“It’s soulful, it’s captivating, it’s magnetic.” Those were the words BBC Introducing presenter Ollie Winiberg spoke just after playing Black Pines’ newest single, “Heaven’s Son”.
Black Pines had barely been on the scene two minutes (or more accurately, two songs) before they were snapped up by BBC Introducing, scoring a play on their local radio station in Essex.
Winiberg went on to congratulate the band by saying, “Lyrics are great, production’s great, chord progression’s great – like what is actually wrong with that song or this band?”
This promising new band comprises of Tom Clark as the lead vocalist, Connor Sheehan on keys, guitarist Jake Ringsell, and drummer Jamie Abela. The band got together when cousins Clark and Ringsell started writing together in early 2019, before bringing in Ringsell’s close friend Sheehan, and previous bandmate Abela.
Just two songs and a music video into their music career, Black Pines have already managed to make quite an impression.
“You’ve done an amazing job of combining, almost like a classical intro [with] that heavy rock, and the swing, and the soul”, Winiberg went on, “Conquering lots of different markets, in just three minutes fourteen seconds. Very clever and not easy to do”.
To top off his glowing praise, the radio presenter added, “And actually, do you know what, we like that so much that we’re going to get in touch with you about coming on for a live session here on BBC Music Introducing in Essex”.
They couldn’t have hoped for a better reception from their first radio play. Expressing how pleased and surprised he was at the radio DJ’s comments, lead singer Tom Clark says: “It’s very rare on these Introducing shows that they even mention anything after playing your song”. He continues, “So when he said what he said and offered us to come in for a live session, we were over the moon as a band – it was superb”.
The song that made such an impression, “Heaven’s Son”, takes a classic, older sound as it’s basal structure, and renovates it with modern tools. Clark mentions the band’s collective influences, highlighting the bluesy, soulful sounds, as well as hints of gospel that they have blended together in this song.
“We’ve all tried to purposely put [these sounds] into the music“, he says, “But at the same time, we don’t want to just carbon copy that classic sound [from] forty or fifty years ago“.
In order to bring it to life in a contemporary environment, it was necessary to “wrap it in a modern blanket”, says Clark, which inevitably draws in an entirely new collection of influences.
In this way, rather than creating a “carbon copy”, “Heaven’s Son” is a stunning example of repurposing an older sound to create something new. The resulting track, as Winiberg observed, appeals to a multitude of different markets and genres.
As well as this creative ability to blend timelines and genres, the band also has other skillsets amongst its members, which help them to bring their music to life.
Lead singer Tom Clark comments, “Jake being a videographer and director is a massive asset to our band in terms of content and shooting our first music video recently. It was absolutely awesome. And Connor, with his producer cap when he puts that on, is very, very handy, and it enables us to translate our ideas really well to [other] producers“.
He goes on with a touch of humour, “I don’t think I have any other skillsets other than singing, because I’m completely useless… and Jamie is very good at making watches… so yeah”.
Watch-making capabilities aside, Clark reflects on how advantageous it is to be less reliant on third parties throughout the music production and video-making processes: “I really do think it makes a difference, having those skillsets in the band. Especially with the music video”, he says.
“If we had gone to a third party and tried to do a music video and not had as much creative control, and left [our artistic ideas] to [the third parties’] own interpretation, we might not have got what we wanted. And obviously it would have been a lot more expensive as well”, he adds.
The music video that Clark mentions, accompanies the band’s first single, “Hope”. Directed and edited by filmmaker and Black Pines guitarist Jake Ringsell, the band were able to visually express the precise mood and meanings that the song encapsulates.
“We had a loose narrative for the video”, Clark explains. “It was supposed to echo the lyrics and break the fourth wall by having a band in the middle of a photo shoot or music video who were being despondent and unengaging and distant from what was going on around them”.
Indeed, the music video summons the viewer into the midst of an icy, bare and largely monochrome film set, where the band members drift with hardened expressions and a distinct passivity about them. Clark explains how it “reflects the obstinate nature of the person in the lyrics who’s not willing to listen, not willing to engage”.
He continues, “Really the song is about trying to convince somebody to be optimistic and to recognise that there is hope, […] and then having to walk away from that person because they failed“.
Although having such control over the band’s first music video was a great opportunity, Clark also points out that it was largely out of necessity.
In the current climate of the music industry, he says, “a lot more people are doing things themselves and I think a lot of the bigger labels tend to expect you to already be at a certain level now before they even consider taking you on and investing in your music“.
And to get things done yourselves, of course, you need money. Ultimately, self-producing their music video made it financially possible. Clark names financial constraints as the number one obstacle for new artists today.
“It’s expensive“, he says simply. “And there’s no other way around it. If you’re trying to get your songs recorded, trying to produce content, music videos, buy equipment, go on tour, it’s expensive”.
In some ways, however, the music industry today is easier to navigate than it used to be. By nature, it is more conducive to the kind of part-time music making that Black Pines participate in, where 9-5s can still be maintained.
“We all have full times jobs at the moment”, says Clark.
“And I certainly think that in the music industry nowadays, it’s far easier to release music – not that that music may get anywhere or earn you anything, but it’s a lot easier to get your art out there with all of the different platforms.
Whereas ten or fifteen years ago you probably would have had to tour relentlessly before you even started making any money. So I suppose it’s a lot easier to be able to work and try and pursue a musical career“.
Black Pines’ own pursuit is certainly off to a promising start, with a third track in production, as well as some important dates being announced shortly: “We’ve just put together a bunch of shows, just local to begin with“, Clark reveals.
“We want our first gigs to be local; we want to try and build a bit of a buzz in our local areas“. With performances booked in for mid spring in venues across Chelmsford, Colchester and Southend, Black Pines will soon be making their first live appearances.
Keep tabs on Black Pines: Instagram // Spotify
Words by Jodie Sheehan