Black Sky Research are a relatively new band that have burst onto the scene with their debut EP, One. The five-track EP creates a beautiful and almost cinematic universe, encouraging each listener to dive headfirst into this story and interpret it in their own unique way. With Mikey Chapman on vocals with his wonderfully distinctive voice and Luke Hicks’ high energy guitar, this is a band you need on your radar.
How did you guys come together to form Black Sky Research?
Luke: I’m finishing my PHD in machine learning. It got to this point a couple of years ago I realised that I was coming toward the end of my PHD inevitably and I’d been playing music for years before. I wanted to write some songs and get back into doing music before I go into the world of sitting in front of a computer for the rest of my life basically. I wrote a load of songs and had an idea of just going to a studio and recording them. I spoke to a friend of mine whose got a recording studio, and he said these songs are really good and you should do more with them. He introduced me to Mikey, I sent him the songs and he dug them. We sort of expanded from there. It’s just been this kind of whirlwind since. It’s come to levels that I never really thought it would, it’s awesome.
Where did the name Black Sky Research come from?
L: In this period of me writing, I was obviously spending the day doing my research, but then at night when I was doing my song writing I was going out and sitting and having a cup of tea or a beer. I’d be sitting, looking up at the stars and put my headphones on, while listening to my demos – I’d call it my black sky research so that’s where the name came from. We’re quite Sci-Fi, nerdy kind of guys really. That idea of black sky research and then coming up with a scenario and world and stuff like was what drove a lot of the influence at the end really.
Mikey: And Star Wars was already taken so we just used Black Sky Research.
Lockdown has been crazy and thrown a lot of challenges for us all, how did it impact your creative process and recording together?
M: With BSR, the kind of interesting thing beside starting a new band and all that kind of thing was we’re all at points in our lives where we have our own spheres of existence that go on independently of anything BSR. Everyone has careers, kids, families, responsibilities and that kind of thing. We wanted to create an environment with BSR where we could have a creative outlet and a way to get nerdy and get musically creative. A big part of Black Sky was for us to find a way to create an environment where we could be creative and have a good time, fully in the knowledge that we weren’t going to be able to see each other every week for a couple of times to practice, write or whatever it was for. It’s kind of worked out pretty well for us. Once in a while, Luke lights the beacon, and we all get together to do some actual recording in person and hanging out, I’m looking forward to doing more of that once were past this scenario we’re currently in.
L: We have quite a novel approach to coming up with creative ideas. Me and Mikey have had these nights where we’ve sat on the phone for like two and a half hours just nerding out basically. Coming up with these absolutely wild scenarios for where the story behind One was going to go. For me that’s absolutely awesome, it creates this world in your head. That’s quite awesome really, being able to have this chat with Mikey. I know what his lyrics are gonna be like based on having this nerd out kind of thing.
There’s not been much of a live music scene this year, when it hopefully comes back to life a bit more next year is there a dream festival or venue you’d love to play?
M: Just one with doors and people in it to be honest. BSR is such a beautifully infant thing for us. We have all sorts of ideas for what we’d like to do. You can go with the stereotypical dreams of how it would be great to do a full BSR production at Alexandra Palace or Wembley, but to actually get the songs out there, to let them digest with listeners and then just to play a show in which we can manifest these tunes into a real show, regardless of venue – that will be pretty special in itself, because it’ll be our first show.
Who are the main musical influences for BSR?
L: Well, it’s quite a weird dynamic really. I listen to loads of music personally. I listen to like Jazz and stuff. It sounds weird really because I’ve always said about this whole story aspect to the songs. Us coming up with these worlds and writing to that. I’m sort of influenced by scoring, so, Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson Williams. Some of these amazing soundtracks to these films. That whole cinematic vibe. I love the way it properly shows dynamic and emotion in songs.
M: For me I couldn’t honestly pinpoint one artist or band really. You know I’ve spent the last few years a bit detached from my rock roots in terms of what I’ve been listening to. Purely from an experience sort of thing, I just wanted to feel the vibes in other areas of the musical spectrum. But I don’t think anything had a real direct influence more than the music Luke created really did. There was no contrived moment of we’ve gotta sound like this person, or this band. That’s kind of nice as it takes away expectations as to what the music or what the lyrics may sound like. They are what they are, and they play their part as well as any other part of the tune.
It must give you a lot more freedom and make you feel more relaxed that there’s not the pressure to make sure you sound a certain way in relation to any other release?
M: Absolutely. Unless you’re someone who is specifically making a living or absolutely loving being in one specific genre, or style or one thing that really ticks the boxes with the audience. Having something like that on top of the multitude of other elements that you have to think of during creation and practice and writing, it just adds another area of strain or confusion and stress or pressure that really doesn’t have to exist. Being in younger bands, you’ll end up having these ridiculous conversations of like “So what are we going to sound like, or we can’t play that, or we can’t write a song like that because we’ve done ten songs that sound like this.” That does nothing but stem the flow of what’s essentially naturally coming when a group of people put their heads together and start to create.
L: Just on top of that, really you just know what sounds awesome to you. If you really love the way a song sounds, don’t restrict that just do it.
You mentioned earlier having phone calls where you create this whole universe, what else goes into creating a story telling EP?
M: BSR has been research in its very core really. Neither of us have ever really done anything like this before. I couldn’t tell you if we’ve absolutely nailed this kind of thing. There will be people who’ve been doing this for 10, 15 years and will say we’ve missed a bit of that. But that’s stuff that were slowly gonna discover or work out as BSR continues. I think something that’s really worked for us is that the music has had that cinematic element. It’s had that pre-existing emotion within the songs pre lyrics and vocals. That helped very much to dictate mood and what space you have to write within. There were lots of times for us where I’d go out for walk for miles and miles and listen to the songs over and over again just to kind of get into the head space of them. I think, Luke put the colours on the pallet and then it’s about picking the right colours for the right moments and the right spaces within the songs.
L: From a musical perspective as this whole story elaborates, you start sculpting a bit in terms of dynamics and how you want it to present itself. With One we wanted the dynamics to flow in a way that would project how the story unfolds and go through it. I think the whole thing is done in a way that’s lose enough that you don’t have to know what’s going on. You’re sculpting it in a way that gives a bit more of an immersive experience but lose enough that the listener can create their own perception of what’s going on.
M: The songs themselves do have chronological order, and we do like the idea of people listening to them in order. I was reading an article the other week that back in the day of records and not having the internet all that kind of stuff, people would buy a record, they’d sit with their headphones on laying down or chilling out whatever it was they were doing, and you’d read the lyrics, look at the album art and you’d immerse yourself in the world of the songs, and you wouldn’t be sticking it on shuffle. You’d listen to it from start to finish and because of that, there was an element wound into the fabric of how the artist must have imagined those tunes. That being said we don’t live in that era anymore, so you have an ability to stick a couple of these tunes on a playlist and hold water on their own. Going back to ambiguity, it’s adding enough into the content of the songs that you weren’t being a detriment to the catchiness or the immediacy of the song in itself as a standalone song, but to add enough that triggers points of imagination in people’s minds as they’re listening to it. Certain descriptive elements will manifest one idea in someone’s mind’s eye, and it may take the other way in someone else’s.
“I want each BSR person to be able to envision the story in their own minutely different way.”
Music is such a unique thing to everyone, you could listen to the same album as someone else but take completely different things from it.
M: Yeah, I’ve had it with songs in the past and even with these tunes, you know people will say “Who’s this song about, what’s it about? What’s the meaning behind it?” And you’ll go well what does it mean to you? You’ve paid money to come to this show because that song has resonated with you strongly. So, what does it matter what it means to me, it’s created its own version of itself in your version of things, in your feelings. Like with this, I sent it to my friend a few months ago. He is an amateur artist and he listened to the tunes and he messaged me saying “Ah dude I’m listening to the end of transmit and all I can picture is this dude on the bow of a ship like with these massive waves crashing in, thunder going off around him and all this kinda stuff” And I’m like, there’s no boats in this, there’s no sea, we’re in London. And yet that is where I kinda felt that this isn’t just our thing anymore, it’s gonna be each person’s thing depending on how they interpret the stuff that’s going on. I don’t really, especially in early stages want to step on any of that. I want your Hagrid to be yours. I want each BSR person to be able to envision the story in their own minutely different way.
How does working on BSR compare to other bands you’ve been in or projects you’ve worked on? Do you feel more at home and settled here?
L: I guess so. My musical input on this has been a lot more involved and a lot of musical projects in the past it’s probably been less so. But at the same time, with every musical project I’ve had in the past it’s been quite strategic. A bit like Mikey was saying earlier you’re writing songs for a purpose. Whereas this has been completely open. There are no restrictions. It’s pure creative freedom. So, from that perspective it’s just way more productive and way more enjoyable. The dynamic of this band is so comfortable in all aspects. There’s no pressure from anyone or anything. Having that environment is much more progressive, I think. You can quite clearly see now a direction we want to go creatively and strategically. It’s a massive benefit being able to be a bit freer.
M: I was in a band called Mallory Knox, and that band kind of had a lot of things that we’re doing with BSR in certain ways. It was very productive; it had a lot of drive and focus. It had goals to hit, and we hit a lot of those goals which is fantastic. Coming into this which is so fresh and yet so immediate, has really been quite unique. Especially as I’ve not done music to any real extent for about four years now. It’s been a really nice breath of fresh air in that regard. It’s been great. Because it’s still in its infancy, you have that prospect of that excitement in where it’s going to go. Not talking in terms of success or size or anything like that. Just purely where the five people in this band and the relationships that exist in that band, the creative experience that each of those people bring to the table, where individual elements can blend together and create a new avenue that may have up until now have not been something that I, or Luke or any of the other boys have experienced. It’s got that nice uncertainty. Uncertainty sucks sometimes, but sometimes it’s pretty exciting.
Aside from the EP, is there anything else in the works for fans to look forward to?
L: We’re going into the studio in December to record a couple of singles which will form part of the second EP, then the second EP will join to finish off what’s going on in the first EP. So, this sort of time next year we’ll have an albums worth of content with the two EPs and we’ll gauge what response is and what people are liking if we do an album. Towards the end of next year, if it’s possible we’ll look to do some gigs.
M: They’re just going to have to enjoy the EP. It’s all we can guarantee at the moment. I want people to immerse themselves in it, I want people to digest it. Those people who are vibing with it and have got that imagination we kind of cross the bridge there, maybe we’ll try to get some fans involved with concept art and stories.
One is out now. Listen below: