“We were the poster children for a band getting popular on the Internet,” laments Reggie Youngblood, the 39-year-old frontman of momentary rock stars Black Kids, who will finally return this September with a second LP. A decade ago, the Jacksonville, Fla., quartet became a blog-hype success story a few months after forming, thanks to the whip-smart indie-pop single “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You.” The group’s first EP, 2007’s Wizard of Ahhhs, was named best new music by Pitchfork; soon after, the band signed with Columbia Records, drew a big crowd at Coachella and toured internationally.
Yet just as quickly, Black Kids — Youngblood, sister Ali Youngblood, Dawn Watley and Owen Holmes — were dismissed by the same sites that built them up. Partie Traumatic, the group’s 2008 debut album, received a 3.3 out of 10 on Pitchfork, and the notorious review consisted of one word: “Sorry.” The album sold just 5,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Music, and within two years, Black Kids had parted ways with Columbia.
Meanwhile, the touring schedule had become too much for the group to handle (Reggie says he “tried to leave the band due to exhaustion”), and a follow-up album was put on hold. “I felt like we had dreamt it all,” says Ali, 34. “When I look back at interviews or shows, I’m like, ‘Was I there? Did that really happen?’ ” During the hiatus, Ali worked in a Jacksonville dentist’s office, and Reggie made ends meet as a barista while playing in the pop group Blunt Bangs and writing songs for a possible Black Kids return. “It wasn’t until 2015 where I felt like we could [make] a record that we would feel good about,” says Reggie. He called in Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes) to co-produce the album in Athens, Ga., and the project’s title, Rookie, suggests a fresh start for the re-formed group. Songs like joyful opener “Iffy” and Smiths-esque “If My Heart Is Broken” showcase a need to be “a little more earnest and not as bratty as the first [album],” says Reggie.
Black Kids will self-release Rookie on Sept. 15 — Reggie likens another major-label deal to “paralysis” — and will tour the West Coast for the following two weeks. “We went through puberty,” says Ali of the band’s return. “We survived our musical acne, and here we are.”