INTERVIEW: THE PURNELLS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Tracy Hyman

Having stepped away from the limelight to concentrate on recording their third album, Stockton’s flamboyant foursome return with a focused intent.

With previous releases having run the gamut of the rock genre, from the raw energy of debut Resurrection Men to the darker and more considered songwriting on 2014’s Half Step Into The Shadow, their new record crystalizes the band’s sound. “I think this album is very much a full circle for us,” says singer, guitarist and harmonica maestro Stu Blackburn, “hopefully this album is a fusion of the previous two, we want each album to be stronger than the last and hopefully we’ve done this.”

Having worked with Dave Curle at Newcastle’s First Avenue Studios on all their releases, the close relationship has more than paid off on Black Dog Laughing, and between them they’ve produced an album that runs wild with bold guitar lines, bluesy swathes of harmonica and punchy rhythms. “First Avenue is a great studio and working with the same producer for three years is a definite bonus,” admits Stu, “there’s a strong working relationship and he knows what we’re going for without us always having to ask.”

The bluesy wail of harmonica at the start of Alive marks it out as a rowdy, ballsy tune with massive swathes of guitar, a dramatic vocal which sits somewhere between a Chris Cornell yell and a less histrionic Matt Bellamy, while the all-out attack of Shark Eyed Man, replete with a thrumming bass line, leads to a fast and furious drum assault. This Way is a sleazy triumph, with a vocal line that slinks across stabs of fuzzy guitar, Dance With Me’s surfy melody is full of raw blustering energy and Vampires is fast and furious, with harmonica fusing with a charging guitar line to create a thrilling roller coaster of a track, one moment all low-slung bass and muted vocal and the next rocketing rhythms and rallying cries.

strong emotions should always find their way into music, there should always be substance to it

It’s a difficult album to get a beat on lyrically, but Stu admits that the album’s title – which comes from a line in the song Spiders – has a double-edged meaning. “Black Dog Laughing is a reference to depression but also a grim humour from dark situations. We never set out to directly address this, but strong emotions should always find their way into music, there should always be substance to it.”

Similarly with other themes in the record, Stu’s not adverse to a bit of political railing. “From a lyrical point of view there are many influences in the subject matter. For better or worse I like to slip a bit of politics in the odd song, as I think it’s important to speak out against things that affect you.”

Having been away from the live stage for so long, the band are raring to go at their album launch at Stockton’s Georgian Theatre on Saturday 7th November. At times an outrageous live act, it’s obvious the art of performance is something that’s very important. “Live shows have always been fun for us, I enjoy playing with people’s expectations, from wearing giant squirrel heads, war paint and ski masks, to dressing a certain way for shows. We’ve taken a long time out to record and write, so we now have 34 songs to choose from.”

The Purnells launch Black Dog Laughing at Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Saturday 7th November.


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