Story by Maddy Howell
Growing up near the English city of Stoke-On-Trent - famed for its industrial ceramic-producing area known as the Potteries - Black Coast’s journey has been a little different to other bands.
With no major city nearby to welcome them into its music scene, since forming in 2016 they’ve had to forge their own path, firmly planting their flag into the hardcore underground with two searingly aggressive EP’s: 2018’s ‘Ill Minds, Vol.1’ and 2019’s follow-up ‘Ill Minds, Vol.2’. Led by frontman Charlie Hewitt’s crushing screamed vocals and a blistering heaviness, their bold, brazen mentality opened up avenues within their local scene and beyond, but despite their growing success - something was amiss.
Amidst management issues and personal struggles, the five-piece realised that they were stuck in a rut. Tired of writing songs that they thought other people would like rather than what they were truly inspired by, they went back to the drawing board. Emerging with their defiant 2021 debut album, ‘Outworld’, Black Coast were reborn.
“We wanted to change completely from what ‘Ill Minds’ was, and I pushed myself when it came to singing, which is something that I wasn't comfortable with doing before. I've had alcohol issues, and I've been sober for about two years and seven months. When we wrote ‘Ill Minds’ I didn't sing at all because I could scream in any state, but I couldn’t always sing,” Charlie starts.
“Whilst we were working on the album, all these new ideas were flooding. We realised that we could do whatever we want, and we hadn't got anything to lose. There were no pressures of anyone telling us what we should be, so no idea was too ridiculous. The album was written selfishly, because we stopped thinking about making music to elicit certain reactions from people. It was just made for us, and we hoped that people would understand.”
Pushing the limits of their capabilities with a steadfast assuredness, Black Coast’s debut album weaved its way through a sonic maze of hardcore, old-school grunge and nu metal. Rejuvenating their passion for music, each song radiated a newfound sense of freedom, a feeling that had become somewhat foreign for Charlie.
Quitting drinking during the creation of ‘Outworld’, much of the band’s debut album centred on the clarity and complications that come hand in hand with fresh sobriety. Written partially within the introspection of a national lockdown during the global pandemic, self-reflection became a pertinent aspect of Charlie’s songwriting, and with the band’s latest self-titled EP the frontman is diving even deeper.
“These new songs are me trying to get to grips with new feelings. I've gone through the process of trying to sort my head out, now I'm trying to sort my life out, and this EP is part of that,” Charlie says.
“‘Chains’ is about that constant battle of trying to feel alive. People don't want to change, or try to do anything different, but I have to try these things otherwise I'll just go backwards. It’s a new mindset of pushing myself, and whilst it's not completely hopeful, I'm trying to find where I am going forwards with my life.”
Adopting a new mindset amidst his recovery and pushing towards a brighter future for himself and those around him, as he began channelling his emotions into his songwriting Charlie began to reflect.
Throwing his vocal abilities into a trial by fire on the band’s debut album, as Black Coast continued sketching out ideas for the songs that would define their new era, he realised that he was ready to push things ever further.
“‘Mercy’ was cathartic to write because I wanted to put out a song which was 90% singing. When I was younger, I sang in a band where I did all of these ridiculous vocals that were way too high for me to sing live. Because I was drunk at the time, I was always scared of seeing one of those car crash YouTube videos where the singer is flailing. I said to myself, ‘I'm never doing that again’,” he nods.
“I really pushed myself and I'm so proud of that song vocally because it moved our sound in a more commercial direction without us even realising we’d done it. It opened up another chapter for the band, and I feel like we're only skimming the surface of what we can do.”
First introduced to rock music with The Killers’ ‘Hot Fuss’ and Muse’s ‘Showbiz’ - whilst the frontman’s musical beginnings may seem cliche - he’s always found himself drawn to the deeper cuts that push the boundaries of a band's sound. That desire for the unconventional now drives Black Coast’s evolution.
With Sam Bloor reprising his production, recording, and mixing duties following his work on ‘Outworld’, the musical mastermind has become the band’s unofficial sixth member and sonic guide. Reigning in their explosive creative minds in the studio and encouraging each member to consider how each of their contributions added to the band’s collective vision, Black Coast’s self-titled EP is their most focused effort to date.
“We always want to be growing as a band, because we’re growing as people and gathering new influences constantly. When this band started, we rewrote the same things for a while and it felt very stagnant, but now we’ve found our rhythm. We're at the age now where we know what we're doing and what we want to write going forward,” Charlie nods.
“I feel like more artists need to try and do different things. As much as heavy music is changing, it’s still saturated with a lot of the same things, and I think a lot of bands are scared to go too far outside of their boxes. People are happy to follow the algorithm and go along with the flow, and we never want to do that. On most metal show line-ups, we stick out like a sore thumb, and I’m happy with that.”
It’s that refusal to conform that has allowed Black Coast to forge their own path in the music world, but in an industry where it’s often less about who you are but who you know, that journey has been complicated.
Not one to pander to the every whim of people who don’t necessarily have his best interests at heart, Charlie has had hir fair share of experience with false promises and fake personas since forming his band, and now he’s ready to speak up.
“I've always wanted to write a song about how people actually are with you in the music industry,” the frontman explains.
“You can never tell if someone is real or not, and though I’ve made a lot of good friends over the years, I've met a lot of people with agendas. There are a lot of people in this industry who aren't actually who they say they are and don’t give a shit about you. ‘Real’ is a party song but it’s about that fake mentality. It makes me angry.”
With such an aversion to the inauthenticity that exists in pockets of their scene, it makes sense that Black Coast’s songwriting is bound together by a distinct openness and honesty.
Projecting his personal stories and experience into these songs, as Charlie has struggled to open up to those around him throughout his life, music has become his vessel for catharsis. Whether it’s served up in the form of scathing bites like ‘Real’ or the sheer escapism of songs like ‘Chains’, Black Coast are here to provide a moment’s reprieve from the often-nightmarish world outside.
“We're all extremely weird, and the people that we've met whilst making music are weird as well. This is music for the people who can't always say what they want to say. I've spoken to people at gigs before and they're exactly like me. They’re just as anxious as me to talk, but they get something from the music, and that’s why we do it,” Charlie explains.
“We write these songs for ourselves to sort our own problems out, but we hope that they can help others sort their own issues out in their own way. I don't want to have some kind of message that I'm pushing on to people, I just want them to enjoy the music. If they can take something from it, that's good, but it's not my job. I write to help myself because I’ve got enough issues, but I hope it means something to people.”
With each step of their journey allowing for vital evolution, Charlie and his bandmates are now standing more confident than ever before. Finding themselves whilst learning the ropes of a tricky industry, after spending seven years adding to their melting pot, the five-piece have forged something truly undeniable.
A product of strength, determination and an unwavering drive for experimentation, Black Coast are primed and ready to take on anything that comes their way.
“We've been through every cliche scenario that is bad for a band. Now, we're on the other end of it, we're a fine oiled machine. Black Coast feels like a unit now, and it feels like we’re a real force at the moment. At our shows recently, more and more people know the words, and that shows me that we’re doing something that people are latching on to and understanding,” the vocalist finishes.
“We need to be in front of crowds because we thrive off of that. I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't want to play the biggest stages ever, but I know that comes with time. I want to be in a position where we’re playing regularly, seeing the growth happen, and just enjoying it. We’re happy taking the steps and moving forwards gradually because we're going to be doing this until we're old men.”
The self-titled EP from Black Coast arrives April 28th. Pre-order the release - HERE