"This band has been like that moment when you first pick up a guitar as a kid. It’s that moment where you realise something is uniquely yours" - Mikey Chapman
Left to Right: Lee Emrinez, Luke Hicks, Mikey Chapman, Rich Watson
World, meet Black Sky Research.
Fronted by former Mallory Knox vocalist Mikey Chapman, BSR are a band with a big sound and even bigger ambitions. With a debut single 'Light Up The Sky' doing the rounds already and an expansive EP in the pipeline, we jumped on the phone with Mikey to find out how he got involved with the project and how it has reminded him about just how fun rock music can be...
You’ve been around music a bit in the past few years, but this band is the first time it’s felt like you are fully invested in something. How has the last few years and your relationship with music been? Where has that itch to make something come from?
Says Mikey Chapman: “I’ve basically been evaluating what music is to me in more ways than just the practical sense of working in and writing music. I’ve been focusing on what music is to me as a fan and what does it mean as a man reaching his 30’s. What place does it have in my life going forwards? The biggest realisation for me has been that I love music and I simply can’t do without it. It’s a staple of my diet. As the singer that I am, I’ve always enjoyed different styles and different ways of approaching music. Yet I’ve only ever been in one section of the musical society in that regard and absorbing one aspect. That’s not a bad thing though. The rock scene has been my nourishment and has been something really quite incredible and poignant for me in my life until this point. I never want to step away from that completely.
“So in between writing some acoustic songs and some pop stuff as experiments, Luke [Hicks, guitarist], who is the mastermind of Black Sky Research, didn’t so much slide into my DMs but got his mate [Matt Terry from Vada Studios] to slide in and say ‘My mate Luke has these songs recorded but with no vocals, what do you think?’ I was out on one of my daily walks doing a spot of reflection and put these songs on. Fuck me, they slapped. They set me aback. I hadn’t listened to any rock music for up to a year at that point and when I listened to them I really felt them. If something gives you that goosebumps feeling and an emotive response, then it’s a winner for me. That’s when I thought it was time to get back on the horse."
What was it that that really attracted you to the band aside from the music?
“Looking to other elements beyond music, because that’s what you have to do when you get to a certain age, you can’t just exist as Peter Pan and live like a teenager anymore. When you start to contemplate those things, you realise there isn’t enough time in the week to be a 24/7 rock star and raise a family or develop a career as well. Everyone in the band is in a similar position where music is their bread and butter and knows that it has that beautiful nourishing capability, but we all had to rethink the structure in which we viewed a band and the goals and the expectations we had from that band. As much as the music has been a really refreshing thing to be a part of, the psychological aspects of being in a band again and like this have been very enlightening as well.”
So have you taken on a brunt of the lyricism here as the instrumentation was already in place?
“So I lived with the songs for quite a long time. I just let myself get immersed in the music a lot. Luke was very patient and very relaxed about how I was approaching these songs. He incorporated some fantastically heavy and brutal moments in to these songs, but there’s also these poppy synthy rhythmic moments in them as well. When I would write with Mallory Knox, there was always a clearly indicated path, which was constantly being reinforced by other people’s ideas. With me not seeing Luke for three of four months at a time and just having the music meant that I was in my own little world with the heavier side of things and the poppier side of things butting heads. Trying to fit those different melodies in amongst each other is quite difficult. There was a lot of process with that for me."
The thing is that there is an array of different directions a song or a piece of music can go when you’re working so separately...
"Yeah, there was a big wariness and a question mark over whether, as the two main writers, me and Luke would click on any level. I knew that Luke had conceptualised the music as like going through the course of a night out and running into the various pitfalls that come from that. Though talking more and more that we were both dorky in a way. He’s working on his doctorate and is a statistician whereas mine came much more from pop culture.
“That’s when we started to have a semblance of a story line and a plot to follow and we were trying to align certain moments in the songs to moments in the story. We came to the realisation that it sounded like someone was getting fucked up, so let’s write it about the end of the world. Why not? We could write about standing outside of a kebab shop at the end of a night but neither of us are Jamie T. Let’s just be nerds! This was our first opportunity in a long time to do something which was without scrutiny or criticism and without boundary.
“We’re given this incredible palette of musical colours, and out of this huge spectrum of opportunity I’ve only really used five or six. There are hundreds of shade of styles and approaches I haven’t touched. This band has been like that moment when you first pick up a guitar as a kid. It’s that moment where you realise something is uniquely yours. That moment can happen multiple times and I think we had that moment with this band.”
So what was it about 'Light Up The Sky' that made it the right song to launch all of this?
“That’s a good question. There are a few different elements. I really want to emphasise that even though I will be the face, so to speak, of the band, a lot of the incredible work on putting these songs out has all come from Luke, Lee [Erinmez, Bassist] and Rich [Watson, Guitarist]. You’d probably get a more specific answer from them but a lot of the elements of this release are to do with chronology. It’s the first of the five tunes we are going to release and ‘Light Up The Sky’ is where the story begins I suppose. There are two or three others that have a similar kind of impact, so if we released track three before track one it would feel weird. I think a lot of people will enjoy this music because even though it has a theme and a story it’s vague enough for you to fill in the gaps yourself around the fundamentals.”
Even at this early stage, what do you feel as though this band represents?
Using the analogy of Peter Pan again, in one sense you can idolise him as he spends his life consistently being carefree and living that youthful existence. You can also look at it from the perspective of feeling sorry for the guy. He will never experience things that will come with maturing. Change brings scary things, but it also brings incredible new opportunities. BSR is the flagship that’s going out ahead of some new mindsets and processes that I want to incorporate into my day-to-day in order to make me as happy as I can be without it becoming a detriment to me and my long term wellbeing.
“As long as there is sick music that makes me want to scream until my face goes red, I’ll always have that drive to find it. What BSR is to me is a lesson that I can do more and there are new opportunities to be had. It’s a real signifier for me that the future is in front of me and the past is behind me. That’s a great thing to physically experience.”