —with each member displaying a magnetic intensity that could either intimidate you into looking away or force you to pay attention. There was sweat, drama, and booze —everything you’d want from a late night set.

Less than 48 hours after their performance, I was standing across the street from the British Music Embassy with The Blinders, asking them questions about the band’s origin, their stage presence, drugs, and the inherent swagger that all British people seem to possess. Read the conversation below and check out their debut album, “Columbia.”

CSDC: How long have you been making music together?

We started making music together about three to four years ago, in 2014. In terms of making our own music and being serious about it, probably about 3 years. Especially with the first album (“Columbia”) just coming out, we’ve had that amount of time to make content.

CSDC: How did you guys meet each other?

We went to high school together. We weren’t the only people into music, but one of the few people interested in pursuing it- musicianship, and not just having flowery conversations about it. We started to pick instruments up and write our own pieces. We’ve know each other for a long time.

CSDC: How did you come up with the name “The Blinders?”

From the hit TV show Peaky Blinders. We went into our first show without a name and quickly realized that we needed one. The whole thing going on back then was Peaky Blinders. We always intended to change it, but never got around to it. It’s also difficult to find a name that no one else’s’ got. We were gonna be called Judge Jory(?) and the Executioners.

CSDC: What else was on the list?

Phenia and Acid and Phenik.

CSDC: Speaking of Acid -what are your thoughts on the intersection of music and drug culture?

You can leave or take drugs. I don’t think it does anything to your music, but it certainly changes you as a person. Drug culture is an interesting one and I don’t understand why people don’t talk about it more often. It is very prevalent in the music scene, so it’s interesting that there’s still a stigma around it. Experimentation is part of being creative and being an artist. It gives you words for things that you might have realized before or explain things that you couldn’t have before.

CSDC: Why are British people so swaggy?

It’s because they stiff up their lips. Or socks. I don’t think there’s anything to say about it because a lot of British people emulate American style. Fuck it, I’m dressed as Bob Dylan today.

CSDC: What makes a show difficult?

Technical issues. I also think naturally building it up in our heads a lot more than we could ever live up to. You’ve got your own personal standards down, so if you don’t reach it, it’s a bigger deal than it actually is. We always say if one person ends up liking it than that’s good thing.

But technical issues are always tough, especially when we come out here, we can’t bring our own amplifiers and set up. We improvise the day after the show you saw and we really hit a sweet spot there.

CSDC: It’s cool you drink on stage.

When you play to an audience that late you have to kind of be on that level. So why wouldn’t you attempt to have a good time.

CSDC: How have you developed your theatrical stage presence? Do you have to plan out how your live set will be?

You just have to be completely comfortable on stage. A lot of it is a coping mechanism. We’ve developed a lot, but it changes from show to show. Theater and drama are very important in any sort of performance. We just push it a little further, especially with the make-up, it allows you to physically become someone else, not just mentally. The drama to our performance is very important to us. We don’t really sit down and think about it, it just came about. One time in Manchester, we did a single launch at a place called Death Institute and that was a 200-cap venue. It was one of the larger shows we had sold out at that time. We were like let’s “fucking scare some people” and people digged it. This year we’re playing at two 1,500-person venues, so we must be doing something right.

CSDC: Do you put make-up on for every single show?

We didn’t originally intend it to become that, but we acted on impulse and it was a spark of imagination. So the meaning has become more than when we started it. People come up to me with these concepts of what it means.

CSDC: How do the crowds in the US compare to back home?

Well people don’t really know us, but it seemed like people were enjoying it. But it’s cool to play to people in America. We always wanted to play to even a hundred people and it was double that last night. We can’t complain.

CSDC: How’s your Austin experience been?

We thought we were gonna get boo’d off stage, but then realized it’s quite a progressive city. We were very happy with our lot here. We’re staying about 40-mins out on a ranch, which is a very different experience. We’ve got to see 2-sides of Texas, which we enjoy equally. America has been really good to us. We’re set on coming back.

 CSDC: What artists have you discovered at SXSW or are excited to see?

Ezra Collective. We saw Thee Oh Sees finally at Hotel Vegas , they were something else. You’re not gonna see a band of that size at a 200-person cap venue.

All photos by Raelena Kniff.