For about a month now, I’ve been torn, trying to decide if I should just leave the Black Kids alone.
The bouncy rock band based in Jacksonville, Fla., has a great four-song EP, “Wizard of Ahhhs,” available free at blackkidsmusic.com. The group shot down my interview request about a month ago in a gracious e-mail.
“I’m afraid that due to the enormous, potentially harmful amount of press we’re receiving at the moment, we’re kind of putting a moratorium on interviews,” one of the Kids wrote.
The Kid — I think it was bassist Owen Holmes — said I should get back to them in 2008. And if it was any consolation, the group also turned down Rolling Stone and Vice. So I waited. Who wants to be harmful?
But more and more, this is how people listen to music For free, without stealing it, from groups who don’t have a record label, be they relative unknowns like the Black Kids or marquee headliners like Radiohead.
The group’s songs have been played more than 260,000 times on their MySpace page. That number doesn’t account for the number of people that have downloaded their EP.
Their sound is not shockingly original but is unavoidably catchy. Singer Reggie Youngblood, who sounds like a blend between Cure front man Robert Smith and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, plays the part of a spurned loser on tracks like “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” and “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again).”
On that former track, the group employs the use of nonsense doo-doo-doo’s before shouting like cheerleaders — “Dance!” — over and over again. It’s invigorating.
On “Hurricane Jane,” Youngblood patterns the chorus after Sam Cooke’s R&B classic, “Another Saturday Night,” tweaking a lyric as Youngblood sings, “It’s Friday night and I ain’t got nobody.” In the song, Youngblood seems to be drunk on Hurricane Janes, a cocktail, as he decides to “put what I want when I want in my body.”
Quoting the group’s lyrics is a bit tricky, since Youngblood sometimes veers into unintelligibility, the refuge of many a good rock singer. The guy seems to like his wordplay, though. Along with the song “Hit the Heartbrakes” and album title “Wizard of Ahhhs,” it sounds like he complains of having “angst in my pants,” at one point.
Their name, the Black Kids, isn’t a play on anything, however. Youngblood and his sister Ali Youngblood, who plays keyboards and sings backup, are black. The group settled on the racially loaded name — despite the fact the other three members are white — because their other ideas were taken.
“You think of something you like, Google it, and sure enough, someone’s beat you to it,” Youngblood told Vice magazine in a September interview. “So, we thought, we really must have something that most people won’t touch.”
Wait a second here — was that a September interview? And is that a brief interview with Rolling Stone on that magazine’s Web site? Why did they shoot me down? Well, I can’t verify any of this until 2008, but let’s read between the lines of that e-mail.
In October, days after I briefly spoke with Holmes on the phone and he said an interview wouldn’t be a problem in a week or so, the Black Kids played a much-hyped gig at the 2007 CMJ Music Marathon.
Frequently referencing the band, the New York Times ended up calling the Kids “pretty good” in an article on the festival. That led the influential site Idolator.com to say the band may have evolved into something interesting, but was half-baked at best, garnering undue attention for its little EP.
And then I got my interview rejected.
So sure, I sympathize with the group. Outside of politicians, who aims for prominent, half-hearted praise? I can’t blame them for wanting to take some time away from the scrutiny as they complete a full-length album.
But these are four good songs, worth your time, and they’re free. Download them. Maybe you’ll like them, maybe you won’t. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Reporter Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Black Kids, go to www.myspace.com/blackkidsrock.
To download their four-song EP, “Wizard of Ahhhs,” go to www.blackkidsmusic.com.