The Black Ships are a new band formed by Ex The Verve members Nick McCabe and Simon Jones and also features violinist and string arranger Davide Rossi and drummer Mig Schillace.
They have a new free EP out now and their first gig coming up this week. Red Rose chatted with them to see what lay ahead.
So how did you guys meet and how obvious was it to you that you should make music together?
Nick: Well I’ve known Simon since sixth form and we have been mates since then obviously, erm Davide sort of met us two when we were back recording Forth with for The Verve, you know he came into do some work with us and well we got on and so it went from there.
Me and Si had been doing some work together away from The Verve anyway so it fitted. Mig was erm a friend of a friend and then when the Verve sort of looked like it wasn’t going to carry on we decided to do something together.
How long have you been The Black Ships officially then actually working as a band?
Nick: Probably about a few months, Me and Si as you know were doing the Forth recording sessions and enjoying playing in The Verve again and the plan was originally to have Davide come in as the fifth, proper member of The Verve, I thought anyway but when that sort of appeared to have finished we decided to form this band properly.
As individual musicians who has influenced your careers the most, in terms of other artists?
Simon: That’s a difficult one, obviously we all have favourite bands and artists but the amount is so wide and far reaching it is difficult to say. Like growing up there was not one person that I saw and thought, I want to pick up a guitar and play.
Mig: Influences come from everywhere, you can be influenced by something you see everyday.
Simon: Exactly, like Mig says you can be influenced by something from..yesterday so it’s hard to say.
Davide: See for me being from Italy, I didn’t have the same music culture you have here, I grew up on classical music and I was brought up as a classical person so I can’t say other than classical and that sort of thing. Also, I would say we inspire each other we play things and do things that make us do other stuff or play things another way.
Have you ever been inspired by a lyric you have heard? Or even one you have been involved in writing?
Nick: Aaah well I didn’t start actually listening to lyrics till about 5 years ago! (laughs) Well I mean they don’t really matter to me being an instrumentalist, I am more influenced by listening to the instruments and the sounds created.
Simon: As Nick said, for me it is more about the sounds, y’know stuff the Roses and bands like that were doing, stuff that was around me at the time as I was growing up and getting into music and that kind of thing.
The bands name if you research is relates to 16th century ships from America that arrived in Japan, is that where you chose it from?
Nick: (Laughs) Do you want the true story? Okay…Well we spent months and moths thinking of a name and were getting really frustrated and struggling to think of anything…
Davide: I was a bit of a No man within the band, computer says no! And someone had suggested ‘The Black Sheep’ and I was sending out an email to the others saying ‘I don’t want to be that!’ but because I sometimes make mistakes in English I spelt it ‘Ship’…
Nick: So we thought ‘The Black Ships’ sounded alright and we went with that and eventually looked into the background of it as a name and thought it fits and makes us look like we were deep about it. I mean the 4 vessels it relates to, also relates to us 4 and the whole idea of the Americans sending over symbol of Christianity yet the Japanese thought these ships were evil brought it together nicely.
So a mistake but then you thought actually the ideas behind it fit the band well?
Simon: Yeah we liked it and the ideas behind it the whole ships thing of Mississippi, Plymouth, Sararato and Christ I can’t even say it! But yeah..
The band has no vocalist and you worked with guest vocalists on the EP, how will this work from now? Will you be instrumental or with lots of different guests?
Nick: We decided on the E.P to one song with vocals and two without to give a bit of everything but then decided it would work as one large piece and yeah we will be working like this from now because it gives us the chance to work with lots of talented guest musicians and although it can cause new problems just logistically it works for us.
Davide: We worked with two vocalists on the EP they are Charley Bickers and Amelia Tucker, two young musicians, who we think will have very successful careers.
You have your first gig on Thursday, are their plans to tour this year after the gig? Or are you doing this gig to assess how it goes first?
Simon: Well we have got to get the record done first then we can gig, I mean it is almost done so once we have got that finished we can do gigs. We are doing this gig just because we wanted to make it feel proper and real, and because we have no one to say ‘No, don’t do a gig!’ so we thought, yeah lets get one done.
The record is probably about…85% done, it is all recorded just needs putting together how we want it.
Nick: 87% done I would say (Laughs)
You have no record label, are there any plans to get one? Anything happening on that front?
Nick: We are not openly courting someone, just seeing how it goes and I think we all said that if we find the right person, we will know we have and it will just feel right. What we want to do more than anything is to make sure we get the album out in the best way rather than doing what we did with the EP which was to just stick it on the internet which is just a big void, that won’t be happening with the album.
You’re EP is mainly instrumental, will this sound be typical of the album or is their something more structured with actual songs?
Nick: I don’t think there is one uniform sound but erm certainly we have separate songs but we don’t know how it will be on the album, how it will be structured and how they will appear. I was actually surprised at how well received the EP was…
Why were you surprised at the EP’s successful reception?
Nick: Well when we were back doing The Verve the 8 or 9 minute singles were being called too long and people kept telling us this and having opinions on it, so for this to be received how it was is different to that.
Simon: Back in the days of The Verve though, we didn’t care about that we just did it because we were there to be doing what we wanted to do and the people saying ‘it is too long’ It didn’t matter, I didn’t feel guilty about that.
Nick: I did! When you have got someone whose job it is to go into radio stations with our single and people are saying ‘but it’s 9 minutes’ and they have to say, play it anyway! I felt guilty about that!
One last question…For me, as a massive Verve fan, is there likely to be another reunion?
Nick: I would have to say for me now, I mean there’s been three times now so I think probably no.
Simon: You will have to ask Mr. Ashcroft! (Laughs)