I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and I have been battered and bruised in mosh pits at venues across California. So I’ll be ready when the wildly exuberant Black Midi arrives at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, Oct. 9.
The London-based rock band is known for both stage energy and sonic experimentation. Listen to any song or watch a video of any show, and the band’s unique song structure will become apparent. It’s the result of a combination of effects pedals, pulsating rhythms and vocal expressions ranging from narration to exaggeration.
“Generally, we’re all on the same page in that we want to keep shows interesting,” drummer Morgan Simpson said during a recent phone interview. “We never want to play the same two shows in our lives, so we’re always open to other ways of making the shows fun, because that’s what it’s about. The nature of the material we play, as well, definitely helps inform the shows, because the music is so formulaic that it can always be played in a different way. We kind of got into a bit of a rut where we weren’t really into the music we were playing as much as we felt that we should’ve been. I feel like now we’re all really fond of the music, and naturally, that makes the vibe better.”
The band’s second album, Cavalcade, released in May of this year, was made as the members of Black Midi went through some trials and tribulations. Guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin took a break for mental-health reasons—and then came the pandemic. While debut album Schlagenheim was driven by improvisation, individual members wrote songs for Cavalcade, a move that further added to Black Midi’s mythos of unpredictability.
“The material from the second record is still quite new, and there are still areas that can be explored,” Simpson said. “We’re totally down to start changing the actual nature of the songs and structures, because I think it’s a good thing when people can never really predict what show they’re going to get. Even for us, it’s a cool thing when you don’t really know what sort of show you’re going to end up with. Obviously, we have a good idea, but sometimes, when you’re on that stage, shit happens that you don’t plan for.”
As frequent tourers, the members of Black Midi are ecstatic about the return of live shows.
“We’ve had quite a few warmup shows at The Windmill in Brixton,” Simpson said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that place, because that was where we did our first gig. Whenever we just want to play, or get back into the routine, we’ll often play there. The first night that the United Kingdom reopened, we did an AC/DC cover set. It was one of the best nights, because that music is so fucking cool, and it was our first time feeling like we were back to normal—even though we’re not going to be there for a little while.”
Simpson said the band managed to find some positives in the pandemic downtime.
“We’re in a very fortunate position where we have support from our label and publishers, and we have a great team around us,” Simpson said. “Our management has really helped us get through a difficult time. I think financially, as a band, we’ve always been quite stable, which is not that common at all, so we all realize that and are very grateful for that. I think it just meant that we had time to reset as individuals, but also with the band. Pre-pandemic, we were all quite exhausted in ways. I don’t want to speak for the other guys, but definitely for me, I felt mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted from all the touring that we’ve been doing—which is obviously amazing, and what we want to do, but it really takes a toll sometimes that you don’t really realize.
“You don’t realize what state your body and mind are in until you give them the chance to actually rest. It was a great reset, and it allowed us to reassess where we were at, and just really pinpoint what we want with the band. I think naturally, as a lot of bands do, you just end up touring a lot, and playing a lot of the same shows with the same set, and it’s hard to maintain that sort of spark you’re searching for when you play music. You want things to feel really in the moment and primal, and I think we weren’t getting that until we individually reassessed, came back together, and actively decided to head into a slightly different direction.”
That said, the shutdowns did cost the band some notable moments—including a scheduled appearance at Coachella.
“There’s a sense of disappointment when things you think are going to happen don’t happen, but to even have the opportunities that we have had is such a blessing,” Simpson said. “That in itself is kind of enough. We’re in such an incredible position that it was just so awesome to have those opportunities. I think we all realize that, at some point, these things will happen anyway.”
Some love Black Midi’s unique sound, while others do not. As for criticism, Simpson said it does not matter to him.
“There’s some sort of weird energy in music, especially in the rockier side of U.K. music,” Simpson said. “There’s a very particular crowd that’s a fan of that kind of thing, and sometimes you can just get weird, resentful, jealous energy. I strongly feel that if you’re receiving that sort of energy, you’re doing something right, and you should continue to do that. I don’t want speak for the other guys, but I don’t actually care what anyone says. You can’t care what people say; otherwise, it will just start informing your decisions and your opinions. … You can listen to what your friends say, but I don’t give a fuck what some guy in Manchester says about the band; we’re doing our thing, and we’re going to continue to do it.”
Black Midi will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $27.61 For tickets or more information, call 760-228-2222, or visit pappyandharriets.com.