Music: Black Kids’ Ali Youngblood: The New Gay Interview
Black Kids play Friday, Sept 26, at The Black Cat.
In May, I was so excited about Black Kids‘ debut single “I”m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” that I thought it would be great to send them some email questions before their show at the Black Cat. But when I tried to ask about the band’s name and aural resemblance to The Cure I was met with a rather terse set of replies from lead singer Reginald Youngblood. So in honor of Black Kids’ return to the Black Cat I got some time on the phone with Reginald’s sister/bandmate, Ali, who also sings and plays keyboard. The results were much more pleasant. You may read the full interview below the fold.
The New Gay Zack: A lot of people believe that so-called “indie rock” is a mostly white genre. Is your band’s name a comment on a lack of actual black kids in the genre?
Ali Youngblood: No, not at all. We just had made up so many names and all the names we came up with, like Primary Colors and Bibliotech, were taken. All the names we could up with, there was something similar to it or it sounded awful. But we seriously doubted anyone could have this one.
TNG: Are your fans giving an undue amount of attention to your band name?
AY: Well, people usually will ask ‘Why that name?’ but no one ever gets seriously hardcore offended about it because there’s nothing to be offended about. If they get offended, maybe they have a personal problem.
TNG: What’s your opinion on indie rock being a white kids genre? Do you think that’s the case?
AY: I’ve never really heard that, I just listen to music. If that’s how people feel then that’s how they feel. It makes me think about ska music. Is it just for Jamaicans? No, obviously not. Music is for everyone.
TNG: Is The Cure as big an influence on Black Kids as they appear to be?
AY: Yeah, we like The Cure. My brother just sounds a little like Robert Smith, but he has so many vocal chords in there that I don’t even know what he sounds like. I think we’re just influenced by whatever we listened to growing up, like our childhood memories of listening to to Cameo.
TNG: What else did you listen to growing up?
AY: Anything that was on MTV. I was big on music videos when I was younger, now its like ‘whatever, that’s old.’ Now I YouTube stuff, I don’t watch MTV.
TNG: Does anyone?
AY: I’m sure they do. It’s like when you’ve been out of high school for 15 years and you go back and you see that kids are wearing whatever you wore. It’s like ‘people are still sporting that?’ Kids are still probably watching MTV and recording stuff on the radio. Who knows? I watch it if there’s shows I like most time I’m busy or don’t have a TV.
TNG: If all this old ’80s music influenced you, how do you update your sound to make it unique to Black Kids?
AY: My brother has really catchy lyrics, I think that’s what differentiates our songs a lot of times. They’re sick. Yeah.
TNG: Who writes your songs?
AY: My brother had a lot of these songs made before we were even a band, they’re predominantly his. The rest of us write songs a lot, we just haven’t had time to practice them. Maybe next album. He mainly just writes the lyrics, maybe a few chords. The rest of it is all of us.
TNG: You’re brother initially appears to be the frontman, but anyone who saw you’re last DC show opening for Cut Copy would probably say that you’re the real focal point of the show. You’re the most fun to watch, you’re in the middle of the stage…
AY: Actually, [other vocalist/keyboardist] Dawn and I switched positions, she’s in the center now and I’m on the side.
TNG: Do you think one of you is actually the frontwoman, or are you taking a side role to your brother?
AY: I look at it like we’re all frontmen. Dawn and I leads in songs, and if there’s something I can’t sing Dawn will sing it, or something Reggie can’t sing we’ll all sing it. We’re all equal.
TNG: You’ve gotten a lot of hype in the last couple months. Do you think you can match it?
AY: We’re hoping we can. Everyone has their own opinions on what kind of music they like. For some people they’ll be like, ‘yeah, i see the hype.’ Others will say ‘that band suck.’ I’m just trying to do the best that I can on my part. It’s nice tension, though. I think most bands get known as hype now, as brand new cool bands. It’s like slang.
TNG: Pitchfork was really instrumental in hyping you, but then gave you a very unfavorable review.[It consisted of a 3.3. rating above a picture of two pugs and the word "Sorry."] Did this bother you?
AY: Me personally, I had no reaction to it because stuff like that doesn’t bother me. If the like it they like it, they like it. If they don’t know what to say, if they couldn’t write anything, whatever.
TNG: You’ve done a lot better on the charts in England than you did here. Why do you think that is?
AY: I guess its because we sound like English pop, and because the kids there move really fast on new music. I’m scared they might despise us sometimes soon, but you gotta work hard for the Americans.
TNG: Why does “I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” have your brother singing ‘You are the girl that I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl?”
AY: It’s a catch phrase that my brother and I used to say for everyone, like ‘I’ve wanted one since I was a little girl,’ it’s an inside joke with friends. People can take it however they want. I know a lot of lesbians who think the song is cute, if they want to apply it to their personal live they can.
TNG: So there’ so no gay members in Black Kids?
AY: I can go check up on them, I can read their blogs and emails, but as far as I know… Nope. Most have boyfriends and girlfriends of the opposite sex.
TNG: Finally, most people don’t know that you’re actually from DC. Are you excited to come back?
AY: I was born there, I lived there for a year as a baby, but I always loved going here. We used to go there a lot, so I love DC, I’ll represent anytime. I wasn’t raised there, but I was born there. You gotta be born somewhere. TNG
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