Interview: Black Dollar Bills

The collective of rock and roll garage blues acts which Birmingham attracts to its insides is often overlooked. However with heavy incarnation of the genre, God Damn, just announcing their signing to record label One Little Indian, perhaps the way is paved for a little more light.

Taking Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Dead Weather as inspiration, Black Dollar Bills are a heavy grunge assault on the senses. They headline the second instalment of new night Greetings From at The Bristol Pear this Friday. We talk to them ahead of their performance.

Hello Black Dollar Bills, I don’t believe we’ve spoken to you before, introduce us to the band.

Tom: Hi, we have Andy on vocals and rhythm guitar, myself on lead guitar, Liam on the bass guitar and Charles on the drum kit

Tell me about the name.

Tom: We toyed with a few names in the beginning. We were looking for some kind of inspiration really but a song popped up on my iPod and that happened to be the name. It just seemed to fit our sound.

How do you all know each other and how long have you been going as Black Dollar Bills?

Tom: Me and Liam knew each other from school. Andy had a scrap with Liam when they first met whilst out during the Resurrection days at Subway City. We lost our original drummer but Andy met Charles in the pub! There seems to be a reoccurring theme around alcohol and music funnily enough…with this line up we’ve been together about two and a half years.

Had you been in previous musical outfits?

Andy: I had a previous band called The Gamma Rays…

Liam: Me and Tom had a few projects before.

Charles: I originally played in a rock band, then a blues two piece and also a jazz band.

Talk me through some of your musical influences, what you draw from them and how they influence your sound.

Tom: There’s loads of influences floating around here!

Liam: Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Jack White…

Andy: The Velvet Underground, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Crocodiles…

Tom: Of course Led Zeppelin, BRMC and The Dead Weather…

Charles: Kings of Leon, Tame Impala and Warpaint…

Tom: We take the elements we like and try to incorporate them into our sound in some way – using a blues influence with a psychedelic twist!

Andy: Sounds like a refreshing drink! We have a pretty big sound now using a lot of reverb and delay.

You’ve played some pretty impressive support slots as well as shows of your own. What has been your favourite gig to date?

Tom: It’s a hard one to decide but I think we can all agree the gig we played with Deap Vally and Drenge at The Rainbow was a highlight. We love those girls. We like The Rainbow as a venue as well.

Andy: The Royal Blood gig was good too – monster sound!

Charles: And the Little Comets crowd was great.

How does the songwriting process work between you?

Andy: The songwriting is pretty off the cuff – we just go in a see what happens really, which I believe is how The Rolling Stones write too. It will usually start with a riff or a few chords and that seems to work for us.

Tell me about your released material.

Tom: Currently people can get the House of Love single from our Bandcamp page. We have just posted a new track called Stolen which has got some good airplay, so we’re hoping for positive things from that! You can hear other tracks on our Facebook and Soundcloud pages too.

Are you writing anything at the moment / working on any releases.

Tom: We have another track which will hopefully be released soon so keep your eyes and ears open for that one!

You headline Greetings From at The Bristol Pear on January 31. This is in a student area – to what extent do you think that students integrate with the live music scene in Birmingham?

Charles: Well we like a party and students like to party so it’s win-win in our eyes! Hopefully they like the music as much as the alcohol!

Liam: We played the Notting Hill Arts Club in London and that was mainly student-orientated with a great atmosphere so Birmingham has got a lot to live up to!

Tell us some other Birmingham bands we should be listening to.

Liam: Apart from the obvious choices who are rightly doing well at the moment, we like The Mighty Young who are a blues/rock two piece, and new band Dong Fang (formed from members of The Cedar House Band) are sounding cool too.

Tom: Velvet Texas Cannonball always sound great and you should check out our mates in The Exploding Sound Machine.

Any final thoughts?

Tom: It’s cool to be doing a show associated with a clothing brand [independent Digbeth-based retailers Provide, who sponsor the event].

Andy: Let the show begin! See you down the front.

Black Dollar Bills play Greetings From at The Bristol Pear in Selly Oak on Friday January 31 with Milk Teeth and Foes. Entry is £3 on the door, find all info over on the Facebook Event.

Photo: Andy Watson DRW Images

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