Members: Phil Cohen (vocals, guitar), Amelia Gormley (bass, vocals), Misha Kostandov (guitar, keys), Chris Dorsey (drums)
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Location: Cambridge, MA
Recent Release: Twist and Bend
Massachusetts alt indie rockers Blackout Balter just released their debut EP Twist and Bend. If the EP isn’t one you’ve listened to yet, you should change that…well, now. Twist and Bend includes six killer tracks and – oh yeah – also features Dave Keuning of The Killers. Get to know how the band came to be and what they enjoy most about being both on and off the stage below!
How did Blackout Balter form and come to be what it is today?
Shortly after I came home from Afghanistan with the military, I moved to the Boston area and met Chris at a neighborhood block party. I had heard there was a good drummer who lived in our neighborhood; and, after Chris and I met, he found out I was a songwriter and I found out that he was the drummer I had been hearing about. I passed Chris a bunch of very rough songs, and Chris loved them. Within a few weeks, Chris and I (as a two-piece) started playing music together. We weren’t Blackout Balter at this time; everything was still early, and–around that time–I started grad school at MIT. While I was at grad school, I met Misha. Misha had just finished up grad school at Brown, and decided to move from Providence to Cambridge to start a company with some friends (one of which was a classmate of mine at MIT). I introduced Misha to Chris, and the three of us started playing music together. We cut some early demo recordings together; and these demos are the recordings that ultimately found their way to Dave Keuning of The Killers. After grad school, I met Amelia through the local Boston scene. She was in an amazing band that I admired, and I loved the way she played bass. When the four of us started playing together, everything felt right.
Who are some of your musical influences – both as a band and individually?
I’m a big ‘70s underground rock guy–I’ve always been fascinated by the founders of the punk rock movement: Everyone from the Velvet Underground to Iggy, to The New York Dolls and Patty Smith. I could go on and on. My gateway into this music was through my cousins, Bayne and Andrew. They introduced me to Black Flag and a few other ’80s hardcore punk bands when I was fifteen, and I fell in love with the raw emotion and passion behind this music. Nirvana changed everything for me, as it did for many; and, when I discovered Elliott Smith, that changed everything for me again. As a band, I think we’re influenced by The Pixies, Pavement, Violent Femmes, and early Weezer; though there are really too many bands to name as far as our influences go.
What do you enjoy most about playing shows?
Shows have always been an opportunity for us to take risks and test things out. Everything from new songs to audience interaction. I love that each show is a discrete moment in time, that really can never be recreated–they’re all unique; and they’re all a once-in-a-life experience for the band and everyone who is in the audience. There’s a certain beauty and passion that comes with this outlook, and I think it all stems from this primal connection that people experience, when they experience music and other forms of art together. On some level there’s a certain catharsis; and this catharsis is especially beautiful when you experience it with other people. This is live music to me; and this is what I enjoy most about playing shows.
What do you do when you’re not playing music?
We’re passionate artists, so we’re always looking to change the world through the act of creation. Whether that’s through music or some other medium, it doesn’t really matter. In the band, we have software engineers and business folks; and we have people who have experienced the world through many different cultural lenses, from many different parts of the world. We’re artists first, but we’re entrepreneurs too; and we’re always thinking about big problems that–if solved–will make the world a better place. And, most importantly, we’re always taking action to solve these problems.