Black Box Revelation
That’s how U.K.’s Rock Sound describes Black Box Revelation. Brussels, Belgium may not be known for producing great rock and roll bands, but don’t tell that to 22-year-old Jan Paternoster nor his 20-year-old sidekick Dries Van Dijck, who have been playing together for a decade, already releasing two albums, 2007’s Set Your Head on Fire and 2010’s Silver Threats (recorded in London’s legendary Konk Studios) that established the duo as a serious force to be reckoned with. A cross between R&B-inflected garage-band rock that takes its cues from mid-’60s Stones and The Kinks to the most gut-bucket, electric delta blues evocative of Led Zeppelin by way of The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Box Revelation is just that… a musical revelation that can’t be boxed into a single category.
Coming to America to record their stateside debut, My Perception, with producer Alain Johannes [Queens of the Stone Age, Chris Cornell, Them Crooked Vultures] in his L.A. home studio, Jan and Dries felt right at home in the country where so much of the music that inspired them had been made. The result is their most accomplished album to date, with sound and noise now coalescing into real songs like the title track and “Rattle My Heart,” which might have come straight from Out of Our Heads; the spooky acoustic strains of the Beatles-meets-Kinks British Invasion vibe of “Bitter,” the pounding blues of “High On a Wire,” the thick ambience of “2 Young Boys,” the percussive beat of “Shadowman” and the psychedelic blues of “White Unicorns.”
“It was good that we saw sunlight when we were recording because you can feel it in the music,” says Jan about the sessions in Johannes’ studio, which resulted in 17 new tracks in just under two months. “We’ve started writing real songs. The vibe is there, and you can hear that they’re not created in a clean studio with no real atmosphere. It’s all about playing songs, and that good, pure groove.”
“We’re showing a progression,” agrees Dries, who cites as his own drumming influences thumpers like Keith Moon (whose demented gleam he shares), John Bonham and Dave Grohl. “We’re doing things now we haven’t done before. Our influences are still in there, but it sounds like something new.”
“Alain really knows how to work with sounds,” says Jan. “He’s very good at following our ideas, our vision, where we want to go, and enabling us to move a step forward. He always has a number of ideas how to improve what we do to make a really great-sounding record.”
You can hear Jan’s songwriting develop a maturity and introspection on songs like “Lonely Hearts,” in which he imagines looking back on his life many years in the future. “I thought it was a bit weird to write a song like that now, but then I decided to record it. It will be quite interesting to see how my vision in that song will change over the years. How I think about it when I get older.”
While building up a fan base in Europe by touring with Eagles of Death Metal as well as their own headlining shows in France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Holland and Scandanavia, the band has played scattered shows in the States, including two years at SXSW, as well as shows in L.A., New York, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco. Seeing them live, before a packed, sweaty audience of their crowd-surfing, head-banging fans, is yet another revelation…this one how two guys can create a sound that fills the room—and more.
With My Perception their first official U.S. album, both Jan and Dries are poised to spread their success in Europe and the U.K. over here.
“It would be really nice to conquer America,” says Dries about a stateside breakthrough.
“We’re very ambitious,” adds Jan. “We like the music history here. I think our music is good for America. We’re really a live band. We like to see people’s reactions when we play. Music is this way of expressing yourself and sharing something with other people, so it’s nice to get right in front of them to see and feel them. That’s the cool thing about gigs. People who were there get a unique experience. That’s why we like to improvise live, and do all this extra stuff that’s not on the record. Or play the songs in a way they’ve never heard before. It’s cool to see a crowed feel something unique.”
Seeing them together, the tall, gangly Jan and the blonde, mischievous Dries look like the classic odd couple—think not only Plant and Page, Jagger and Richards, Daltrey and Townshend, Jack and Meg, but Laurel and Hardy, Lewis and Martin, Vladimir and Estragon, Abbott and Costello.
“We have a lot more fun playing with just the two of us because we were able to develop our own sound that much faster,” says Jan about the pairing. It was something that just happened naturally. It gave us the freedom and space to do something new.”
“The moment we started playing together, we shared with each other everything we were listening to,” says Jan, who says their tastes started with Nirvana, which led them to early Stones and Kinks, then back again to those band’s inspirations, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James.
With his drawled vocals, Jan sounds eerily like a young Mick Jagger circa mid-’60s, just beginning to express himself like his own influences.
“That’s the period of the Stones we like,” nods Jan. “It sounds like they’re having fun while playing, and that’s what it’s about for us. Especially with all these electronic bands using computers. We want to keep it pure. It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes as long as the vibe and atmosphere is great.”
My Perception takes that philosophy and puts it to work. Black Box Revelation will be making their assault on America very soon playing every garage, arena, and stadium!