I caught up with Rob Joy, lead guitarist from Black Bart to ask a few questions about the band to find out more about who they are and what they are about.
how did you come up with the name Black Bart?
Black Bart (the name) was devised by one current and one former member of the band. He/It is several things. Most notably, in our case, a highwayman, Charles Boles, who decided to give up business in England and head out to America to rob stage coaches, leaving poetry at the scene of most of his crimes.
Only retrospectively did this name and story become fitting with the Americana influences on the sound we have taken up.
how would you describe your music?
What is our over-riding sound? I wouldn’t know, but I’m loathe to label it any one thing (although EVERYONE else is dead keen to label it something, if only they weren’t keen). Sometimes we get accused of being Americana. I can see it, because we do cover some songs by Americans. If a song is good and will suit us we’ll have a go at it, regardless of style of genre. We combine elements of all sorts of genre, and the listener is only pigeon-holing themselves by giving us, or anyone, our own particular brand. As an example, people often ask me: “Rob, what kind of music do you like?” It does seem that they expect a straight “country” or “blues” or “folk” or something like that. In all honesty though the music I like the most is the music that has the greatest effect on me while I’m listening to it. One thing that ties together most of the music I like is that it doesn’t sound forced or fake. Other than that there’s no rules!
Who are your main influences when writing and creating songs?
Our main influences are varied. Everyone’s is different within the band, which is why it works. I (Rob) write the majority of the material, and although it is influenced, obviously, but the music I listen to, I would not say that I write in the style of the songs I listen to. My main influences are just what’s going on around me, usually, so my main influence is life, and my perception of it. Lyrically and musically I admire a lot of people, and I may be all serious, but do enjoy Jug-Bands too. Bob Wills; Hawkshaw Hawkins is someone I’m just discovering too. A lot of old music – all the names you expect to see in these kind of things really. The Carter Family, Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton, Tommy Johson. Those and a hundred others cover the older material I listen to. Then through the big singer-songwriters of the last 40 or 50 years, stopping off en route at some lesser known people. Someone I will continue to champion is a man named R. L. Burnside. He died only a few years ago, but he has influenced me incredibly, in several ways. To his music he brought an attitude, a driving force. He continued a tradition of blues but really excelled at extending it to new places while still keeping the feel of what he thought it should be. He’s great.
How did you all meet?
We met at a theatre group a long time ago, when we were only young. Pete used to play the bassoon down in the pit there, but we got him on stage eventually as a chorus member. That’s where we all met. I was directing the shows at the time and began the first stages of his meticulous planning to bring about a long series of coincidences that would eventually bring the band together.
What would have to happen to make you realise you have “made it” in music?
The last question – I sort of take that as a question to have fun with. The other day, I went to a shop to buy a cake. I tried one a week before and it was good – so good I recommended it to a friend. We went in – none in stock. But beneath this bakery bit where we were stood were some drawers. Logically, you’d put surplus stock in the drawers, ready to replenish the bare shelves. So I looked in…. there they were! Wrapped up, but essentially ready to go. Instead of doing everything else myself (unwrapping everything, which meant a case of about 12 being opened and moved about by myself), I thought it would be best to get a member of staff to do it. Partly because you can only push these things so far yourself without going wrong at some point if you don’t know what you’re doing, partly because it was their job to be doing it and mine to be spending money instore. So we approached the counter, and explained our turmoil, only to hear back: “You shouldn’t be looking in those drawers really,” as the response. OK:
a: You should be keeping the shelves relatively well stocked so people will actually buy your product.
b: They were so obviously drawers and so obviously the place where the next stock was kept.
c: The customer is always right.
d: A child or small toddler could quite easily open a drawer. Even worse they could really easily get in one, then shut it again once inside. You didn’t see me get the cake out, have you missed anything else?
e: That really isn’t the point. I want to buy something from you, please help me.
f: If I wasn’t male aged 19-25 nothing would have been said other than: “Certainly, Sir. ”
I’ll know I’ve made it when they happily unwrap parcels and parcels of cake for my friends and I to enjoy.
Other than that, I don’t know. To be able to make a living out of what I love and want would be nice.