Black English (formerly no)
Interview by Teal Thomsen
Video by Rafiki Tree Productions
Portrait by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“The idea of post-punk and hymnal, we love.
I mean we all sing along together you know?”
— SEAN STENTZ
Black English, formerly called NO, is a Los Angeles based Indie Rock band consisting of Bradley Hanan Carter, Sean Stentz, Ryan Lallier, Simon Oscroft, Michael Walker and Reese Richardson. The band formed in 2010 and their first full length album, El Prado, was released in February 2014 with Arts & Crafts Record Label. Check their tour schedule and listen to El Prado here.
Meet local Indie Rock band, Black English. Having released their first full-length album El Prado this past February, Black English is currently on their first North American tour. Following is our interview with them that we conducted during the filming of this exclusive acoustic performance. This is the 1st in our ‘House Arrest’ series of live music performances in homes.
ISSUE MAGAZINE: Where are you guys from?
BRADLEY HANAN CARTER: The band met here in Echo Park, but we’re kind of from everywhere. Reese is from Kentucky, Ryan’s from Massachusetts, Michael’s from Winnipeg in Canada, Simon and me are from New Zealand.
SEAN STENTZ: I’m from here.
BRADLEY: Sean’s a Californian.
ISSUE: When did you start making music separately and together?
SEAN: I think we’ve all probably been making music since we were like thirteen. Something like that…
BRADLEY: Since high school.
SEAN: I think about two years ago we started getting the band together. So, I think two years ago we played our first show and then we got Simon, which fully formed everything about exactly a year ago.
BRADLEY: Oh yeah, exactly a year. It’s gone quick. But yeah, it started off by organically coming together through friends and stuff.
SEAN: There was one, then there were two, then four…
BRADLEY: And then there were six! And then we got that van right there, for six people. It’s pretty small but … it’s all right.
ISSUE: Who did you listen to growing up and who is your music influenced by today?
BRADLEY: We always used to talk about this. We’ve all had kind of a different upbringing in music. Mine was a very weird and religious one so I didn’t get to hear many mainstream bands until I was in high school. So that was quite a funny one you know, having that coming alive moment.
REESE RICHARDSON: Yeah, I grew up listening to Folk music mainly. My parents were Folkies and I played jazz for a long time. I think we all draw from a lot of different stuff.
BRADLEY: What did you listen to Ryan?
RYAN LALLIER: What did I listen to… surf guitar and punk rock. Nirvana.
BRADLEY: Yeah. I mean it’s just a lot of bands that when we’re in the van everyone kind of takes over DJing their stuff and it’s kind of interesting. Some band will come on that we all actually know, and we’ve all listened to at a certain time in our lives. It’s happened a few times, but it’s kind of cool when that moment happens.
ISSUE: How would you describe your current musical genre or style?
BRADLEY: The best thing I’ve read that someone wrote was “post hymnal anthematic.” But it doesn’t really mean anything.
SEAN: That doesn’t mean anything. But we like it. The idea of post-punk and hymnal, we love. I mean we all sing along together you know?
BRADLEY: And we have a choir now and then. An Echo Park Community Choir. We get everyone together and have them sing with us. It’s basically just our friends singing with us. But it sounds cooler when you have a name. But you know, it’s just Indie Rock really. Or it’s just Rock n’ Roll. I don’t know what you call it.
My parents bought me a guitar when
I was 11. And… I just basically
flunked out of school after that.
— REESE RICHARDSON
ISSUE: How and when did you decide this is what you were going to do?
BRADLEY: I think probably everyone in this band has wanted to do this for his life. So I think that’s probably the common grid that runs through us. And I think for everyone that’s probably when they’re young in school and they have that moment where they’re like, “You know this is pretty fun playing guitar. Or drums or whatever.”
REESE: My parents bought me a guitar when I was 11. And… I just basically flunked out of school after that.
BRADLEY: And now you never stop. I was soon after that too. That’s why I think LA is a beautiful place, because it brings people like us all together and we can build our own thing here, you know? And bring the experiences that we’ve had in all these different parts of the world growing up and then it all comes together nicely in Los Angeles.
ISSUE: What’s the story behind the band name, NO?
BRADLEY: Well, Sean and I were talking about it right at the start and we really wanted something short. And the other thing that we love to do and try to do in the band is to take something that means something and then flip it so that we give it a new context.
SEAN: Well it’s sort of a word that you can add your own value to, like a “choose-your-own-adventure” of definitions. Every body has an experience with the word “No.” I mean it’s a strong word. It’s a very emphatic word…
BRADLEY: It’s not generally a positive word. But for us… it’s like if we can create a new context for it then maybe when people hear “No,” they just maybe think about music instead of something else. That’s kind of where it came from and we didn’t really think about if it was a good or a bad name when we got it. We just liked it…. So kind of stuck with it.
ISSUE: How does it feel to have finished your first full-length album? And could you tell us what the process was like?
EVERYONE: It feels really good to have it finished! Great! Amazing!
BRADLEY: It’s this weird thing where even in this day and age where everything’s about just one song or this new thing and that new thing like… we had an EP for the last 18 months of touring and people always go “Hey so when do you guys have an album coming out?” It’s almost like it’s this big thing you’ve got to pull off as a group. It’s a benchmark or an authenticity process. It feels nice to have our first collection of songs as an album and I’m really excited to work on the next one.
But the process was: we recorded in this house; we recorded in a bunch of different houses. We recorded the drums and bass in Big Bear in a log cabin we got. And Simon and I recorded some of it in New Zealand, because we just kind of used gear wherever we could and also just borrowed gear. We did the whole thing ourselves and with my friend Michael. He helped us get it started too.
ISSUE: What cities and shows are you most excited for on your tour?
SIMON OSCROFT: New York is always the best destination, but New York sucks as a mid-tour point because you just want to stay there. It’s such a good city. We’re playing two shows there so that’s great.
SEAN: We’re going to hit a bunch of Canadian cities too that we’ve never been to… Toronto will be fun.
MICHAEL WALKER: We’re going to my hometown where I grew up so that will be interesting.
BRADLEY: Michael is the Canadian. We like to keep people from all around the world in this band.
SIMON: I’ve wanted to see all these American cities that I’ve never seen. They’re all going to be different.
ISSUE: What are your favorite albums out right now?
Phantogram is an electronic rock duo from Greenwich, New York. Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel formed the group in 2007 when they began writing and recording at Harmony Lodge, a remote barn in upstate New York.
BRADLEY: I like a bunch of songs off the new Phantogram record. I just listened to that.
Metronomy was formed in 1999 in Totnes, Devon, England by Joseph Mount. The electronic music group currently consists of Joseph Mount, Oscar Cash, Anna Prior and Gbenga Adelekan.
Lou Doillon, daughter of Jane Birkin and Jacques Doillon and sister to Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a French singer, actress, and model. Her first solo album, Places, was released in 2013 by Barclay Records.
SEAN: I’m heavily anticipating the new Metronomy [record] as well. The first two songs from that are insane. They’re so good. Lou Doillon was a great record. Heard that one recently.
BRADLEY: Yeah that record is probably one of my favorite records of last year.
Kurt Vile is an American musician, singer, songwriter and producer from Philadelphia. He is best known for his solo performances accompanied by his band, The Violators, and as a former member of indie rock band, The War on Drugs.
SIMON : Kurt Vile’s always a good record that we all like.
SEAN: We had a massive Bon Iver playlist going yesterday. Just all snuggling and crying in the van.
ISSUE: What are your interests and passions outside of music?
SEAN: Food. I enjoy making food. It’s kind of all I do at home.
BRADLEY: We’re going to open a café after. I’ve decided I’m going to start exploring more and more aiolis. I like aiolis. We should have that in our café.
SEAN: Give me your variety of aiolis… Like if there’s ten different aiolis… We should have an aioli bar!
REESE: Yeah… I was going to say cocktails… but really it’s just drinking.
ISSUE: How do you guys feel about the rising creative scene in Los Angeles?
“There are so many good bands coming up
right now … it’s pretty fantastic
to be able to go out and get inspired, …
It makes you either really excited to play
your next show or go home and work on
whatever you’re doing with a renewed energy”
— SEAN STENTZ
SEAN: It’s fantastic. There are literally four bands down this block. There are probably twenty within a stones throw. There are so many good bands coming up right now and it’s one of those things where it’s like…. especially with The Echo and Bootleg and Satellite all offering free residencies on Monday, you can see every band, every week, all the time. And so it’s pretty fantastic to be able to go out and get inspired, just watch a band, do something really unique, or capture this fun moment. It makes you either really excited to play your next show or go home and work on whatever you’re doing with a renewed energy.
BRADLEY: I think the cool thing is that the destinations for hanging out in Silverlake are the same destinations where everyone plays. Whereas in New York you’re like “Oh, I’m playing a show here…” And everyone’s like “Oh, okay I’ll see if I can make it….” But here everyone goes to the Bootleg and the Echo to hang out. And then all the sweetest bands from America and Europe always travel through.
The Echo & Echoplex
The Echo and Echoplex is a joint music venue and nightclub located in the Echo Park Neighborhood of Los Angeles. The venues focus on new and upcoming music while also featuring established artists who have a significant influence on music.
Bootleg Theater is a year-round inclusive art space for live theater and performance in Los Angeles. Bootleg supports and collaborates with established and emerging theater artists to create multi-disciplinary live experiences.
The Satellite is a live music venue and bar in the Silverlake Neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Satellite offers live entertainment nightly and embraces rising bands from across the world and down the block.
REESE: Yeah I mean, not only LA, but specifically Silverlake and Echo Park, it’s such a community. It really is inspiring. Because it’s not just music it’s people spray-painting bullshit on a wall. It all leads to this great feeling of participating.
“You know it’s a cool spot when you have
the Rolling Stones trying to be cool and coming
and playing a secret show at the Echoplex.”
— BRADLEY HANAN CARTER
BRADLEY: You know it’s a cool spot when you have the Rolling Stones trying to be cool and coming and playing a secret show at the Echoplex. If they want to come and play in this new artsy area …
But I [also] think when you’re in the middle of it you don’t really notice. A few people have said to me, “ LA’s got a lot of creativity going on right now.” And most people here are just so busy here doing stuff that they don’t really notice that. When other people notice it’s cool because I guess it means that everyone’s working hard and slowly little things are getting out there.
But it’s always sunny. That’s why everyone’s here.
ISSUE: What’s next for you guys?
BRADLEY: On Saturday we leave for a month and a bit for touring and there are a few other countries that we’re lining up after that. So that’s exciting. We just basically want to go and share this album with as many people that will hear it and touring, touring, touring…It kind of feels like we’re starting a new phase. And it feels special.
SEAN: Now we’re going to take our record and put it in as many faces as possible. Take it to the people.
BRADLEY: There are definitely a lot of shows. The festivals are going to be cool. Little things are starting to pop up and that makes it really exciting. I also want to try out some new foods.
SEAN: Collect as many pink raincoats in every city we go to
BRADLEY: I like going to thrift stores. We always find little weird gems at little towns. Just passing through…
SEAN: Bradley has a bag fetish.
BRADLEY: Yeah, I’m going to start an aioli company and a bag company.
SIMON: Bags and shoes is what this bands all about.
BRADLEY: That’s right.