A pop, rock, industrial band based in New York City. Drawing on the differing influences of each unique member, Echo Black sets out to make evocative and visceral music you can feel in your bones. We caught up with them while they were preparing for their tour with Combichrist and The Birthday Massacre…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Photographer Samantha Nandez, Stylist Victor Hugo, Make-up Gabe Fuller, Hair Raquel Giron
Where were you born and where are you now?
Danny Blu: I was born in New Jersey and moved to NYC in September of 2008 right out of high school.
Felix Skiver: Born in NJ, chilling in NJ for the moment
Rob Gnarly: I was born in New Jersey, where I haven’t quite managed to escape from yet.
Billy Long: I was born in Dover, New Jersey. Currently I live in Manhattan.
New York is the center of the universe, such an amazing place to be located. As an artist how has NY influenced you?
Danny: New York has shaped every facet of my art and of my world in general. It is a tough town and I’ve watched a lot (A LOT) of people be torn apart by it. In order to thrive, you have to be the absolute best version of yourself and have a very thick skin. If LA is all based on looks, NYC is based on talent. And that ranges from nightlife to music to theater to the service industry to corporate work and beyond. Being around that kind of hunger and the people who possess it changes you. It either scares you away, or fuels you. It makes you step up your game. “If I don’t do it, someone else will, so I better do it.” There’s also a fantastic sense of camaraderie in the underground music scene. People actually really do want to help each other out and see each other succeed. I think there’s an underlying sense of loyalty as well. “We’re in this boat together. If one of us makes it, we do our best to help everyone around us.”
Skiver: In NYC, you can pass by amazing things and not even realize it. Things are always changing and it’s not for everyone, but there’s always something new to see or do. A lot of the music I’ve seen here has helped to shape the music I write.
Gnarly: A good portion of my favorite bands come from NY. Not necessarily the city, but bands like Every Time I Die from Buffalo or Taking Back Sunday/Brand New from Long Island.
Billy: New York is a city of extremes. You can experience a crippling loneliness, and overwhelming over-stimulation. You have every kind of person with every kind of story but the city’s also full of artists. The city itself is a piece of art, all you have to do for inspiration is take a second, look and listen.
Danny Blu, you were a solo artist previously, what inspired the Echo Black project?
It goes right along with the “living in NYC” thing. I had all these incredibly talented people around me: band members, stylists, photographers, makeup artists, producers, new management, art directors, and influencers. We came back from our short 2014 summer tour fueled and ready to keep moving. It was all starting to feel more and more like a band every day. I think I put a little bit of ego aside as well. We are all the same members of Danny Blu, but in a tighter, more crafted, more well rounded package. There is more input from each member now, which has only made us stronger, more vicious, hungrier, and more prepared for what we expect from the future.
Tell us the personalities of each band member:
Danny: Skiver is the young prodigy. He is barely 21 and has more musical ability than many adult musicians I know. His chops are impressive, but his humbleness is even more so. He is calm, smart, down to earth, logical, and fairly quiet. He’s the sweet, pretty one. Gnarly is our punk gamer. Jumps off of everything he can climb onto, obsesses over vinyl and vintage games, down for anything. It’s that energy that translates to his insane stage presence. Totally unstoppable. Billy is reserved upon a first impression, but has done and seen more than you can imagine. He’s also the funniest human I’ve ever met and the most loyal friend in the world. He’s the one who will sit you down and tell you you’re being a dick when you need to hear it. He’s a study of contrasts. I think that has to do with how intelligent and informed he is.
Billy: Danny I’ve known the longest, we go back to high school. Danny’s one of the handful of people I’ve been able to consistently call one of my closest friends. He’s driven, passionate, and never denies who he is. Skiver is a wild-child, he’s also (maybe not so secretly) a sweet-heart. He’s also one of the most capable, and talented guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Gnarly is a well-spring of curiosity and curiousness. He’s also one of the most dedicated musicians (and music fans) that I know. On a personal note, all of these guys have a great, vast, twisted, warped, and quick sense of humor, and that’s important.
We each have inspirations that drive us to who we are today, who would the one main one be for you?
Danny: This is always a hard question to answer. I try so hard to stay away from “David Bowie and Marilyn Manson,” but that’s really where I’m coming from. As a kid I was fascinated with the goth and rock scenes. My dad would take me to all these concerts and I would spend hours getting ready so I could fit in with the crowd. Ozzy, Manson, and Korn were my childhood favorites but it’s so mixed now with the pop scene that’s it’s hard to pick one inspiration. I want to be a mix of Alice Cooper and Lady Gaga. Performers who can write and perform and sustain it.
Skiver: It’s a bit cliché to say, but my father is the hardest working person I know. He has inspired me for a long time to work towards my goals, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Gnarly: I would just have to say live music in general. When I was 13, I ran away from military school to see The Bouncing Souls play at a nearby college. That show changed my life forever. I would say live music has continued to be the biggest influence on my musical style as well as my artistic style for years now.
Billy: I’ll say this: when I was a kid, my Mom introduced me to a movie called “Eddie and the Cruisers” (I’ll wait while you Google it) that had one of the best soundtracks I’ve still ever heard. The movie stayed with me as I grew, and I began to more understand the motivation of the protagonist (a rock musician and songwriter from New Jersey), who’s own angst got in the way of his perception of success and the world around him. It was his ultimate downfall. I was determined to not let my own angst be a roadblock; but to recognize it, utilize it when necessary, and reject it when it becomes a hurdle. It’s a daily struggle.
Your first show was June 13th, I can imagine a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the preparation. How was the outcome?
Danny: You know; it didn’t feel different until we got on the stage. It felt like any other show we’ve prepared for but something was different about the energy that night. The crowd wasn’t huge, the space wasn’t spectacular, but our collective power was flowing. I felt that it was our tightest performance to date and that we were connected as a band more than every before. I can’t wait to continue that trend with future shows.
Skiver: It was a killer show! Security didn’t love me, but I loved the show!
Gnarly: Have you ever been to the Trocadero Balcony? It is the absolute epitome of a load-in/load-out nightmare. I feel like every band should have to play there at least once to feel the pain of dragging your gear up that many stairs, because almost every other time it will be a cake walk. It was hilarious when the bouncer wouldn’t let Felix back into the venue to collect his gear after the show. He was just shy of 21 at this time, so this became a massive problem for no reason. By the time this was occurring, everyone had already cleared out and the bar had closed. I was unsure why.
You have a great winter tour coming up, what can fans expect at the live performances?
Danny: We’re going to be pulling out the big guns for this tour performing songs we’ve never performed live and haven’t even released yet. New stage concept, new soundscapes, mixed with some old favorites. We’re completely humbled to be on this tour with such respectable and prolific bands in the scene. Our job is to be true to who we are and put on an incredible show, but also to hype the crowd for what’s to come and we will.
Skiver: The lineup of us, MXMS, The Birthday Massacre, and Combichrist is an INSANE bill to begin with. We’ll be performing our favorite songs to the best of our ability, practically wrecking our bodies on the stage. The crowd is gonna dance, mosh, and hopefully give us as much energy as we’ll be giving them.
Gnarly: The cool thing about Echo Black is that we all come from different musical backgrounds with different styles of live performance. The way we play really brings the best aspects of each to the table for a new twist on how a live band should perform.
Billy: The fans we haven’t had the privilege to meet and play for yet can expect a sincere, personal performance. We put our all into each show performance and don’t leave anything off the stage. Our signatures are all over the music we play, and will leave you visually stimulated. For the fans familiar with us, we’re coming with a bigger show, better sound, and more love.
What really pisses you off in our crazy world?
Danny: People who don’t say “thank you” when you hold the door for them. Makes me want to slam the door on their hand. I hate intolerance and inequality. I hate laziness. I hate “all talk and no walk” personalities. I hate being told “no.” And I hate poor grammar.
Gnarly: I’m fairly easy going about most aspects of life, but it definitely bothers me when I see someone putting someone else down for their taste in music. Everyone is entitled to listen to whatever band that they find enjoyment in listening to. There is no real constructive purpose in trying to rob someone of that pleasure.
Billy: People who don’t enjoy the Marvel movies but in all seriousness, compassion is important. I have a very low tolerance for the intolerant. As much as that sounds like a quote from an Austin Powers movie, it’s the truth. Yours isn’t the only experience to have during this life. Be open-minded, be happy, let live, and never settle.
What would you like to see changed?
Gnarly: I would like to see more places in America making it easier for smaller bands to perform their music without having to jump through all the hoops of ticket sales and pay-to-play (to your friends).
Billy: Minimum wage. Nobody working 40 hours a week should live in poverty anywhere. Also the healthcare system in America is in desperate need of an overhaul. I’ve seen too many people I know fall into debt because of emergency medical procedures and illnesses, it’s a tragedy. Oh, and I almost forgot… LEGALIZE IT!
Could you suggest to our readers from New York the good places to go from clubs to food:
Danny: 9th Ward on the lower east side to pregame any Webster Hall show. Coopers on 8th for some of the best irish bartenders. Heights tavern if you’re on the upper west side. Slake and Industry for some good midtown club nights.
Gnarly: Tuck Shop on East 1st Street. Kind of like in Sweeney Todd, except the pies aren’t made of people. Definitely my favorite place to eat in NYC.
Billy: This is tough. I’m not much of a club-goer. I’m more of a bar-goer but on those late-nights in midtown when the bars’ kitchens are closed, Empanada Mama never disappoints.
Your top 3 favorite movies and why:
Danny: “The Matrix” because after seeing it a hundred thousand times I still find things I never noticed before. “Requiem for a Dream” because it’s visceral and terrifying. “Silence of the Lambs” because it’s perfect.
Skiver: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Oldboy (the original; not the remake), Ip Man. I like a lot of action and foreign films, and I’ve watched these 3 movies more times than I can count. I’d recommend them to everyone.
Gnarly: Aliens, Terminator 2, HP Lovecraft’s Re-animator are three movies that have stuck with me my entire life. I maintain the opinion that T2 and Aliens are the best sequels ever made. Re-animator is just an amazing depiction of one of my favorite Lovecraft stories.
Billy: Clerks because it showed me that just some kid from New Jersey can make something (and something hilarious) with a message that lasts. Back To The Future, it was the first movie that I watched that made me fall in love with music that had no lyrics (Courtesy of composer Alan Silvestri). The score of the film is treated like a character. Chaplin, if for no other reasons than being a cinematic masterpiece directed by Sir Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park’s John Hammond), and a statement to the intricate workings of an eccentric creative’s mind. It starred RDJ’s ridiculous acting chops in what I’d consider his most challenging role and he was f**king Iron Man.
Tell us all future plans you have coming:
Danny: We have our debut single and music video being released in late September. It’s something we’re incredibly proud of and worked really hard to make happen. It’s what will bridge the gap between Danny Blu and Echo Black. This is who we are as a band now and it’s moving us in the direction of our future singles. After that, we hit the road with The Birthday Massacre and Combichrist for a fall North American tour. We’ll have a couple more surprises coming up as well.
Gnarly: Buy the ticket, take the ride.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Danny: Dark beauty has always held a sexual and dangerous connotation for me. It’s temptation, sex and fantasy. I think that’s why we are drawn to the scary and the fantastical; there is something fascinating to us that we maybe can’t explain yet can feel. We, as a band, relate to that concept and exploit it. We are the sound of midnight.
Skiver: My understanding of Dark Beauty is having an air of mystery and independence. You don’t necessarily need to conform to fashion standards or brands, but you pull off your own looks in your own way. Thus making them unique; more of a statement on yourself than a statement on what you’re wearing.
Gnarly: An appeal for the rest of us.
Billy: It means hope for the concept of what I consider “Fashion.”