Blackyear began two years ago with a batch of songs written by singer Chris Lashelle while he was living in San Diego and unhappy. “I was first starting to realize things suck,” he says. “And I was getting depressed. And my brothers said, ‘Oh, you’re just having a black year, stick it out,’ and they stuck with me, so I stuck with it.”
“Now it’s 10 years later,” says guitarist Eric Myer.
“Black decade,” concludes guitarist Jason Brounstein with a laugh.
Lashelle grew up in Reno, moved away after high school, and moved back with the intention of starting a band. And though he had the name picked out and the first few songs written, the band has subsequently become a much more organic songwriting entity, with guitarists Myer and Brounstein, as well as bassist Beau Dean and drummer Luke Hendricks all contributing songwriting ideas.
The band’s sound is muscular but flexible. Fans of post-hardcore indie rock, like Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker or Archers of Loaf, will like what they hear. Lashelle’s vocals are agreeably gruff, and the rhythm section gallops along with a tight fist on the reins. The guitarists blend in a compelling way: Brounstein plays classic Gibson SG-through-a-Marshall amp crunch, and Myer provides arpeggios and melodic, digital delay-based leads. It makes for a thick sound that, after a beer or two, will doubtless get fists pumping.
Though the band’s primary influences are clearly of the post-hardcore indie rock variety, there are also some hints of metallic and progressive tastes. One working definition of prog rock—progressive rock—is songs that seem long, even when they’re not. Usually this perceived length comes from the complexity of the music and the number of changes in the song structure. And Blackyear has some songs with unusual dynamic shifts and surprising changes.
Though Lashelle sings lead on all the songs, the other members provide brothers-in-arms back-up vocals that add an extra lift to the anthemic vocal hooks, as well as a feeling of camaraderie to the songs. This is a band comprised of close friends and entertaining personalities.
Hendricks says that Lashelle, unlike many vocalists, doesn’t take a backseat while the instrumentalists are composing their parts, but is right there with the rest of the band, improvising lyrics and vocal melodies.
“Usually a song will have a feeling and something will pop in my head,” says Lashelle.
“Like, ‘I want Doritos,’” suggests Brounstein.
This inspires Lashelle to start talking about some of his favorite foods. “I love pizza,” he says. “I actually have a pizza out in my car right now.”
“Did you really just give your pizza a shout-out?” asks Brounstein.
Blackyear will be celebrating the release of their debut album, Strength over Callous, with a performance with Reno weirdos Manacle and San Diego band Dynamite Walls at Lincoln Lounge on Saturday, June 20. The record release party is also the opening reception for an exhibition of new paintings by local artist Jaxon Northon (see page 17). The album’s title sums up one of the primary themes of Lashelle’s autobiographical lyrics: the emotional risk involved in overcoming hard times.