The Blackheart Orchestra
THE award-winning songwriters, composers and multi-instrumentalists…
Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington are The Blackheart Orchestra. The guys are currently touring in Germany and have a load more dates coming - as we, slowly, head into 2018. They talk about their upcoming dates and what we can expect from them next year. I ask about their latest single, Born to Live, and how they manage to fuse Classical elements with sounds of the 1980s. The guys explain how they manage to create a fulsome sound on stage; the music they grew up listening to – and whether they have time to rest this Christmas!
I discover the magic and sound that goes into The Blackheart Orchestra’s immense and symphonic sound; how they got together; how their home-city, Manchester, affects their drive and creativity – a few new artists we need to investigate.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, we are great, thanks.
Our week has been great. We are currently on tour in Germany - so every city, every venue and every day is an adventure at the moment.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a multi-instrumentalist duo from Manchester. People say we are quite unique because we fuse acoustic and electric instrumentation with vintage synth sounds and percussion - and mix 1980s Pop textures with Classical.
Artists that we most often get compared to are Kate Bush, Pink Floyd; Florence and The Machine and the Cocteau Twins.
Born to Live is out now. What can you reveal about the track and its origins?
The track was written after going through a pretty emotional time: it is all about fighting back.
There are Classical influences and a nod to the 1980s. Did you grow up around quite a varied array of music?
Very much so...
Between the two of us, we have vastly different musical backgrounds and tastes - there probably isn’t one artist or one album that we both share. It could have ended in the biggest crash and the shortest-lived band of all time - but, actually, our diversity has enriched everything we do and, by putting such odd ingredients together, we try to create new never-tasted musical flavours (which people seem to like).
I am interested learning how The Blackheart Orchestra got together. When was that moment the band formed?
We actually met in a rehearsal space in Manchester.
Something just seemed to click instantly and, before we knew it, our first album had written itself - and we had a tour lined up.
You are mistaken for an eight-piece act (when people hear you)! You change instruments and have a range of sounds at your disposal. Is it hard keeping a track and producing such a big sound?!
We both play over six instruments each and really enjoy having so many instruments and sounds at our fingertips on stage. It feels like second-nature to us now but I guess, when you stop and think about what we are doing, our performance is like a huge choreographed dance. Every single sound is played live and we move from one instrument to another mid-song; sometimes with each of us playing two instruments at the same time.
Louder than War recently reviewed a concert and described our stage as “An Aladdin’s Cave of a laboratory for the evening for them to conduct their sound experimentation” – but, to us, it’s just the norm to chop-and-change throughout the set. It would feel incredibly odd now to just play a guitar or piano throughout a whole set.
Your music has, already, gained plaudit and fond focus. How does that make you feel?!
We are incredibly proud to have so many people all over the world listening to, and writing, great words about what we do.
To have our own musical heroes, who we grew up listening to and are learning from, contact us calling our music “inspiring” is just mind-blowing.
Manchester is where you are based. What is the city like when it comes to fostering new artists?
To be honest; it doesn’t feel like we are based anywhere: we have spent most of our time together touring in many countries. But, Manchester has always been a vibrant city full of music with no shortage of places to play - and new talent blooming everywhere.
Is there going to be some more material coming in 2018?
We have spent most of 2017 touring to promote our new album, Diving for Roses, which was released back in May - but we find being on the road is our most fertile writing environment. We have somehow managed to write the next album so, as soon as we get some downtime, we plan to get into the studio.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kiasmos
Are there any tour dates coming up?
When we come to the end of our tour of Germany, we are almost done for 2017. We have a few remaining dates in the U.K. in early-December.
Nov 20: BERLIN - Oblomov (Germany)
Nov 23: BERLIN - Culture Container
Nov 24: BERLIN - UnterRock
Nov 25: HOYERSWERDA Speicher No 1
Nov 26: DRESDEN - Wulbert's
Dec 2: SLEAFORD - Pickworth Hall (U.K.)
Dec 7: MANCHESTER - The Cedar Room
Then, we have a full U.K. tour planned for Feb/March, 2018 dates. So far, the dates are...
Feb 5: HAWICK - String Theory
Feb 15: CAMBRIDGE - CB2
Feb 18: BIRMINGHAM - Kitchen Garden Cafe
Feb 23: WIGAN - The Old Courts
Feb 24: STROUD - Under the Edge Arts Centre
Mar 2: MANCHESTER - 3 Minute Theatre
Mar 17: SOUTHAMPTON - The Art House
If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Chrissy: This is such a difficult question! I think mine would have to be Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette
The album is just so raw with emotion…from rage to fragility; it’s such a perfect depiction of how creating music can be so cathartic.
Rick: Disraeli Gears by Cream
I bought it by accident when I was eleven-years-old (I bought it for the cover I had no idea who Cream were). It started my musical journey and taught me how to play guitar.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
“Be yourself: everyone else is taken..."
I can’t remember who said that - but it is so true. I guess we can’t help but take influence from everything that we hear/see/experience, but it is expressing your own unique voice or view in your own way that makes it your own personal property (and your Art).
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
Christmas is our downtime - so we plan to be still!
What is The Blackheart Orchestra planning for 2018? What do you hope to achieve by this time next year?
We seem to have gained a lot of momentum with Diving for Roses so I think the aim is to continue to build and get our music to as many ears and hearts as possible. We hope to have a new record ready next year, too - so it’s all exciting times ahead.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Chrissy: Petrichor by Keaton Henson
Rick: Silver Blue by JD Souther
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