Voices Carry; An interview with John Gill of The Black Ships

Saratoga Springs, NY, is known more for its championship horseracing, majestic state park and distinct mineral water than its music scene, which largely consists of tourist-driven cover bands to ignore at the bars downtown. However, not since the heyday of The Figgs has there been as proud a representation to the sonic promise of this most historic town in the Empire State than The Black Ships.
This particular combination of Black Ships on hand for the creation of Dead Empires —including John Gill on lead vocals, bass, and guitar/synth, Greg Tebbano on lead guitar, lead synth and backup vocals, bassist David Ochal and drummer Ben Patten—is just the right band to let the public know their area is the new breeding ground for American dark romance.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Gill to discuss the record, which was self-released on December 4.
When did you begin writing the material for Dead Empires?
Everything started to come together late 2013, early 2014 for the bulk of the music. On the lyrics I am always writing stuff so some material for that was almost two or three years old but it didn’t get put together and tweaked until mid 2014.
Which of the songs on the LP is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Sea of Cortez” came out way faster as more of a indie rock song than the original demo which had a slower shoegaze feel similar to when the rain falls.
“Twice Born” is a really interesting song, lyrically. It appears to be dealing with depression and dreams, with talk of the “bloodstained coast” of Ostia. Could you shed a little light about what the song is about?
Ostia was an ancient Roman seaport located right outside of the city of Rome. It has a very colorful history including some battles during Sulla’s first civil war, it was also sacked by pirates and in more recent history was the location Italian filmmaker Pier Pasolini was murdered.
On a trip abroad a few years ago, I wanted to get away by myself one day, away from my travel companions. I visited the Roman ruins located there as well Pasolini’s memorial, it was early morning, very foggy, the whole place had a very eerie and foreboding atmosphere. I kept having dreams about the place for weeks after I returned to the states where I would meet a hooded figure in the fog. We would be drinking wine and they would speak to me in these strange riddles, I don’t usually remember what I dream of, but when I do they are strange.
We hear a lot of obvious ’80s bands in your music. Are there any current bands that you consider influences?
We love The Yips and Zex from Canada, also Belgrado from Spain is just wicked and the latest Libertines release is pretty damn good.
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