Brett comes up to me and says, “Dude, I just had the most awkward conversation.”
Article by Alan Jeleric
We are both baristas at a local coffee shop and he was inviting a customer of ours to his band’s show when she interrupted asking, “You really don’t remember me?” Now the first thing that usually comes to mind when somebody says this is, of course, “oh shit did I sleep with and then forget this person?” And whether are not that was the case, he still isn’t sure. But as it did turn out, she was in a music video for the very band that he was promoting, Black Blinds. He then told me about the scene that she was in, dubbing it “a lesbian make-out sesh.” I asked if it was a music video or an orgy. He responded with, “Both.”
And it is in this sexual tension where Black Blinds’ music resides. Their music is lusty and trance inducing. It is music with which to numb one self, forget the past, and blur the present. They want you to be in the moment. Brett Helke breathes heartbreakingly haunting vocals over dreamy and textured synth pop created by his co-conspirator Rob Divinny. With degrees of spastic intensity and catchy hooks, the ecstasy the music incites truly transports one to the dark and chimerical world they are creating.
Talking with Brett about the music, he mentioned how John Carpenter was a huge influence. It makes total sense given the 80’s retro-gothic nature of the music and their affinity for creepy visuals during their sets. I asked Rob about this and he said that film scores had always intrigued him growing up. He specifically mentioned the scores from Halloween and Escape From New York, describing them as “eerie” saying that he “loved the synth tones.” Rob continued, “Watching Film helped me with the writing process on our album, I bought a projector and blasted Enter The Void and other obscure movies on my wall for days, all while coming up with music for songs like Morphine and Night Terrors.” (The opening and closing tracks on their self-titled album, respectively)
And it certainly translates through the music. As I sat through one of their practices an eeriness fell over me as if the songs themselves are séances. And this is aside from the imagery Helke conjures with his morbid lyrics. He told me that “he didn’t want to write love songs anymore,” but wanted to focus on “nightmares and grotesque love scenes.” It’s sex and cemeteries, probably something you’d find playing on the iPod of a succubus.
Prior to their rehearsal, I asked Rob about the break-up of Fall of Transition, the band the two were in prior to this, and after a couple of awkward laughs, Brett says, “Yeah, it ended badly.” As they vaguely discussed that falling out, Rob recounted how they disbanded that project to write songs for a label in LA. It was here where things soured between them, but the experience would lay the groundwork for what would become Black Blinds. Rob mentioned how he went to a very dark place, and even gave up writing music altogether. The two hadn’t really spoken in years, when they ran into each other back home, here in Norfolk. As soon as Brett heard the music Rob was making, he wanted to be a part of it, and the two picked up were they left off.
In all the musical comparisons made to them, no one brings up Emo. Fall of Transition was of that mid 90’s Jadetree/Deep Elm sound, and you can still here traces of Emo’s influence in Rob’s music and more prominently in the vocals and lyrics, which can be melodramatic at times, Usually they are compared to Depeche Mode and NIN, but the similarities are superficial. They are very consciously tapping into the 80’s new wave sound, and Brett mentioned Peter Murphy as having a huge influence on his singing of late. But as I listened to them over and over I began to realize that they are channeling early Gary Numan. Rob confirmed this by telling me he had been listening to the Pleasure Principle, particularly the track M.E. to get the tones in his own synth tracks for the album. The keys on Unholy Savior echo Numan uncannily. As for the Depeche Mode nod, my partner tells it best, “When you’re at the club trying to bring someone home, Black Blinds is bumpin’ through the speakers, it’s not till you get home when you put Depeche Mode on.”
You may wake up the next morning however with not much recollection of the prior evening.
4 more on the band visit: blackblindscult.com
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
Contact us. for advertising opportunities.