The first chapter of the Black Kids' story reads like an indie rock fairy tale. Plucked from Jacksonville, Fla., after their demo impressed Pitchfork and the blogosphere, the band found itself the toaThe first chapter of the Black Kids' story reads like an indie rock fairy tale. Plucked from Jacksonville, Fla., after their demo impressed Pitchfork and the blogosphere, the band found itself the toast of the 2007 CMJ Music Marathon after only a handful of shows under their white belts.
Even the New York Times weighed in on the band's prospects, and blog chatter increased 900% in a matter of days, according to Nielsen Buzz Metrics.
"We were literally just plucked from Jacksonville and thrown in front of a crowd," drummer Kevin Snow says. "And it just kept going. At this point, we haven't been home in nearly a year."
A management deal with Quest Management was inked the week of CMJ, and record deals with Almost Gold in the United Kingdom and Columbia in the United States followed. The band then decamped to London to record with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.
The result is "Partie Traumatic," which arrived July 22 in the States; it was released July 7 in the United Kingdom and debuted at No. 5 there after selling 14,000 copies, according to the Official U.K. Charts Co. The singles "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You" and "Hurricane Jane" reached Nos. 11 and 36, respectively, on the U.K. Singles chart. BBC Radio 1 has helped drive the U.K. campaign, with "Hurricane Jane" scoring enough airplay to rank in the top 20 the week of July 14.
"Starting in the U.K. happened really naturally," Snow says. "The U.K. has a tremendous appetite for new music, and we were also influenced by a lot of English bands, so it was a good fit."
Both band and label dealt with the hype by trying to play it down. "There are still lots of people just discovering the band," says the group's marketing manager at Columbia, Jason Hradil. "They will certainly be able to develop an audience beyond bloggers." Two other bands that started in a similar position have gone on to do quite well; Vampire Weekend's self-titled XL album debuted at No. 17 with 28,000 copies sold in January and has shifted 266,000 to date, and Fleet Foxes' self-titled Sub Pop debut landed at No. 83 with 8,000 in June and is at 38,000 in less than a month.
The band has a solid record to back it all up. "Partie Traumatic" bounces along poppily, driven by keyboards and singalong choruses. Lead singer Reggie Youngblood lets his wordplay run free on the witty "I've Underestimated My Charm (Again)" and lets his unabashed love for the '80s shine through on "Listen to Your Body Tonight."
"We had the record pretty much written before CMJ," Snow says. "That was really helpful, because we were able to go straight to the studio and start laying down tracks." Those tracks include rerecorded versions of the band's four original demo songs, along with six new cuts.
Now the focus is on developing the Black Kids' live show. Snow admits that "CMJ was a train wreck," but says, "We've worked hard on becoming a much tighter live act, and we've gotten over our nervousness."
Through the end of August, the band has scattered international and North American shows on tap, including a host of European festival appearances and a set at Lollapalooza in Chicago. A proper fall North American tour, booked by the Windish Agency and featuring fellow buzz band the Virgins, gets under way Sept. 19 in Jacksonville.
"I feel like we're still on an upward slope," Snow says. "I'm excited to be able to play now that the new record is out, because people will be able to sing along with all the songs."