Ready To Rock Wichoo

9.18.2008

By Barry Walters

Black Kids would be the Sly & the Family Stone of indie-rock if Sly Stone were a Morrissey freak. With a biracial, two-gendered lineup, this Jacksonville, Florida buzz band went from total obscurity last year to conquering the UK charts this year with their pungent yet frothy debut album Partie Traumatic and particularly feisty single 'I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You.' They've spent the last several months overseas playing both clubs and massive festivals, and are about to embark on their first major US tour. Even if you've somehow missed all the internet chatter about Black Kids, you'll soon understand why Out has been itching to catch frontman Reggie Youngblood in a rare casual moment back home.

Out: What's your life been like since your album was released?
Reggie Youngblood: We've been out of Jacksonville for about a year now. It feels like five years. We're constantly moving. I mean, I went to Paris three times in the past two weeks. It just feels like I'm squeezing a whole lot of life into a very short time period.

What kind of people have been coming to your shows -- and how has it changed in the past few months?
It seems to be a very odd mix. Sometimes we play and they'll be a lot of young girls up front. And other times there's a lot of young boys up front. And then there'll be these older, middle-aged people who seem out of place but I'm glad that they're there. We get all kinds, misfits, yeah, and I think that's preferable. The music is a bit populist. It's sugar, really. Everybody loves candy.

Do you have much of a gay audience?
Yeah, I think so. Yes!

What do you feel your band has to offer potential gay fans?
Gay people may derive some pleasure from the fact that we have been influenced by wonderful artists -- Neil Tennant [of Pet Shop Boys], the Smiths of course. [Gay culture] has always been a large part of pop and rock music. I've always loved the freedom to play with gender.

Why do you refer to yourself as a girl in some of your songs?
Guys are always trying to get the girl. She's the desirable object. Am I saying that I'm the desired object? Maybe not. I do feel like a bit of a girl sometimes. I'm not gonna elaborate on that. [Laughs]

How do you reconcile your religious backgrounds with being in an androgynous rock band and doing the things that rock bands do?
There's not much to reconcile. That's part of our lives, but firmly in our pasts. Our logic couldn't support those beliefs anymore, even if it does kind of inform who we are. I think because [the band] met in Sunday school, it calls a lot of attention. For some people it's kind of a novel thing, but in this part of the country, it's pretty common to experience some kind of religious upbringing.

What do you feel is different about being an African-American being in a rock band?
I don't know if it's had any effect. That sounds like a grossly ignorant answer. I spend so little time dwelling on that sort of thing. One of the reasons why we decided to call ourselves Black Kids was because many traditions in pop music have started with young black people. There aren't a lot of black people playing rock music, but instead of making me feel like an outsider, I kind of think I belong there.

I'm wondering if you launched your band first in England because of this issue. The parallel would be Scissor Sisters taking off first in the UK, where the industry is much more accepting of a gay-fronted band. Did you do a similar thing because race is a much less controversial subject in England?
The reason why we were based out of the UK is because that's where the interest was for the most part. But you're right. I think there was some concern with how people would take to our name and in the UK, that's just not an issue. And to be fair, that's not been an issue here, really. People are just kind of waiting for it to be, but I just don't see how it ever will.

I'm glad to hear that.
One thing I love about Arthur Lee of Love [an interracial '60s band from Los Angeles that played with androgyny] is that he's been described as a black man imitating a white man imitating a black man. It just comes out odd. I think that's something we try to do, whether it's influences from English music or gay artists we admire. Taking those things, and I think they're still sort of recognizable when it's all said and done but slightly different as well.

I don't think you'd be as exciting if you were all white, and all guys.
Yeah, it became painfully obvious over the years when it was just four guys posing on stage that something had to be different. I think it turned out to be the girls, really. It added an element of fun and otherness that was sorely lacking before.

READER COMMENTS ()

AddThis