The tale’s one told a hundred times before: school friends, a desire to turn passion for music into sounds of their own, and a gradual rise to prominence. But where Blitz Kids differ from the pack is in their focus, their drive, their ambition – this is a British rock band purposefully navigating its way up the ranks, now in possession of an album that few wouldn’t immediately brand a bona-fide breakthrough-in-waiting.
The new album sees the Crewe-founded four-piece wholly capitalise on the potential they’ve shown since emerging into the public eye(s and ears). Recorded stateside with John Feldmann – he of Goldfinger frontman fame and producer for the likes of Panic! at the Disco, All Time Low and Kelis – it retains a quintessential Britishness while benefiting from the collaboration. It’s gritty of lyric and honest of sincerity, yet melodically bursts with Californian rays. This is an immediate yet lasting, album.
And it’s not come together overnight – the roots of this band go way back, to when Joe James would walk to school, as an 11-year-old, beside the year-above Jono Yates. Known to the pair since they spent afternoons playing in sandpits was Nick Montgomery; and when teenage years descended and the itch to create music was finally scratched, the three came together to contest battle-of-the-bands events: Joe on drums at the time, Nick bass and Jono guitar. Influences – from emo to punk, post-hardcore to nu-metal – were assimilated, smelted, processed into firm future foundations.
“We grew up in what I think was the best eras of music, ever,” says Joe. “People still play System of a Down, and Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’... I feel that we were blessed to have been at the right age when that was all kicking off. I think it was a golden age.”
Friendships remained but the songs didn’t stay the same – original material began to creep into the equation, Joe moved out from behind the kit to centre-stage and the spotlight, and Blitz Kids were born. EP releases and self-booked tours took the band from boisterous backstreet barrooms to toilet-circuit triumphs. Their live set became their lifeblood – today, it’s still performing that fills this band with palpable enthusiasm.
The aesthetic changes between early jaunts and 2013’s professionally organised tours – transport and accommodation improvements, a set
of amps that haven’t been dragged up and down the country since these guys were teenagers – can’t mask what is readily evident: Blitz Kids are one hell of a live band. Perhaps, until now, they struggled to translate the fever of their in-the-flesh performances to record, however, the new album sets that straight.
Joined by new drummer Matt Freer, Joe, Jono and Nick have fused a previously unexplored lyrical introspection with some of the band’s most instant-click compositions yet. This accessibility is evident from lead single ‘On My Own’, a track that complements its dark heart with vibrantly upbeat motifs and a properly holler-yourself-sore chorus. The album doesn’t wallow in any sort of self-pity, but it certainly reveals a more open Joe, now confidently articulating an exquisite artistic catharsis.
“I’m quite an introvert” says Joe. “And before this album I was afraid of writing really personal stuff. But there’s so much on this album that really cuts us open. John Feldmann sat me down one day and told me to be more honest. I spent a few days re-writing lyrics... and now we have an album that’s us baring our souls, and we’re really happy with it.”
Blitz Kids’ phenomenal live reputation, developed through tours with the likes of Kids in Glass Houses and Lower Than Atlantis, hasn’t been forgotten under the Los Angeles sun – the new songs were written with this side of the band’s appeal firmly in mind.
“This album’s been completely designed to be played live,” says Joe. “We live for touring, and that’s when we feel the greatest connection with our songs, and the closest to our fans. That’s what music is about at the end of the day – we write for ourselves of course, but you have to connect those feelings with other people. We have amazing fans, and it’s incredible how dedicated they are.”
This band’s ambition is massive: their sights are set on headlining Reading and Leeds one day (when kids, Joe and Jono would camp at Leeds for their summer-break rock fix). “That’s our goal!” says Joe – and it’s not an entirely fantastical dream, either. With songs this radio- friendly but blessed with uncommon depth, Blitz Kids could see the new album propel them towards the vanguard of contemporary rock crews. “Pop” to this band is not a dirty word; to be popular would mean zeroing in on their long-held hopes, the zenith moment that they’ve been building towards since those grass-roots days.
“These are the songs we’ve always wanted to write, and this is as honest as we’ve always wanted to be,” says Joe. “We’re just four kids who’ve not stopped working – and we’re not going to stop. We’ve worked hard for this, and this is our opportunity. Nothing’s been handed to us. The whole meaning behind our album is that we started with nothing, but we want everything. And we’re on our way there...”
Blitz Kids’s tracks