With a well-received EP under their belts, Johannesburg’s Black Hotels hit the studio late last year to record their debut album. With a new drummer and keyboardist in tow, the resultant Films for the Next Century, which the band has released independently, offers their fans a more diverse, mature collection of songs.
You worked with The Black Hotels recording their first EP and since then you have joined the band as the keyboardist—how did you find that transition?
It wasn’t that much of a thing. Since I recorded the first EP with the band we have all become friends and obviously Warrick [Poultney, the drummer] and I have played together for years. My role in the band is kind of weird because it’s segregated into two parts—within the band I am on synthesizer and organ and then outside of that I am the producer—but in the band room I am just one member of the band.
Tell us about the recording process for the new album.
We recorded over five days in the SABC’s M5 studio. Everything was played live by the band and recorded organically, with some overdubs later. I liked the fact that the whole band was in the same room and playing together as if we were in rehearsal. We recorded 18 songs, mixed 14 and released 10.
The album really gives a diversified sound to the band.
Absolutely—from the indie-pop of the first single, Someone Stole the Light, to the countryesque of Black Rose and even to the 4AD sound of Underwater Me. It is very different. The EP was raw, and I love that, but this is a new chapter in The Black Hotels. The album is diverse and it has a lot more texture than the EP did.
I heard that M-Net refused to flight the video for your single, Someone Stole the Light.
The video has been flighted on SABC3 and its on daily rotation on MK. M-Net won’t play it because, quote unquote, “the band look wasted” and there are semi-naked girls lying around.
The album is quite short, just more than 30 minutes.
I know Lou Reed said that he likes to leave people wanting less, but I don’t agree with that. I think it should be short and sharp. Most of my favourite albums are short, like The Stooges’ Fun House and Suede’s Coming Up, which clocks in at 29 minutes.
The album has been put out independently—why did you decide on that?
We have started up a record label called Honeytone and we are distributed through Electromode. We weighed up the decision and we had some other offers, but that’s what we decided on. It’s a lot of hard work, especially for John [Boyd, the lead singer], but because he has label experience and marketing experience he has picked up a lot of the work.