We at Telescope like to keep our ears to the ground for upcoming Toronto talent. Black Walls is somewhat of an anomaly because he’s unconcerned with trends; his music is a combination of confessional dark psych, layered synths, pop hooks and innovative guitar playing.
He’s also the kind of artist that one only hears about through word of mouth. Even though he’s played with acts like Iron and Wine and City And Colour and toured with outsider artists such as Jana Hunter and Bill Orcutt, he’s still living under the radar having self released a few CDR’s and a 7”.
He’s about to unleash an epic prog-folk masterpiece, Acedia, on April 20th on Toronto’s Pleasence Records (home of Pitchfork approved Odonis Odonis and Fucked Up’s Young Guv). He even drew his own killer cover art.
We caught up with Black Walls this week to talk about the meaning of Acedia, metal, skateboarders, and the recording process.
TM: Your last album Four Horses was released in 2007. Why is there a five-year gap between Four Horses and Acedia?
BW: I had setbacks personally and financially. I wanted this album to be on vinyl and not just a Bandcamp download. Brandon and myself took our time mixing and re-recording parts. The focus was putting out a record we were proud of, not just releasing something for the sake of it.
TM: Were the setbacks you had specific to the lyrical content?
BW: Yes, but I’d rather not talk about it.
TM: Okay, I want to ask you about the incredible cover art; what inspired you to draw it?
BW: Thank you. I just whittled for five months on it – drawing is a positive escape for me. I got the idea from an old National Geographic. I listen to a lot of metal and I’m drawn towards artists that have a strong visual aesthetic. I love bands that create their own world visually. I often buy albums based on the cover art not knowing what the music is.
TM: Why the religious imagery?
BW: I had a strong religious, catholic upbringing that wasn’t the best. I had to go to church all the time as a kid. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It just shows up in everything I do. There’s a bit of a reference to Void – an old hardcore band I really like.
TM: What are some of your musical influences?
BW: I listen to a lot of music that relieves my anxiety. As of late I like Sun Kil Moon, Earth, Eluvium, Townes Van Zandt, Agalloch, Nas…I could write five pages, there are so many.
TM: You were nominated for a JUNO Award. How did that come about?
BW: Dallas Green (aka City and Colour) and I have known each other for a long time through mutual friends. He always liked my cover art and music. So his management asked me to draw something and it got nominated for a JUNO.
TM: Thematically this album is dark, and with repeated listens you get drawn in. It’s also sonically diverse: you use synths, 808’s, thunderstorms, a sample of old school skater Brian Lotti, and a good portion of the songs on Acedia are over seven minutes long. Why did you write such an ambitious record?
BW: The word Acedia is derived from ancient Greece to describe monks not caring about prayer as a vocation because they feel like it’s getting them nowhere, I’m paraphrasing. Like a ‘what’s the point? who cares..’ attitude. Almost similar to depression and akin to the Camus essay The Myth Of Sisyphus. I related to that and after Four Horses I felt this way intensely. Acedia is a heavy record, I guess. I used synths, drums and nature sounds because I was experimenting and had the opportunity, so I went with it. I’m unconcerned with genre or song length. Brian Lotti is a skateboarder I admire and am intrigued by; I wanted to pay homage to him.
TM: How much was recorded at home versus in the studio?
BW: I recorded most of it at home in Logic, but we (Brandon and I) ended up overdubbing the vocals and re-recorded the guitar on three songs at Polyphasic. So maybe 50/50. I would go over to Brandon’s and we’d listen and bounce ideas off each other. He was really great to work with.
TM: Has your live set up changed at all?
BW: Yeah, I stopped playing acoustic live. I use pedals, tape recorders and an electric guitar.
TM: How did you and Pleasence Records get acquainted for a full length?
BW: James came to a couple of my shows last year and liked what he heard. We kept in touch and had a couple meetings and I showed him the art and gave him some demos. The rest just fell into place.
TM: I read that the engineer who mastered your album is affiliated with Zola Jesus and Blank Dogs?
BW: Yeah, his name is James Flames. He did a great job. He’s done a couple Zola Jesus and Blank Dogs EPs. James at Pleasence sent it out to him in Brooklyn and it came back happily approved.
TM: What’s on the horizon for Black Walls?
BW: I don’t like to talk about what’s to come. I would rather just do it and talk about it later.
You can stream or pre-order Black Walls album Acedia here: