🎧 Local Music Lowdown: The Black Tones

I’m not really sure if this week’s band needs any introduction. They’re one of Seattle’s best local bands that still fly relatively under the radar outside the PNW, which is a shame for everyone else but a joy for us.

Eva and her brother Cedric front the rock-and-roll band, The Black Tones, which has opened for Death Cab for Cutie, played Capitol Hill Block Party, and KEXP’s Concerts at the Mural. Oh, and Eva recently took over as the DJ for KEXP’s Audioasis show, which spotlights music from the Northwest.

Name: The Black Tones
Socials: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter
Neighborhood: Columbia City
Song to know: The Key of Black (They Want Us Dead)

Who are the members of your band?
Eva: Cedric is the drummer, myself on lead guitar and vocals, Jake and Brandon — aka Ezekiel Lords — both have contributed on bass and keys.

Can you give the story of how The Black Tones came to be? How’d you guys get into music?
Eva: We started the band after Cedric wanted me to teach him drums. He watched a performance I did and decided he wanted to back me up! So being a drummer myself, he asked for lessons and we did that for a whole summer, which he picked up really fast. By that fall, I showed him some songs I wrote and finally got to add drum parts to it, and when we had the songs all worked out we formed The Black Tones! We had an additional guitarist at the time and a bassist, neither play with us anymore but they were prominent in helping us find our early sound. Our newest bassists are incredible and have helped us grow even more. Brandon and Jake both contribute their bass chops to the band.

Cedric: I had watched Eva play at the Folklife Festival back in 2012. I was so moved by the performance and her voice that I knew that I wanted to contribute to her amazing talent. I had asked Eva to teach me to play drums that summer. We practiced all through the summer and then next thing I know Eva is showing me some songs she wrote and we had THE BLACK TONES! My inspiration to get into music was definitely Eva.

Seattle is known as a ‘music city.’ Why do you think Seattle’s music scene has always been so vibrant?
Eva: There is a rich music history here. You’ve heard of them. From Quincy Jones to Jimi Hendrix to Alice in Chains to Kurt Cobain to Sir Mix A Lot! A lot of amazing talent brewing from rainy day basement jams or alone in your bedroom writing on your acoustic guitar! There’s something here that has the thing. I don’t know what the thing is, but it’s here. Maybe it’s the rain.

Cedric: I know from the time I get to spend on the scene that this is a different vibe from other places. The musicians I have encountered have been so supportive of each other. We do a great job in this local scene at holding each other up. Of course, there is friendly competition and we all want to play to great crowds in our great venues, but when we see each other doing it we are cheering each other on.

You’ve played at quite a few places around town, do you have a favorite? How about a favorite local venue to see a show at?
Eva: There’s a lot of great venues here and of course some of the bigger places are absolutely a blast to play, like Showbox at the Market and Neumos! Love those spots! Some of the smaller places I’ve enjoyed are the Central Saloon and Lofi Performance Art Gallery (got a lot of our start there). No matter how big of a venue we’ve played or big names we’ve played with, Cedric and I always go back to some of our happiest memories as a band which always include playing house venues. We loved the house venue circuit and playing in people’s basements is an experience I hope every band gets in their time.

Cedric: The venues here in Seattle are amazing. It’s hard to pick a favorite. As Eva mentioned, rocking at Showbox and Neumos was incredible. I have also enjoyed The Crocodile, Barboza, when we got our first crack at Capitol Hill Block Party, and places like the Sunset Tavern. I think what I am getting at is that Seattle has an endless list of great places to play and enjoy live music.

The city has changed so much over the years, some say Seattle has lost its soul…why have you remained in Seattle?
Eva: This is my home! I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have such great memories with my family being here. The house I grew up in we still own and it means everything to me. It’s more than the music scene that keeps me here, it’s my own personal history. I am also still relatively young, so who knows, my husband and I might move away someday, but right now, no way!

Cedric: I love Seattle. My family is here, the city is beautiful, and the music is great. I agree that Seattle has changed and that some of that is out of my control. But as a person that was born and raised here, if I can dictate some of the changes from the perspective of a Seattleite I think that’s a good thing to stay and be apart of that. I don’t know what the future holds but anytime I go elsewhere to travel and come back to Seattle its always a reminder that Seattle is and will always be home.

How would you describe your sound? Who are some of your influences?
Eva: My personal influences range quite a bit and some of the time I don’t even sound like. Some of my favorites are Kraftwerk, Herb Alpert, Billie Holiday, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Son House, Muddy Waters, The Doors, Bone Thugs N Harmony and a compilation of music titled The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia of 1970’s Nigeria. I love a lot of different music. As far as our sound goes, well, Cobain & Cornbread is a mixture of what we sound like! 

Cedric: I personally would say we are a marriage of punk rock and blues, but some might just call that rock ‘n’ roll. I love to listen to a lot of hip-hop, R&B, rock, downtempo, funk, and the list goes on. I have a very eclectic taste in music to be honest. I just really love to play rock and roll with my twin. 

You guys are not just siblings but twins, how is that dynamic being in a band together? Has it changed over time?
Eva: We have been, still are and will always be, the best of friends! Cedric is my non-romantic life soulmate haha! We have been doing things together for a long time. From being toddlers playing with our toys together and exploring our imaginations together, to kids playing video games together. There was a brief time in high school we were sort of doing our own thing, but still remained close of course. Now launching a music career together, it’s the best feeling in the world. I seriously won the universal lottery with him! Our dynamic has always been what it was, and if anything just keeps getting stronger. It’s seriously a blast! 

Cedric: With Eva and me, the relationship just continues to grow in the best direction. As siblings, we get to cut through all the BS. We can be honest with each other, candid, and more importantly vulnerable because the trust is out of this universe. Eva has hands down made me the luckiest twin brother in the history of twins that have had a chance to walk the earth. We both understand our roles in the band and we have fun while we do it! 

Last year you released Cobain & Cornbread which has to be one of my favorite album names, where did it come from?
Eva: We were playing a show in Bellingham and I was trying to figure out a description of our band because the most common question a band gets is “What is your sound?” or “Who do you sound like?” if they’ve never heard you. I was on stage telling that story then said “Well, we were raised in the Northwest by a bunch of southerners so…..” and on the spot, I said, “I guess we sound like a mixture of Kurt Cobain and Cornbread!”

Ever since I felt like this was the best description of our band because each represents the region of the northwest and the other the south. Honestly, that’s mainly it. I do like Nirvana, but I wouldn’t consider them a big influence on my music. I’m more of an Alice in Chains gal but Staley & Cornbread doesn’t flow as well as a title. I do love cornbread though! My grandma always made it. It’s a common Native American quick bread southerners not only enjoy but make very very well! So we see Cobain & Cornbread more as mascots of the two regions and what they’re known for: the Northwest for grunge and the South for food. So why not have the debut album title just be the description of our current sound?

A lot of your songs discuss issues like racial inequality. What made you want to incorporate these things into your music?
Eva: We have to! As Nina Simone said, “It’s an artist’s job to reflect the times..” and these times have always affected us. These are real crimes happening to real people, American citizens, taxpayers. Crimes against them by people that are supposed to protect and serve.

I truly believe it’s not all cops, duh! But there has been an infiltration of racists, white supremacists in the department and it needs to be redone. Better screening, more strict, and more intelligent psychology tests. Policing of their OWN communities. We can’t give people a gun and a badge and not know enough about them. Firing of cops with records of misconduct, prison sentences for cops who clearly break the law, not “paid leave.”

I am by no means an anarchist, or even consider myself “radical.” I believe we do need law and order and maybe that’s not very punk rock of me to say, but we need better people protecting and serving, not what we have now. I think that’s reasonable, not radical. What we don’t need is a bunch of racists and trigger happy thugs in uniforms. If you have a platform and you aren’t saying anything then you’re an idiot. 

You’ve recently released a couple of songs Where Do We Go Now and The Devil and his Grandmother, has quarantine been a weird sort of space for creativity for you guys or what spurred you guys to produce the two songs?
Eva: We actually wrote those songs before quarantine. We got to perform them for the first time when we opened for Mavis Staples and then when we played with Weezer. They were officially released via HockeyTalkter records a few days before lockdown took effect. I honestly haven’t felt the most inspired during all this, just because I’ve been worried and focused on the people I love and myself surviving this. It’s scary. We did write one new song we released during quarantine called My Name’s Not Abraham Lincoln which is a song about lack of representation in America and that was during the very necessary protesting that’s been happening. However, we’ve written songs about police brutality before these events because black people are already fully aware of what’s been going on. 

Cedric: I think the quarantine has been a weird spot for sure to be creative. I would say just for the band but for most artists. Between trying to comprehend what 45 says and does, to the racial injustices happening, to dealing with bad air quality due to climate change and all against the backdrop of COVID-19 you would think it would be easy to get inspired but sometimes I know for me personally the overload of everything makes it a bit harder to stay focused. Hopefully, we will all see brighter days and as we continue to let the creative juices flow all artists will be able to do what artists. 

Where can people find your music? How can they support you and other local musicians during this pandemic?
Eva: Our music is available for purchase on our website www.theblacktones.com and BANDCAMP! I think Bandcamp has been a really great way to support artists during this pandemic. Every first Friday of the month Bandcamp waves all fees to the artists and 100% of the sales go directly to that artist/band.

Favorite song from a Seattle-area artist OR about Seattle/the PNW?
Eva: I’m sorry but choosing one song is impossible hahaha! I really like the song “Maybe When” by Black Ends, “Come Find Me” by Warren Dunes, “Memphis” by DLO3, “What Are You Doing” by Tres Leches, “Killer Whale” by Dark Smith, “The Dapper Derp” by The True Loves, which we used as the theme music for our music video TV show Video Bebop, which Cedric and I host. There are so many more songs I’m leaving out!

Cedric: Smokey Brights – “Different Windows.” That song is a slapper that my daughter and I love to dance to at home. Also Naked Giants – “SLUFF” is a super slapper!

Anything else you’d like to add/promote?
Eva: Well … glad you asked! We will be releasing a children’s coloring book based on our song “Mama! There’s A Spider In My Room!” I’m super excited about it! It originally was going to just be a storybook, but Cedric and I remembered how important imagination was for us as kids and instead wanted children to interpret the colors as they see fit, because, well, representation is important and so is expression. So we changed it to a coloring book! It will be released on Oct. 13!