Together We Go Down In The Dark is out now!
Image: Naomi Haussmann.
Alt-pop artist Julius Black has unveiled his sophomore EP, Together We Go Down In The Dark. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release, the influence The Beatles have had on his artistry, his creative process and so much more!
Could you tell us a bit about your background in music and what led you to pursuing a career in music?
I had the cliché beginning of starting with piano, then quickly guitar. My Dad had a Beatles greatest hits CD when I was 4-5 years old, that CD definitely planted a seed. I gradually moved into rock, R&B, and gospel music as I entered teen years. My pursuit in music is driven by playing with what I love and want to hear.
Congratulations on your sophomore EP, Together We Go Down In The Dark. The release documents your own experiences and the life span of a toxic relationship. Walk us through the themes and concepts explored on the EP and why you documented them on this release…
Thank you! I started this EP as I was finishing my first EP Dopamine. I grew up watching Martin Scorsesee films and became obsessed with the idea of a protagonist who becomes a villain because of his circumstances. I think my favourite villains in movies are the ones you empathise with. I really wanted the music to have interesting chord changes and bright sounding Beatles-esque melodies with darker lyrics for juxtaposition. It’s very much an emotional snapshot of the last year of my life; following the last relationship I was in and the various struggles with ego, heartbreak, forgiveness. Each song reveals a certain stage of that experience.
You’ve followed up your debut EP Dopamine with Together We Go Down In The Dark arriving just over a year later. What did you learn whilst making your debut that you were able to implement into your creative process when making this new collection of songs?
We made the songs in a similar way, I typically write with just piano or guitar or very skeletal demo production, then Struan (my producer) goes away and creatively plays with what I give him, then we finesse the songs together. I think also just trusting the process, I was very stuck with this EP at one point. I was trying to balance being inside the lived experience, then trying to bottle it in these songs at the same time. It was really difficult at times. I think the best music I make unravels itself as I go in the process. I’ve never really had much luck channelling the art gods, having that 3 hour inspirational trip where a song lands on my lap. I always end up thinking about what I want to say in detail over time, like a blurry image coming into focus.
There’s a clear influence from The Beatles present, with the EP existing within an alt-pop realm that offers up dynamic and textural soundscapes. What prompted this sonic exploration and how did you arrive at the genre your music exists within?
I listen to a variety of different music, constantly exploring different stuff. The Beatles are really embedded in my DNA because of my Dad and my upbringing. In order to bring what I could offer to the table, I had to really go back and explore my upbringing. I love arcing melodies over clever chord changes, and John Lennon and Paul Mccartney are masters at that. I think it’s so impressive how dynamic and vast their work is considering the technology they had at the time.
Now we have limitless access on our laptops, nothing too big to bind creativity, but the trouble in paradise is how it puts me into a paralysis of choice. Like the ‘scroll through netflix forever trying to choose’ syndrome. So my process began in limitation; I made sure I could be excited about my writing at its skeleton song level, and then dress it up with production. I think that’s why it sounds the way it does.
Could you give us some insight into your creative songwriting process?
Every song has its own unique treatment. I think my melodies come best when I don’t think. Refining lyrics takes me a while though, it’s more logical to me and doesn’t just fly out like everything else. Even still, I’m trying to remain as vulnerable as I can be. There’s an invisible thread that you are pulling, sometimes you need to be gentle and other times you need to give it a hard pull. I work with geniuses like Struan and Joe. They are both really inspiring to be around. Collaboration is a big part of it for me.
What were your initial thoughts when listening to the EP once it was completely finished, and do they differ from your thoughts on the collection of songs now?
I remember Struan sent me through the final masters, and I was in Shanghai at the time.
I biked all night across the city just listening to it, grinning. It was great.
I’m always writing the next thing though, so I’m excited for the future.
Which three song from Together We Go Down In The Dark would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan and why?
1.Together We Go Down in the Dark, it’s not only the title track but also it embodies the sentiment of the record. Glittery Beatles-esque melodies, dark lyrics, and beefy production
2. Do You Still Dream? has a unique message about forgiveness that came to me from watching Taiwanese dramas.
3. Cellophane is my most honest song.
What’s one line from the EP you find at times can be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
I like the line “ I just wanted a kiss, and now you live in my house” because I think it’s both silly and emotional. That’s how I am a lot, my friends can confirm. I think a part of the Kiwi culture is very cynical and a bit repressed when it comes to sentiment. Being vulnerable is hard.
If Together We Go Down In The Dark was a piece of pre-existing visual art, which artwork would best capture the songs?
The movie Taxi Driver. All Martin Scorsese’s movies turn to shit. Last year felt the same, I wanted my EP to feel the same.
Will you be performing any live shows in the near future, and what can we expect from a Julius Black concert?
Frank Ocean, The Beatles, The 1975, Ryan Beatty, Moses Sumney, Elliott Smith.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Tradition but trippy
Best song of 2022 so far?
Invincible by Daniel Caesar and Omar Apollo
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Perks Of Being A Wallflower, or Submarine, but they both have great soundtracks.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley Cyrus because she's real ok, I’m not delusional.
What was the first song you loved to sing?
Let it Be by The Beatles
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Fantasy by Mariah Carey
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Synchronicity by The Police.
First concert you went to?
Best concert you have been to?
Maggie Rogers because I met Lorde.
First album you ever bought?
Linkin Park - Minutes to Midnight
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
Backstreet Boys just because I grew up with their music not Spice Girls, please don’t hate me I respect everyone equally ok
Who's your favourite Backstreet Boy?
Nick Carter because I like the Carter brothers, they were like the original Justin Bieber but as brothers.
Guilty music pleasure?
The entire UK Garage genre
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Justin Bieber is a god, don’t deny
What advice would your current self give your future self a year from now?
Give up now, run away
Together We Go Down In The Dark is out now!