In metal they say all roads lead back to Black Sabbath, for Chicago’s Black Road, this is particularly fitting. The stoner doom quarter is led by vocalist Suzi Uzi and fretmaster, Tim M. The unit is rounded out by the weighty rhythmic battery of bassist Casey Papp and drummer Robert Gonzales. The band formed in 2015, and it provided an outlet to for each to create the music they held a greatest passion for. Their sound is infused with the various musical influences that have inspired them and they pull from styles as diverse as psychedelic rock, metal, heavy blues, doom, jazz, funk, and even folk.
This fall, Black Road released its self-titled EP, which captures the band’s vintage spirit, and pays honor to the mighty Sabbath, Pentagram, Candlemass, and all those that followed in their stead. This week, Metal Nation caught up with Suzi Uzi to talk about the how Black Road came together, recording their debut, and the making of their new video for “Bloody Mary.”
Give us a little back story on Black Road; how you came together, influences, and band vision.
Black Road came together the moment Tim chose the name. He and I had been discussing starting a band for quite some time before we actually did. Our main influences were originally any and all music that we found we had in common, and would jam with our friends. We started learning cover songs, and then quickly decided we might as well bring forth Tim’s old riffs and song ideas that he used to perform when he was in projects with other friends in the past. Once we started rehashing old songs, we knew we wanted to progress and let the music develop into something heavier. That idea didn’t click as well with our other original band members, so we went through some lineup changes in the beginning. Eventually we found the members who shared our vision, and we began creating the sound that is Black Road today.
You hail from the Chicago area. What is the scene like there and how well do they embrace the stoner/doom style of metal?
Being from Chicago means there are a lot of people to win over, and a lot of competition. There are tons of bands and shows going on all the time. I feel there are a lot less stoner/doom bands in the area than there are traditional metal bands. This helps us stand out a bit, and most people seem to embrace the style. I think it is something that is gaining more popularity, and hopefully we can continue to strengthen the scene.
You recently released your self-titled EP. Tell us a bit about the writing process for the album, and how it translated in the studio.
The writing process and the recording process are so totally different than I imagined. I think one thing I’ve learned is how much recording demos can benefit the songs. Sometimes you think you have a song figured out, and then you go to record the demo. After having the track available to listen over and over, and really picking apart each section, you may find you want to change things you hadn’t realized at first. Tracks 3 and 4, “Morte” and “Morte (coda)”, were not even on the track list originally for the EP. They were added in later after listening to the rough layout of the EP, and a lot of personal reflection. The album was supposed to have been released nearly a year before it was, and the added instrumental tracks were sort of a bonus addition for the delay in the release. What we had planned during the writing process isn’t exactly what happened, but we found that the sound we created in the studio reflected the power we’d hoped to translate in the recordings.
What was the most challenging aspect of making the album?
When we set out to record our album, we did not have a lot of money. We were unsure of where we should record our tracks, and then what we should do with them in the end. To try and be more cost-effective, we decided to track the instruments, drums, and vocals at a friend’s house who was helping us. We also thought about mixing the tracks ourselves. After a few attempts, and having to redo some of the tracks myself at home, we decided that next time we set out to make an album, we will be in a better financial state and get it all done at a real studio. We learned so much with the DIY mindset we initially had, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Did you find that once you started recording, some of the songs took a different direction?
The song list for the EP changed once we gained new members and a more refined identity. During the recording process, most of our ‘older’ songs stayed relatively the same to what we’d expected. One or two things may have changed, such as guitar tone or adding in a vocal harmony, but we had the initial formats nailed down quite well. We were supposed to record our album in September of 2016, but one week before our recording date, we had to replace our drummer and then shortly after our bassist as well. Since the actual recording wound up happening in January/February of 2017, we had completely cut certain songs and already wrote replacements. By then we had been practicing the newer songs we needed to record with the new lineup, and had them down extremely well.
You recently made a video for the track “Bloody Mary”. What’s the story behind the song?
‘Bloody Mary’ is an old story I used to repeat as a child, and would attempt to scare my friends by taking them in the dark bathroom mirror and repeating her name three times. I hadn’t seen many other bands using this story or this imagery yet, so I thought it would be fun to create a song based around this old myth.
You guys seemed to have fun making the vintage style video for the track. Who came up with the idea and storyline for it?
Seeing as the legend of Bloody Mary had been intriguing to me since my childhood, my friend Don Corthier decided he wanted to go with a ‘vintage campy feel’ for the music video, and recreate a low-budget look for our actual low-budget video. We are all fans of The Evil Dead, and we were very supportive of Don’s idea to use that as basis for inspiration. He created the shot list and the script for the music video, and invited us for a weekend shoot. We left complete creative control in his hands, and had a blast partaking in our first official music video. Don and his wife Liza Moon filmed and directed the whole thing, and even used their own props on set!
In line with the band’s sound you went old school with the release as well, issuing the record on some sick vinyl and even cassettes. Have fans been pretty responsive to the vintage formats?
The genre of stoner/doom is so supportive! It is made up of a pretty tight-knit community of music lovers and creators. It seems like we all enjoy tangible media, and supporting other local or underground musicians. It is no wonder the cassettes sold so well, and the hype around the vinyls has already been overwhelming! We are very excited to be releasing music to an audience of people who enjoy every aspect of it, including owning physical copies of our album. There was a point in time where I was worried that people would stop wanting to hold their favorite band’s CD in their hands and check out the inside artwork, and read the lyrics, and just absorb everything like we used to as kids. We have the best fans in the world – and they definitely seem responsive to the vintage formats, which is a blessing for us.