INTERVIEW: The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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If, like myself, you have ever wondered who the most unique, provocative and tallest act you’ll ever come across in your lifetime are, your search will come to a  stop at Darlington electro Goth duo The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens, made up of Goy Boy McIlroy frontman David Saunders and “electro-sex-wizard” Rob Irish.

“The Black Sheep is a musical concept project narrating the life of Frederick Dickens, Charles’ younger brother.” Saunders explains. “He turned to drinking, womanising, gambling and was eventually severed from the family. He slowly started to descend into poverty and addiction, and we’ve taken this narration and drawn parallels to modern living.”

The first single to be released from the upcoming EP Shrines gives us a brief glimpse into the brooding, dystopian world that the two have created. Upon listening, there are hints of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, odes of the experimental uneasiness of Scott Walker’s collaboration with Sunn O))), pulled together with raw North Eastern magic. “Rob plays the piano, then on top of that we’ve added synthetic and organic samples that we’ve recorded around the town. It’s inspired by the town, so we wanted to reflect that in the music.” Saunders says.

The instrumental aspect also reflects the old-meets-new idea. “We’ve taken stringed instruments from that Dickensian-era like harpsichords, then we have synths and new stuff which is obviously very modern. It’s yet another parallel. I thought of the name when I was walking around the cemetery where Frederick was buried, ‘The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens’ was a great name for a band, but then I thought to myself, you could go greater than that. Not just a band, it could be a statement.” Beams Saunders. He and Irish don’t like to describe themselves as a band, but more of a project which joins music, art and performance together to create a totally immersive experience.

Shrines gives us a brief glimpse into the brooding, dystopian world that the two have created

The concept is of great importance: “The songs are things that I’ve been through,” Saunders notes, “I’m always putting myself into it, I’ve been through these things like sibling rivalry, drinking, and feeling you’ve wasted your life; we’ve all dealt with regret. These are issues that transcend time,” Irish adds, “from an audience perspective, these are things that can hopefully transfer to the listener, where they can take something from it or draw parallels with themselves.”

Frederick’s legacy taught through the visions of TBSFD, can teach us about ourselves as a society. “We could’ve done Charles Dickens’ life story, but it wouldn’t have worked as well. There wasn’t that tragedy aspect, it wouldn’t have explored humanity as much as Frederick’s did. People love this whole idea of good versus evil, the dark and the light. Look at Return of The Jedi – families fall out, they depart – where you go from there is your own choice.”

The duo’s live show is as engaging as their concept; Saunders’ wandering storytelling juxtaposes with Irish’s more static musical assaults, making for an unusual, highly original and somewhat sinister performance. It’s what Frederick would’ve wanted.

The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens play Darlington’s Music Box Festival on Sunday 5th June and Stockton’s Green Room on Saturday 9th July. Shrines is available as a free download via Bandcamp from 6th June.

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