The Black Arts
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The Black Arts


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The best kept secret in music


"dabling in The Black Arts"

A band that can say, “We just write good catchy songs that basically anyone can get into, unless they’re fanatical right wing Christians” is a band I want to know more about.
It’s Thursday night in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane and I’ve got a date with two strangers at a café. To the left is Josh Eckersley, singer in a band, and to the right is Josh Shelton, guitarist / band manager. These two Josh’s (also known respectively as Channel J and i) are the proud parents of Brisbane alternative pop quintet The Black Arts.

You may have heard them on Triple J. The single War On Hurricanes, with its unmistakable piano-hook, acoustic strum, and political satire, was Richard Kingsmill’s pick of the week. If you are not one to be impressed by namedropping, would the nameless masses move you? The delectable War On Hurricanes was also voted onto the radio station’s weekly Net 50 for a number of weeks.

Pretty impressive for a little known indie band in Brisbane. You can listen to the track on the band's MySpace.
Eckersley tells how The Black Arts first came to be, “I was studying music and got quite bored with being a student so I thought, ‘Fuck it. I got to get out and do something different.’”
Something different, in his case, was moving from Lismore, NSW to Brisbane. Before then, the two Josh’s had been writing music individually, and although 300km apart, their work meshed well. Eckersley continues his story, “We were both in bands that split up because they were going nowhere. We both found ourselves with a lot of material and no vehicle to use the material.”

And so they, they recruited Glen Jarvis on acoustic guitar, and leased their rhythm section of Ruwan De Silva (drums) and Denis Hamilton (bass) from Brisbane popsters A Thousand Apoligies. Shelton says of the band’s dynamic, “We’re all positive together. Negatives and positives joining together making happy, happy sounds about sad, sad things.”

“That’s beautiful.” Eckersley says cheekily.

“It’s the best thing I’ve said all day.” Shelton agrees.

Like their lyrics, conversation is witty and wry.

I ask is there significance to the band name, and Eckersley points to Shelton who says, “It was just something that came up when I was in a certain songwriting headspace.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were like a hundred other bands called The Black Arts,” Eckersley remarks, “We may very well get sued some time in the future or we’ll just be told that we can’t use the name. And then we’ll be fucked and we’ll have to think of another name, but until that happens…”
A quick search finds a black metal band by the same name, but they are still small time so our Black Arts needn’t worry just yet.

“Or else there’s like The Scene Queens,” Eckersley offers, “but we thought that was a bit fruity.”
The Scene Queens. That sounds more burlesque influenced glam-rock, by way of the Scissor Sisters, than their grounded pop rock.
“That was kind of a joke band name and I was almost thinking it was good,” Shelton says, to which Eckersley admits, “I thought it was good until Black Arts came along.”
The band list Wilco, The Beatles, The Pixies, and Flaming Lips as some of the big influences on their music. Eckersley describes their music as “rock & roll really. But different.”

“A lot of the songs have a different take on pop rock as they go along. Some of them have a bit more blues influence, and some of them have more pop, and some of them are rockier - a bit rougher around the edges, and then some of them get quite heavy as well,” Shelton says. Even though they span across all genres, the common thread is melodic interplay with pop sensibility.

“I guess each song does what the content of the song requires. It’s always related to the energy behind the lyrics.” Shelton explains their diverse sound. The energy behind the lyrics for the most part is politically minded.

“You can’t help but be political in this day and age,” Eckersley says. “And maybe we watch too much TV. But it’s all suicide bombers this, terrorism that, and it all kind of comes together. Not all the songs are politics but a lot of it is.”

So while normal people watch the news and get depressed by all the horror that’s going on in the world, these Brisbane gents get inspired. Eckersley confides, “War On Hurricanes was written that way. After watching the news, you know, Hurricane Katrina hits America and fucks a lot of poor people up, and Bush is spending trillions fighting terrorism - waging war on a word - and when the American people are actually in trouble and have a serious problem, he doesn’t have any money left to do anything about it. It’s like a satire on the American government waging war on a word of something that doesn’t really exist.

“The evening news is really good for inspiration. Movies are really good too. If you hear a cool line in a movie you can steal it - I think,” He ponders a moment, “We may also get sued for that, but you can get some really goo -

"The Black Arts"

Fans of jjj may be familiar with the Black Arts song 'war on hurricanes'. Not only was it Richard Kingsmill's pick of the week, but it also spent a number of weeks in the listener-voted Net 50 chart.

It all happened so fast,"vocalist Channel J says. Ït was written and recorded in September and Richard Kingsmill was playing in it October. He is one guy you really want to impress."

While the Brisbane band's sound is influenced by bands like Pixies, The Beatles, Wilco and The Drones, drummer Ruwan De Silva has an interesting take on how he approaches his playing.

Ï just try to play whatever feels right, regardless of genre,"he says. "It's like a conversation: if the conversation is stimulating I have no problem taking it further".

"We write about suicide bombers, the American Government, drug and alcohol binges, life in Mexico.. that sort of thing. We have this great love song called 'kill me'. It's all relative to the human experience. Life is fucking interesting, everything is backwards, and we're just trying to straighten it out."

When asked about the future, The Black Arts seem just a little morbid about it all.

"Well I'm planning an early death, "Channel J say. "So all I need to do is put out one amazing album and then i'm done. Hopefully I'm off to another planet to hang out with Bill Hicks and John Lennon."
De Silva paints an ever-so-slightly brighter picture.

"The future holds the same thing it holds for every band, "he says. Ëp release, album, tour world domination, and then a dramatic and messy break-up due to creative differences, followed by the death of our lead singer."
- Time Off magazine

"The Black Arts live @ The Powerhouse."

The Black Arts hold nothing back from the outset and have a great time delivering. This five- piece sends each number out with solid conviction and show that there’s more to a song than bashing away at your instrument.

‘War on Hurricanes’ has a nice groove that slips through the keys and climbs to big drum symbols. This one is already receiving much airplay on the Youth Network, and it’s easy to see why. ‘Terrorist Blues’ is boppy number that punches its way along - a happy song about some truly sad things in life.

The bands vary their tempo and have a set that boasts the ability to assort their styles from one track to the next. The do-do’s, na-na’s and la-la-la’s emerge in a few songs, and make it hard to stop a knee bouncing along. Then there’s fuzzy rock with screaming vocals and a purring guitar.

The guys put on a great show tonight, and with an invite to the North by North East Festival in Canada later this year, are sure to be seen more around the traps.
- Time Off (review)

"The Black Arts (Australia) @ Crowbar, NXNE Toronto, Canada"

By Jen White.

Picture a mix of slightly sloppier Franz Ferdinand with the harmonies of the New Pornographers all topped off with Wolf Parade-esque vocals.

The Black Arts kicked my ass. Not in the they-took-me-out-back-and-beat-me-up-for-my-lunch-money way, but more in the they-fuckin'-rocked-the-house way. They travelled 15,000 kilometres to get here from their hometown, and boy am I ever glad they did. They ploughed down the crowd with their fun and infectious sound and their hilarious stage banter. It really didn’t seem to matter much to the band that a crowd had gathered; they were having so much fun playing, and as an audience member you just felt lucky that you got to be there to be a part of it.

From the hilarious banter to the awesome stage energy and rockin’ tunes, The Black Arts have got it going on. The Aussie quintet’s talent is undeniable, as their music demands your complete attention and subsequent toe tapping and head bopping. The combined singing efforts of multiple band members at once, coupled with the front man’s occasional handclaps was the icing on their musical cake. There were a few pauses between songs that slowed the set down a little, but once the next song started all would be forgiven. The guitarist also made great use out of a metallic ice cream scoop as a guitar slide for his acoustic. The Black Arts have a great danceable rock sound. They are fronted by a lead singer who's like a raspier-voiced, audience-loving, chatty Dan Behar. What can I say, their music is infectious and mega fun.

They get a ton of extra booze points for all the drinks onstage and for their jokes about being drunks. They also get bonus wardrobe points for their awesome footwear and the drummer’s hat. And I’ll just throw in some extra points for good measure because I'm a sucker for that Aussie accent.


The Black Arts are releasing their debut EP in late 2006.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Black Arts hit the ground running when Triple J's Richard Kingsmill chose 'War on Hurricanes' for his "King's Pick" segment on Home & Hosed. It’s the 1st single from The Black Arts debut EP, produced by the bands’ song writing duo, Channel J & I. (Josh Eckersley and Josh Shelton)

The song was play listed, sat at # 12 on the Net 50 for 6 weeks in 2006 and was in rotation for the rest of the year. The track is currently doing the rounds on FBi radio in Sydney and the second single from the EP, "Music or the Drugs", is about to hit radios nationwide, including JJJ nationally and NOVA 106.9 in Brisbane.

Along with this early success by way of national radio play the band is certainly finding success in their hometown as well as abroad. In June The Black Arts returned from the U.S and Canada after playing critically acclaimed shows at NXNE in Toronto Canada as well as in Los Angeles and New York City.

Most recently, the band were selected to feature in YMI magazine, due to hit newsagents nationwide on September 18th 2006.

The Black Arts are agile with spontaneous creative energy and wit. Their inescapably infectious pop/rock rests on a base of pure musical and lyrical ability, each band member a superb musician and talented vocalist.

Influences include The Flaming Lips, Pixies, The Beatles, Wilco, Elliot Smith, Kurt Vonnegut and Bill Hicks.