Black Map is a band not all of our readers may be familiar with. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to them?
This is Mark Engles (guitarist) from Black Map. We formed in San Francisco, CA after myself and Ben Flanagan (bass, vocals) had started conversations about wanting to write and play a bit more brash and heavy music again. My other band, Dredg, and his other band The Trophy Fire, were both on a bit of a break. For us the perfect drummer we had in mind was Chris Robyn, who was in Far, and we mutually knew. After we begged him to join, he finally agreed and we started the early writing sessions for our first release in 2013. We’re now about to release our second LP on March 10, 2017.
All three of you were active in the San Francisco alternative scene before you came together in Black Map. Looking back, what was the moment in which you knew you wanted to make music in this formation?
Yes, Chris and I had shared show bills together in the late 1990s and Ben and I had become great friends in San Francisco from the rock scene here. We didn’t start playing together with grandiose visions for the band, but after our first demo recording session, we really felt we had something worth continuing on with.
Despite the fact that you’re just a trio, the music sounds very powerful and big in a lot of ways. In which way did you try to avoid the usual traps of making music with just three musicians?
I think we all bring something into the project that can make us sound a bit larger. Ben has been a guitar player for most of his life, so his bass tone and playing more closely fills the role of another deeper guitar. He’s also so adept at playing the parts while singing. He’s not one to ‘cheat’ the bass line or go to lowest common denominator. The bass and guitar parts are very often doubling each other. With my years in dredg, I’ve always loved the challenge of making my guitar parts sound like more than just one guitar with the effects and parts I use. Then with Chris’ drumming, it’s just naturally big. He’s heavy handed, if you will.
The album seems to be building up in some way, guessing from the three specific ‘transit’ tracks along the way. Is there some overall theme to ‘In Droves’?
There is a theme running through the album, but by no means is it a concept album or overly focused. We live in San Francisco and the Bay Area and it’s a very dynamic place which has changed for the positive and negative quite rapidly. Ben is the lyricist, but he’s always very transparent with us about the direction he’s leaning for the lyrics on certain songs. There are a lot ideas concerning the sheep like nature that has come with the big money tech firms that have become commonplace here in San Francisco, but also the beauty and timeless art and nature that surrounds us here to keep us in balance. That for me is the ambiguous them of ‘In Droves’. For me, it’s always important for listeners to take their own ideas from the music they enjoy as well.
Were there specific things you wanted to do different after your debut album, three years ago?
We definitely wanted to progress from ‘And We Explode’ when we started writing for ‘In Droves’. We also had more time for the writing process. This meant as individuals we could dig a bit deeper into our influences and ideas for song styles and sound. We don’t feel that ‘In Droves’ is a huge departure at all from the first EP and LP, but we feel our sound has absorbed these other influences smoothly, and that the new album shows that diversity.
You’ve been able to tour the United States quite extensively with Chevelle recently. Have you been able to make people even more enthusiastic about ‘In Droves’?
We’re so grateful to our friends, Chevelle. We’ll always happily and graciously share the stage with them. We have definitely noticed a growing response for us at the live shows from our first tours with them in 2014 to the most recent one in early 2017. The new songs from ‘In Droves’ have gone over well with their fans.
After three years, is Black Map here to stay? Or will there be a moment in which the focus could shift back to your original bands, Far, Dredg and The Trophy Fire?
Black Map is definitely here to stay. That being said, it’s not unusual to have multiple projects in one’s life. It will be a challenging but exciting balance of timing and inspiration.
Are there certain things you hope to achieve in the upcoming years with Black Map? Certain shows or venues you want to play in?
We want to headline Wembley by the end of 2017! No, I kid. Of, course we have many goals for the next years or so. We’re already happy with the response to ‘In Droves’ and hoping to grow the story as well as we can. There are many places we’d love to play all over the world. Hopefully in due time.
What will be your plans after releasing ‘In Droves’? Will there be extensive touring in the upcoming months?
There should be another video from ‘In Droves’ coming soon, as well as other promotional tidbits here and there. We’re about to start a pretty big run of shows in the U.S. supporting acts such as Nothing More and Chevelle, with some other tours in development stages. On a basic level, we feel a lot of people would enjoy our style of music and hope to get it out there so they can decide for themselves.
Will there be a chance for the Black Map fans in The Netherlands to see you guys perform live anytime soon?
We hope to get back to Europe, which was so great to us in 2014/2015, as soon as possible. We’d loooove to hit The Netherlands. It’s always a great show and time there. Melkweg, Amsterdam?
Well, that's about it for this time. If I forgot some important feature of what's going on within the band please feel free to add it here.
Thank you so much for supporting Black Map. Hope to see you in The Netherlands soon!