Memphis is home to a rich and deep musical history. That legacy of great acts is a tough thing to follow and can sometimes ward off new artists, but it hasn’t stopped Blackberry Wednesday, who instead embrace the city’s tough expectations with open arms. The genre bending band has built a buzz through some great music, heavy self promotion, and some great stage shows. With their new album, Start Again, they hope to take that leap from up and comers to bonafide headliners.
Words by Michael Mahon
How did you guys come up with the name Blackberry Wednesday for the group?
I was in a wine bar in Kansas City just hanging out and this lady sat down next to me and asked what I did for a living and I told her I was a musician and she told me she used to date this guy that was a roady for Eric Clapton. We were drinking wine and she was just carrying on she was saying back in the day the promoters would do almost anything to get good musical acts to come to their town and they would give liquor or money or whatever and one of the promoters gave them a case of blackberry wine, so she was telling me that they stayed drunk on it for like a month or so. They went to bed drinking it and woke up drinking it, and it was blackberry Monday, blackberry Tuesday, blackberry Wednesday and literally I just grabbed a napkin and jotted it down and when it came time to name the band it got thrown in the hat and it was the name that got pulled out.
About how long has it been since you picked that name, Blackberry Wednesday?
It has been about three years.
So is everybody originally from Memphis or is that just where the band happened to come together?
Everybody is not from Memphis. We have a bassist from St. Louis and our drummer is from another planet, he’s from everywhere, and I’m not technically from Memphis either, I’m from a little small town.
How has the city of Memphis connected all of you?
Well Memphis still has a great music scene and I think that all of us are just trying to follow in the footsteps of giants basically. I know I moved here because of the music scene and what happens and goes on in Memphis and it’s easy to be in a band here because there are tons of bands here. There’s lots of music going on and lots of music to play, so it’s the place to go. If you’re from the tri-state area and you want to get something going you come to Memphis.
Because of the rich musical history and the fact that the competition can be very stiff in Memphis, how hard has it been to make a name for yourselves and stand out as a band?
It’s pretty damn easy honestly. What makes it so easy is that everybody here that we hang out with or around is still hung up on alternative rock music and they all have Mohawks and eyeliner and all that stuff, and that’s just not us. We are trying to redefine classic American rock and we hope that we’re doing a good job and our music and the lack of all the antics and black finger nail polish is going to help us stand out.
How would you describe the new material that you’ve been putting out lately?
Bad ass, amazing, the best thing ever, and earth moving.
So why would you pick those words?
Because we worked our whole lives to get to this point. It’s like after you build 100 houses, your 101st house is awesome and this is our 101st house. I mean I’ve been writing songs for 15 years and I’ve learned a lot. I cut a couple of records and played with a lot of different musicians and the more you do it the better you get at it, so we just keep on doing it and we try not to let anything influence us and we try to stay real and have a good time doing it.
How do you feel about how Start Again has been received by the fans and critics?
I don’t know about critics because we can’t even get our own newspaper here to listen to the damn album. Maybe it’s getting jaded because of the history here, so you kind of have to make a name for yourself and it will take a little while before people in Memphis accept it, but everybody that has listened to our record and everybody at our shows, they go bananas for it. It’s nothing but positive feedback. We get calls from all over the country with people wanting us to come and play there and come to our town. I don’t know if you’ve been to our Myspace page, but I think we have as many friends as Brittany Spears. They like the record and we’re getting lots of great feedback from that.
What’s it like when you finally start to receive some big time recognition for your work?
It’s like finally. There has been a lot of work to get this far and I feel like a little bit of payoff feels good, we enjoy it, we love the support from our fans and anyone who comes to our shows and helps to spread the word. It really makes us feel good about what we’re doing and makes us want to keep doing it. We’re just thankful, it’s awesome. I have to remind myself that I get to do this.
How does it feel to get recognition from seemingly everywhere, but home?
People always say that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, but those people have obviously never played in Memphis, Tennessee. This is a very hard town. These people have seen the likes of Elvis, 666 Mafia, Justin Timberlake and everybody in between, Saliva was the last big rock band to make it out of this town. It is a plethora of every music genre and every kind of music band, so we’re not surprised honestly. It’s a very tough town and if you can cut your teeth on a Memphis crowd I think it’s definitely setting us up for some good things. It’s good that our own town is a little bit tougher and not so forgiving.
How do you guys feel about the state of rock?
I personally think rock is dead. Our album is a reinvention of rock. That’s what Start Again signifies for me, a new start for Memphis and a new start for us.
How do you plan to reinvent something like rock?
I think you have to listen to the record. What we hear on the radio is so over autotuned and nobody can really play instruments anymore, it’s all synthesized and we’re just the opposite of that. We can play our instruments pretty damn good, we are killing ourselves onstage to try to come off as professionals yet still have fun, and be original. What I mean by original is we don’t sound like anybody from the 90s and we also don’t sound like power pop; we are really trying to redefine rock. Just being from America and being from Memphis and doing it is a redefinition.