By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — Connecting dots in the sky and in real life, Calgary rockers Black Earth are musical maestros when it comes to drawing the line. Established in 2010, the incendiary four-piece excels at exhibiting familiar pop and rock constructs within in a refreshingly modern framework. Focused on a fixed point, Black Earth’s stellar lead singer Erika Leah, guitarist/vocalist Anthony Janicki, bassist Tyler Kocian and drummer Steve Richter champion a sound that balances elevating vocals with the shadowy umbrage of grinding guitars and pounding percussion.
A chrysalis of classic and contemporary rock and roll traditions, Black Earth’s latest studio effort, Constellations, is due to make its debut appearance this November. As with the group’s two previous LPs, Ammo (2011) and Dreameater (2012), Black Earth’s newest album was created at Casey Lewis’s infamous Echo Bass Studios in Calgary. But, like their 2013 One More Life EP, Constellations features the band’s new lineup, which came into existence following the departure of original members Glen Murdock and Davey Wasted.
“After my band, Conniving Cadavers, broke up I thought it would be cool to try Erika out as a singer for my new band,” says Janicki. “Now, she and I have been living together for over three years and she is pretty much a full-on sister. Erika writes lyrics and melodies that are daring and outside the box. She is always trying to push herself and us to new heights.
“I’ve known Tyler since the first grade and we’ve always been good friends. He’s actually a great guitar player and he has shown me some awesome ideas for riffs that I would never have thought of. Since Tyler joined the band on bass almost exactly two years ago, his input has turned us from a regular punk band into something much more progressive and interesting. Steve is the ‘band dad.’ He keeps us grounded and holds us together musically and mentally. Basically, Black Earth has become so family-like that it’s actually kind of creepy — in a good way.”
An impressive recording that showcases the Black Earth’s energetic yet earnest style, Constellations could very well prove to be the ever-evolving quartet’s roadmap to headbanger stardom.
“Since our last EP we’ve turned up the heavy,” Janicki confirms. “Unlike our past albums, we really did attempt to make this one cohesive. Erika maintained a celestial theme with her songwriting and I turned up the rock-style riffage. Not only is it way more technical and diverse than anything we’ve done before, it’s also darker and heavier than I expected it to be.”
According to the guitarist/vocalist, the band is simply thrilled to have a full-length album that represents their current incarnation and that they can bond over onstage.
“The studio has always been a scary time for us,” he explains. “On this album, I got so picky with the guitar tone that I actually went back to the studio four times for one track. When performing our songs live, we like to keep things clear, tight and simple. We want people to dance and rock out, but we don’t want to hit them with a wall of noise. Hence, we only have one guitar and not nearly as many vocal harmonies when we perform. This allows us to put on a really high-energy stage show with plenty of jumping around and ninja kicks.”
Flying roundhouses and tearing the roof off the sucker is only the beginning for the band, which has enjoyed touring Western Canada in support of acts such as Belvedere, The Vibrators and Caught Off Guard. Their professional music video premiere, “Daybreak,” is now available for viewing on YouTube, so it’s only a matter of time before hardcore fans go all soft-hearted over Leah and Janicki’s undeniable chemistry.
“We’re finally starting to make a bit of a name for ourselves out there, so the shows have been pretty good,” he says. “Once, I smashed a bottle over my head during a concert and had blood pouring out of the wound while I kept playing our last song. The crowd was literally speechless. I lost two pints of blood and had to get four stitches. I nearly passed out from laughing, and blood loss; it was actually pretty embarrassing. Punk rock! Honestly, we just love the pure badassness that is rock and roll and we hope that love shines through in our image and our high-energy performances.”
Black Earth will release Constellations on November 21 at Dickens Pub.AB, Alberta, Black Earth, Constellations, Dickens Pub