The photo was shot at Freebird Live in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Black Kids were celebrating their homecoming after becoming major stars overseas.
“Boyfriend” was a Top 10 hit and even songwriter Reggie Youngblood acknowledged it to be “the kind of song every band dreams of writing.”
The band started with Youngblood and drummer Kevin Snow, who met at Sunday school, then joined a ska band that played Christian events. The band’s bassist, Owen Holmes, joined the project that eventually included Youngblood’s sister Ali and keyboardist Dawn Watley.
“We really only played a couple times a month in Jacksonville,” Snow told Pollstar. “We would support bands that would come through town, which wouldn’t really happen very often.”
But when they played Georgia’s Athens Popfest in August and handed out their EP for the first time, everything started to take off. By October, the New York Times’ Jon Pareles led an article with the sentence, “Every place Black Kids played during the 2007 CMJ Music Marathon was mobbed.”
“From [Athens Popfest], the bloggers started writing about us,” Snow said. “Vice Magazine, U.K., was the first major publication to contact us. Very soon after that, Vice did an online interview with Reggie. That’s when a management company contacted us. So, yeah, it was really quick. There were not a lot of steps there.”
The management company decided it had too many irons in the fire, Snow said, but referred the band to Quest Management, which represents clients Arcade Fire and Björk. Quest’s Scott Rodger listened to the band’s tunes on MySpace and quickly began a relationship. Quest has offices in London and New York City so Black Kids had support on both sides of the pond.
“We made a strategic decision,” Rodger told Pollstar. “Do we launch the band in the U.S. or do we do it in the U.K.?”
The answer was simple. There was little media interest Stateside and zero label interest. Meanwhile, a band can get attention quickly in the smaller U.K. market. Plus, the band sounds something like Robert Smith fronting The Go! Team, and influences include Pulp and Suede.
“Every single label in the U.K. wanted to know them,” Rodger said. “Same with promoters. It was just a huge amount of love and support.”
The band chose Creative Artists Agency’s Emma Banks as its overseas agent and eventually picked The Windish Agency for North America. Much of 2008 was spent in London recording Partie Traumatic with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.
“We’ve had a few issues where they’ve been a little ironic or sarcastic with some interviews with English people,” Rodger said. “They have a very English sense of humor and that’s rare for American bands. …. It’s almost like they’re the English guys who were born in America.”
For instance, a radio DJ asked Youngblood and Snow how the recording was coming along. They replied it was going terribly and Butler had to re-record all the instruments himself every evening after they left the studio. That led to a headline: “Kids’ Album A Disaster.”
“It’s like, ‘Guys? OK. The next time you’re playing these jokes, make sure if the person is not getting it, you tell him,’” Rodger said. “They’ve out-Englished the English. … But it’s good they have a sense of humor. They need to in this business.”
The band has had to hone its chops for the headline tour. After playing sporadically in Jacksonville, Black Kids supported a sold-out Cut Copy tour, bonded with Kate Nash on another outing, joined Sons & Daughters for yet another, and played Coachella, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Glastonbury and T in the Park.
But Black Kids are still a new band and Quest plans to build the record through next spring. That means the band will be touring up to, at least, Christmastime. Even the Jacksonville homecoming included half-day rehearsals at Freebird Live.
The trick is keeping all the markets – from the U.S. to Australia to Asia – satisfied when they simultaneously want Black Kids.
“We’re always spinning plates,” Rodger said. “You start one, you get it going, and when one starts to fall over you go back to it. … They didn’t have time to develop under the radar and do a hundred shows before anyone had ever heard of them. They developed in the public eye, which isn’t the best thing to do, but they took that on board.”