One of Torched Magazine’s favorite indie acts, the black watch, has been at it once again with an impending new release of its 18th album to date, entitled Brilliant Failures. The band’s frontman John Andrew Fredrick took a different approach in how this was to be recorded and produced and literally handed the keys over to his bandmates, Scott Campbell, Rob Campanella, and Andy Creighton, and let them have at it! “I have had, I think, too much control, musically speaking, in the past.” Fredrick says, “And the thought of experimenting this way was really thrilling.” The result was far from a failure, in fact this approach may have yielded TBW’s best album in years.
John Andrew Fredrick has written and released seventeen the black watch albums since the band’s inception in 1988, filled with sparkling, literate, jangly-distorted indie rock (as well as four works of comedic literary fiction and one book on the early films of Wes Anderson). I was introduced to TBW several years ago and have been playing catch up with the band’s extensive back catalogue ever since. It was a real ‘kick yourself in the ass moment’ for not discovering them sooner but better late to the party than never, right? TBW’s back catalogue is well worth the time to dig through if you have never heard this band’s music before. John’s comedic literary fiction will also have you in stitches, laughing to the point of falling out of the office chair and finding yourself ‘cry laughing’ on the floor.. I know because I did just that!
Torched is excited in having the opportunity to ask John Andrew Fredrick a few questions in regards to TBW’s anticipated release of Brilliant Failures due out March 27th on A Turntable Friend Records. The Black Watch has given us a taste for what’s to come with the release of the first single/video for ‘Crying All The Time’ (filmed by renowned director Steve Hanft and starring Katlyn Rodriguez) and the title track ‘Brilliant Failures’ (video made by Ian Holmes).
‘Crying All The Time’ is the first single to be released off your forthcoming new album Brilliant Failures.. What was your inspiration behind this song?
Well, someone very super close to me intimated that someone I very much used to be married to (!!) had cried so hard and so much about her life of late that she’d lost her considerable looks. Whether or not that can actually happen to a person—I don’t know; but it just sounded so very sad that I thought it deserved a so-in-a-song. I have quite a few friends who tell me all the time about their crying jags, and they often note how cathartic it is, weeping completely. I myself just can’t do it—though I feel like it quite often, looking at the state of the world and all, and how time passes and how the numbers, if you know what I mean, aren’t exactly tallied in our collective favor.
The new LP will feature several guest artists.. Can you give us an idea of who we can expect to see make an appearance?
Do you mean Brilliant Failures? Because there is only one on that one—Julie Schulte who sings the song “Julie” that I wrote about her. Which is a pretty trippy and self-referential motif, somehow, isn’t it? Julie did a brilliant job of it, I think. So much so that she’s on the new new LP that we are making right now—as a follow up to Brilliant Failures. We have Jules and someone called Lauren Tannenbaum who is truly operatic in approach. I’m talking to somebody who used to be part of the Elephant 6 scene—Carrie Clough—to see if she wants to come lullaby us sometime next month. I’m starting to miss, I suppose, having that female-voice-counterpoint flavor that we used to have when J’Anna Jacoby was in the band. I have a serious jones for all things MBV-ish so a Blinda Butcher parallel is never a bad thing, if you ask me.
The Black Watch is truly one of the most prolific indie bands around and a fine example of how bands can keep it all going for literally decades. What are some of the secrets to your success in this way?
We just keep reacting to or perhaps against the record that precedes whatever record we’re recording. Each LP is a sort of answer to the one that came just before it. I think that strange tunings and capos elicit new songs from me all the time. A new guitar will do that as well. I also would counsel people who are stuck and wanting inspiration to read instead of listening to music. Read really poetic fiction, for instance, or poetry. And try writing melodies without instruments. My thought is, if you remember it, it might be good and, er, memorable! The other thing you might attribute it, my prolific penchant, to could be something daemonic inside me. Plus the Beatles. I’m possessed by them; the word is not too strong. I’ll need a Beatle exorcist one day, I will.
What was your inspiration behind the new album’s title Brilliant Failures?
Brilliant Failure was the very first song I wrote for the black watch—as a grown-up. I wrote heaps of songs when I as a kid. I broke my leg playing football when I was eleven and I spent a year in bed. Total drag for a sports mad suburban Californian. But the good thing was I read a ton and played the dickens out of my little Silvertone acoustic. I think I am that oxymoronic thing, a brilliant failure. I think every record we’ve done has failed—and brilliantly. It’s sort of nice—not to have made a single “success,” because that would be not-brilliant! Hahaha.
For Brilliant Failures you presented acoustic versions of multiple new songs to band mates Scott Campbell (Acetone, Carina Round, Stevie Nicks), Rob Campanella (The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mystic Braves) and Andy Creighton (The World Record), and then let each of them add their own creative input. How do you feel this worked out for TBW? Would you produce another record in this way in the future?
I am sort of doing that for the follow-up to Brilliant Failures—Rob Campanella and I are recording right now. Rob had a deep amount of input on the four songs we’ve finished. Now I’m going to take a bit of control back for the rest of the LP. But he has such good good good ideas that I’m sure he’ll throw more than his two cents in to the next batch.
Are there any plans for live shows in the near future?
We’re going to tour the UK late spring or early summer. So excited for that!
How’s LA been treating you lately?
If you let it—a la the political sitch in the USA and the UK—it can get you very down, LA can. It can overwhelm you. So many people are so depressed about the homeless situation. How can a community let this happen? It breaks your heart to see so many people living under freeways and on islands on highways. It’s surreal. Plus utterly gentrification of utterly grotesque proportions. Plus a lot of nonsense being talked by SJW’s and other do-gooding n’er-do-wells. Which is of course countered by a spate of hard-hearted conservatives. There’s a line on the new new TBW LP that goes like this: “When the Haves won’t share at all/ And the Nots are ripe for intervention.” Los Angeles is an incredible city. I love it here and I love London where I try to spend as much time as possible. Is it a sort of anticipatory nostalgia at work in me, I wonder. On account of those cities are rapidly becoming something other (and not good) than what they’ve been. It’s distressing. If you let it get to you—which I for one only do on a severely part-time basis. We must enjoy, if not love, our lives; otherwise the bastards will have won. And we can’t have that!
John Andrew Fredrick
All photos courtesy of John Andrew Fredrick and the black watch