Balkun Brothers have been crowned Best Blues Band in Connecticut for the last 4 years (CT Music Awards). In 2015, they won Best Overall Band in Connecticut (CT Music Awards). Already this year, they have been semi-finalists in the International Blues Challenge and they are nominated for Best Band in New England (New England Music Awards). Next month, they will release their highly-anticipated sophomore album, “Devil On TV” on Dixie-Frog Records.
The album is described as “…self-produced collection of 10 tracks that showcase their appetite for heavy, blues soaked rock ‘n’ roll riffs with doses of steamy funk grooves and back porch stomp boogie.” And they’ve given you a little taste in this video…
According to Steve Balkun, “The album was self-produced and recorded in our studio in Windsor, CT and mix/mastered by Jason ‘Jacko’ Randall at More Sound Studios in Syracuse, NY. It features 9 or 10 tracks, depending on whether it’s the USA, Vinyl, or European copies. There is an extra track on the Euro copy.”
“The record has 8 original songs and 2 cover tunes; done Balkun Brothers way. We do a cover of the tune ‘Thursday’ by Morphine and a medley of ‘Backdoor Man/5 to 1’ written by Willie Dixon/The Doors”.
“We have special guests on the album, most notably Dana Colley, Saxaphonist of Morphine is on a track called “Hey Kid”. We have Scott Flynn who playes trombone for Pretty Lights, Odessa, John Browns Body and Elephant Wrecking Ball, hes a bad ass, he’s on a track called ‘So. Hi. So. Lo.’ We have our friend Sam Moss play violin on a track called K.F.K and DJ M.E. doing turntable sounds on a couple tracks.”
So, we asked: “Do you feel that you’ve taken a swing from blues-focused to straight up rock? I say this because your video touts something harder than your last. Do you still consider yourselves blues rock and fonk? Anything else you wanna tell me about it?”
“I wouldn’t call it a swing away from blues, because that influence will always be there, but it’s more just a natural evolution towards what we have always wanted to do with our music. When we were growing up we listened to so many different kinds of music, and still do, but we were very heavily influenced by the alternative rock of the 90’s, because that’s what was cool when we were kids. So, we always loved stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, and Primus. So that kind of heavier rock music was initially what got us interested in playing music. It was only after starting to play that we got into the blues and learning about the history of where rock n roll came from, that we really headed down the direction or playing more blues based music. Which, if you play rock n roll or any popular American music, is a very important path to explore. So, for a while we were very much into the blues and it just happened that we were doing very well at playing our style of blues, we were able to learn a lot from playing in the blues circuit and develop those roots as musicians. It certainly made our understanding of the rock music that we listen to much deeper, and you can’t help but feel more connected to the entire history and tradition of it all.
But there is one tradition that always has stuck with me and stood out, and that is the tradition of innovation and evolution of the music. You know, one generation learning from the previous generation and taking that music and building upon it, updating it for their generation and doing their own thing with it. Telling their own story. It’s really the only constant tradition there is.
So you know, the blues came from African music, that was brought over by slaves as musical expression of the horrors of that life and it mixed in with what was happening in early America and then evolved in field songs and works songs, and got mixed in with gospel and country-folk music, and then evolved into delta blues with guys like Son House and Charlie Patton, and then along came Muddy Waters, who grew up a share-cropper and took that music he heard in the fields and the delta and brought it to Chicago and electrified it and all the sudden you have early rock n roll. That’s some heavy stuff to think about and understand where it all came from and what those people went through to feel and express such music. But they were telling their story in their time, so, ya know we didn’t live though any of that stuff so, we can try and play some of those old songs the old masters wrote, the way they did it, but, to be truer to ourselves and our story for the time we live in, we have taken this path of creating our own style of music that has all of that influence in there, we just finding our own way to express it.
So, for us, it is really only natural that we would be progressing towards a sound that incorporates all we have learned from the blues, and then mixing in our early childhood influences of alternative heavy rock. Some of the heaviest music I’ve ever heard is the old blues. Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues’ is death metal to me, that stuff is way heavier than any heavy metal I’ve ever heard. And so, it’s really not a stretch for me to think of playing a heavy rock sound, it’s got the same feeling for me. And that’s what the blues really is, for me, is expressing the feeling, it’s not so much the sound. To me both styles are very similar, and having now a deep understanding of where it all comes from I can trace almost all the stuff I play back to its roots in the blues somewhere, even if it sounds more like Motorhead than Muddy Waters.
And that’s kind of what we have always done but now instead of playing stuff that is more clearly separated into, this is a blues song and this is a rock song, we just mix it all up and it’s all becoming one sound.
And as far as the story we have to tell, this album was really influenced by all that is going on in the world right now. Recording this during election year with all the insanity that is getting spewed at you from every angle on TV for months and months from all these crooked politicians and news channels, you can’t help but be effected by it. So, the heaviness of the state of our country and world really set us up to be writing music that was expressing some of our own thoughts on the matters. We had already written stuff on past albums with more traditional blues themes like ‘women done ya wrong’ or ‘had a bad day’ or whatever, so we were trying to push the music to be a bit more socially conscious and work some deeper themes into it.
And I’d say we still consider ourselves what we had always considered ourselves, a rock band. We have a lot of styles that we can play but we try to not over complicate it and when it comes down to it, plain and simple, were a rock band.
We have learned and developed the abilities to adapt into more of a blues band or funk or heavy rock, whatever the situation call for. We like to play any kind of music that feels good and if there’s a gig that calls for a certain thing we can do it, but what we really love doing the most is rocking out as hard as possible, and that’s what we always have wanted to do.
Also, now that we have converted to a power-duo and it’s just Nick and I, we really have been exploring how and what we can pull off as a 2 piece. It’s a whole new way of approaching playing and writing because there’s no one else to rely on or to fill in the gaps, it’s just me and nick and whatever sound we can make. So, it’s a very unconventional set up so were creating a more unconventional sound that is not going to sound like traditional blues or like any other rock band. We’ve been trying more and more to refine it down to what our own sound is rather than trying to play or sound like what everything else sounds like or what’s already been done.
This album, I think, is the closest recorded representation of how we actually sound now as a band. Our first record we were a trio, so that sounds different. And our last record was our first and a duo, but it was produced by someone else in their studio with their equipment and they did it their way, and it really missed the mark on how we wanted to sound and how we actually sound when we play live. So, with this record we wanted to have the control over how our sound was presented, and try to achieve our sonic vision. So, we recorded it all ourselves in Nicks studio, set up live and did all the basic tracking live in the same room, to get it as close to our live sound as we could. Which, when we play live now, is a big huge heavy full sound, and I think we were able to capture it pretty well. And then of course we had the time to do some experimenting with the studio to embellish the audio experience of the record, so we did a lot of new things with sound clips and samples and special guests to go on top of our live basic tracks. So, doing it in our own studio really gave us the freedom to come up with a lot of new cool sounds and textures that we had not been able to do in the past, and I think it made for a more interesting record, and is much closer to what we envision our sound being.
Balkun Brothers are Steve Balkun on guitars, thumb-bone bass, and vocals AND Nick Balkun on drums and vocals. Check them out on all the social medias…
Look for our review of “Devil On TV” here!
Uproar with us! – lsg