Blood Indians have long been favourites of The Cool Cat Club (writes Andy Wood) since I first saw them opening for Vladimir about 18 months ago. They’ve played in several different formations since that early gig but mainly as an acoustic duo, with Joanne Forbes and Rowan Wright both playing guitar and singing as well as writing the songs.
In recent months they have recorded and released their debut E.P. and began playing as an electric quartet with the addition of a bassist and drummer. While the core of Blood Indians is still intact the songs and performances have a new found confidence, adding to, as opposed to detracting or distracting from the wonderfulness of the songs.
Despite a couple of technical hiccups at their recent E.P. launch Blood Indians sounded amazing. The songs have become more multi-faceted and fuller, as though they have grown from fledglings into fully formed birds of prey, elegant and beautiful. As a consequence, Blood Indians are soaring, they seem less nervous on stage and the songs still charm and beguile while taking on a new life.
The E.P. is startlingly good. Each of the three songs sounds incredibly accomplished. Kicking off with ‘Cold Caller’, it begins in familiar territory with a gentle, acoustic guitar and voice before the full band swoop in. It has a very warm, full sound with great guitar lines and a real sense of tension. It’s the kind of song that begs airplay, catchy and emotive but it’s also complex and rewarding, building up into a rather epic climax.
‘I Lie’ has a folky feel, particularly in the opening verses. It sounds haunted and haunting with little layers of sound building up underneath the guitar and gorgeous voices as the instruments join in fleshing out the bare bones of the song. In its recorded form it’s a sneaky, shape-shifting song throwing up surprises and thrills, creating a wonderful whole.
‘Winter Ghosts’ is a song I’m fairly familiar with from Blood Indians gigs. It’s one of my favourite of their songs. The lyrics are full of dark imagery, the sound wintry and eerie. The lines that always stick in my mind are:
Dogs bite, nettles sting
Empty lungs are caving in
Rough hands, tired eyes
Pray for us as we look to the skies.
The song is sung so beautifully, the voices ache and yearn but there is such a raw nature to the song, wild and torn, bruised and world-weary but defiant:
Let my sorry bones
Fall into the snow
Wrap them up in clothes
And bring them home.
The recorded version doesn’t radically change the song, this is the most stripped down of the three with just some gentle treated piano and electronics in the background adorning the song, adding subtly to the atmosphere.
Over the three songs you get a real sense of the quality of Blood Indians songs and I highly recommend you get a copy immediately.
Since we last interviewed you there has been quite a change to Blood Indians lineup and sound. Can you talk us through that please?
“Yeah, things have definitely changed! Recording in a studio gave us freedom to add all these instruments. We couldn’t live with just the two of us and we really loved how it turned out so we asked about and Stuart and Josh agreed to play bass and drums for us and it has been fantastic. It means that what we are playing is a lot fuller sounding we get to really experiment a bit more with dynamics and effects and stuff which makes a really nice change from just playing acoustic.
“Don’t get us wrong we really loved playing acoustically and we always write with acoustic guitars, but playing with a full band gives you a lot more freedom to let go on stage, you have a little bit more noise to hide behind and so I think it has made us a lot more confident in that way.”
Were you ever tempted to change the name of the band when the lineup expanded?
“Nope, we never really thought about changing it. We have been really lucky to have guys like Josh and Stuart on board, they totally understand what sort of sound we want and have just added and helped us grow as a band. It has never felt like we are a different band it just feels like we are more mature and moving in a different direction.”
You’ve just released your debut E.P. Can you tell us a bit about that?
“This has been our first experience of recording and we are so lucky to have been able to work with the likes of Stevie Anderson, Scotty Anderson and Mike Brown. It was so much fun working in the studio and it feels incredible saying that we now have our own record. Nothing quite like physically holding a CD with your name on it!”
How has the response been to both the E.P. and the expanded live sound?
“We think (and like to hope) it has been largely positive. We absolutely love playing live with a full band and are extremely happy with the direction we are moving in so we really hope our fans are enjoying it too. We have sold quite a few of the EPs and even managed to sell all the copies that we had at Jessie’s Kitchen in the Ferry which we weren’t expecting, so I think people are still definitely interested in hearing our new sound!”
As a band you are geographically split across the country. Does this make things like writing, rehearsing etc. more problematic or difficult?
“Living in different cities definitely makes things more difficult especially when we are working around university exams and work schedules, we have to organise pretty far in advance if we need to practice.
“However saying that, we do manage to practice about once a week and actually we use that time a lot more wisely than we used to. When it was just the two of us in Dundee we could have 5 or 6 hour practices and spend most of that time making pizza, but now because our time is limited we are much more focused and driven.”
How would you describe your music to someone who has yet to have the privilege of hearing Blood Indians?
“It was difficult enough to describe our sound before all these changes, but I think it is even harder now we have a full band. We definitely still have those folky elements but now we are a lot darker and a bit rockier. We always draw a lot on our influences so you can maybe hear a bit of the likes of Warpaint, Lykke Li and First Aid Kit in our music. We have both been told quite a lot recently that we have a bit of a Cranberries vibe going on!”
Why be in a band? Isn’t it just a heck of a lot of work only to reap a hell of a little reward?
“I don’t know, I suppose it depends how you define ‘reward’, if it means money then fair enough we don’t really make a lot of that, but we have never done this for the money. For us the rewards are when someone tells you they enjoyed your set or they really like your EP. We just love making music and we would do it regardless, but we get rewarded every time we play by great fans and that makes it more than worthwhile.”
Over the time you’ve played as Blood Indians you’ve performed some fairly eclectic covers. What criteria does a song have to meet before you take it on?
“I don’t really know if there are any criteria, the only thing I can think of is that it has to be a song that we liked in the first place. We have gone from the likes of ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC to ‘Love More’ by Sharon Van Etten and enjoy playing every cover equally.”
If someone was to make a film about Blood Indians who would you want to play you?
Joanne: Someone said I looked like Lord Farquaad from Shrek once… but I’d rather have Drew Barrymore. She’s she coolest.’
Rowan: Bill Murray or Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, I am undecided.
What would you like to achieve as Blood Indians?
“I think at the moment we are both just more than happy with seeing folk coming to our shows and enjoying our music. We are just going with the flow and excited to see what happens, we have a lot of stuff lined up. If we made it big that wouldn’t be so bad, but at the moment we are just doing this because we love it.”
Can you tell us what you have planned for the coming months?
“We actually have lots of exciting things lined up. We are really excited to be playing at the Deathcats album launch cause they are one of our favourites. Then we have a few other shows lined up over the summer as well as recording a single and hopefully a video too which we are really looking forward to. Then later in the year I think we are going to do a sort of tour just round Scotland – Glasgow and Inverness etc.
“We are really lucky that Andrew our manager is just amazing and knows exactly what we want to do as a band and so this is really how we have all these great opportunities!”
What question would you most like to be asked?
“If we got famous and someone named a pizza after the band what would be on the pizza?
(P.S it would have BBQ sauce, chicken, crispy onions, cous cous, mozzarella and a thin and crispy crust)”
Anything else that you would like to add?
“Our dream is to one day be sponsored by Dominos and have an infinite supply of pizza.”
Here’s a chance to hear the E.P.:
You can buy Blood Indians debut E.P. in its physical form or digitally here.
Blood Indians play the Deathcats Dundee LP launch at the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live on Saturday 6th June. Also playing are Yoko Pwono and Halfrican. [More info]