Interview: Black Svan – “I like people to find their own interpretations within the lyrics”

Photos by Adam Ellison (Adam Ellison Photography)
It’s been three months since Irish metal band Black Svan released their first full length album, ’16 Minutes’. This weekend, they enter a competition to earn a spot on Bloodstock Open Air’s lineup.

Check out our review of 16 Minutes here.


We caught up with Black Svan’s lead singer, Keith Caffrey, for an update on the band.


In October you released your first album, ’16 Minutes’, how has the feedback been and how has it affected you as a band?

The feedback’s been great! We were really surprised with how well it did on charts and stuff like that. It went to #3 in the iTunes Rock Chart and #2 in the [iTunes] metal chart. You can’t really ask for much better than that really – but what that actually means; not a whole lot really. It’s bragging rights, more than anything. Yes, you get your percentages from iTunes once every quarter, but that’s all it is really. We broke in to the top 20 of the Independent Irish chart, as well. That was quite nice for a metal band to do. 

How did the band approach writing new music for the album?

The album, from day one, is something we always wanted to do. That was our goal. ‘Sickness’ was an early song we did – the first song we ever recorded. ‘Rule the World’ was another one we had very early on. Obviously, they’ve been tweaked a little bit over the years. Everyone’s involved in the writing. It’s not just an Ulrich-Hetfield job where two people write and that’s it… everyone helps out. I’d write all the lyrics, but the guys might give a suggestion. The music comes first, though. I actually ad-lib a lot. I’d go over to, maybe,  Mo [Clifford]’s house to hear a rough version of the song. He’ll play it to me, and whatever comes out, comes out. We’ll do, maybe, five to ten takes in a row and between them, whatever’s on my mind, whatever the story comes from, it’s there within those takes. A line might come out better in one take than another, so I’d think that this line sounds awesome here and I’d take it out and tweak it to make it better. Each song does have meaning to it. My inspiration from childhood would’ve been Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains, but I also liked the heavier stuff too like Black Sabbath or Metallica. But what I always liked about Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains was that the lyrics weren’t obvious. I like people to find their own meanings. With ‘Sickness’ you might get one guy saying “it’s about drugs”, or another saying “no it’s about depression”.  I know what the song means to me, but I like people to find their own interpretations within the lyrics.


(Jagger Murray)

Recently, you toured with Fozzy and shared a stage with Diamond Head. How have these experiences shaped Black Svan’s live performances?

Touring definitely helps any band. I would say before any band records an album they should try and tour. That’s when you realize if and how you should tweak a song. We’re really happy with how our album came out, but if you can’t back that up live then you’re leading everyone towards total disappointment. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a song and thought, “that’s awesome”, then you see the band live and you’re kind of disappointed. We’d like to think we can back our record up as best as we can live. Playing the songs over and over and to different crowds makes you realize what works live. For example, in ‘Rule The World’ I come straight in, whereas at one stage it would have had a build up with something like four rounds of an intro.


You also recently supported Kerbdog in The Academy in Dublin. There are hundreds of great Irish acts coming out of the woodwork today, are there any that stand out to you at the moment?

There is a couple. A lot of them would, kind of, be my friends or acquaintances.. Words That Burn are great, and are sort of doing something different as well. Lace Weeper are also really good. If you haven’t seen them live – definitely go see them live! Bands like Vile Regression or Theories Divide are also great. There’s loads of good Irish bands. The problem is, there’s no one backing them up. I know you guys did an article on us but other magazines seem a bit blind to the fact that there’s a hugely active metal scene in Ireland. What angers me about music is it’s all the same crap… There’s too much indie-rock. It all sounds the same, there’s no originality! People are going through tough times, people are depressed, why are these fuckers so happy all the time? 

We were talking about metal bands just there – you’re in a competition currently to earn a spot on Bloodstock’s lineup alongside huge names including Trivium, Within Temptation and Rob Zombie. How are you preparing for the competition?

We’ve been rehearsing a lot. What helps us is that when you have your tracks finished, it makes everything a lot tighter. You know, you’re listening to it at home so when you get to practice everyone knows the correct way to play it. It’s not so much a jam anymore. It’s almost like covering a song, even though they’re your own songs. We’ve heard them so many times, I mean, Jesus, ‘Sickness’ is like ‘Enter Sandman’ to us at this point. We’ve gigged that all across Europe in 2010, we’ve been playing it a long time. That doesn’t mean we don’t put the same into it when we’re performing though! I’ll be putting everything into it, because it’d be a dream come true to play Bloodstock, it really would be. I would be disappointed if we didn’t make it through the first heat. There are other bands in it that are really good, so I’d never go into it thinking we’re gonna win. I want to earn my spot!

2015 has only just begun. What can we expect to see from Black Svan over the course of the year? Any major plans?

We do have a few things. We’re gonna do the Siege of Limerick in April, and see how the Bloodstock competition goes. We’ve kind of held off on booking ourselves any gigs until we see how the competition goes. We want to leave ourselves open, in case we are lucky enough to get through it. We also have plans to release another video before the end of the year. Also, a tour definitely has to be on the cards, along with some festival dates. 


You can catch Black Svan in Fibber Magees in Dublin on Saturday 24th January as they perform as part of the Metal 2 The Masses competition to earn a coveted slot in Bloodstock Festival. They’ll also be playing at the Siege of Limerick festival on April 5th.


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