Sarah Nixey is best known as the singer in Black Box Recorder. Whilst working as a backing vocalist for the folk band Balloon, Nixey stumbled upon the reprobates John Moore (ex Jesus & Mary Chain drummer) and Luke Haines (ex The Auteurs frontman), also in the bands line up at that time. Moore and Haines approached Nixey with an idea for a band, writing a letter promising to make her famous. Given their lack of previous chart success, Nixey was amused and immediately took up their offer.
The enigmatic three piece appeared at the start of 1998 and released four massively acclaimed albums. Their debut, brutish and bleak, England Made Me spawned the single Child Psychology, banned from national radio because it contained the chorus “Life is unfair/kill yourself or get over it”. This was possibly the first anti-Britpop record. The follow-up entitled The Facts Of Life dealt with similar themes – love, sex and death – and saw the band performing the Top Twenty title track on Top Of The Pops. The Worst of Black Box Recorder, a collection of b-sides and unreleased material preceded the band’s urbane 2003 album, Passionoia. A final statement was issued just prior to the 2010 UK general election stating “on Thursday 6 May, Black Box Recorder go to the country for the last time”. After two sell out gigs at The Luminaire and one last bow at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, the band released their last recordings, Do You Believe In God? and Keep It In The Family.
As the Trojan horse of one of the most fascinating and compelling pop bands of recent years, Nixey’s detached sensuality and Jane Birkin-esque vocals played beautifully upon the juxtaposition of safety and horror.
In 2007 Nixey released her first solo album Sing, Memory, produced by James Banbury for the boutique label ServiceAV. The songs are modern tales of poison-pen letter writers, dysfunctional relationships, disappearances, secret love affairs and city life, providing the ideal contemporary pop backdrop for Nixey’s distinctive, Queen’s English voice. Whilst BBR songs are often about characters stranded without navigation tools, this album occasionally offers an exit route. The Singles The Collector, Strangelove, When I’m Here With You and The Black Hit of Space were released to great reviews (MSN, Playlouder, Stylus Magazine, Drowned in Sound, Popjustice etc.). The Collector made it to the main XFM playlist, whilst the third single When I’m Here With You reached national radio. Nixey followed the album with a cover of Françoise Hardy’s Le Temps De L’Amour backed by Ici Avec Toi, a gauloised-up translation of the dreamily romantic When I’m Here With You.
Released in 2011, Nixey wrote and produced her second album, Brave Tin Soldiers, with the emphasis being on the narrative of the song. Lush piano, string and choral arrangements envelop her vocal, revealing family secrets, erotic entanglements and tragic love stories.
Third album, Night Walks, was released in October 2018. The album was written whilst Nixey was struggling with insomnia after the birth of her youngest child. The Quietus described it as, “A triumph of hallucinatory avant pop...Nixey’s songwriting shows new depth and maturity...captures perfectly that sense of night-time disturbance, shifting between dream worlds and waking nightmare.”
Sarah Nixey’s tracks