Two tall, lanky men took the Roots Stage at Riot Fest early Saturday afternoon with a drum set, a guitar, and a synthesizer; the gaping space between them was instantly filled with driving, reckless rock ‘n’ roll with a bluesy kick. It was Black Pistol Fire, a rock duo out of Austin, Texas, and their contagious energy was a force to be reckoned with. The band has played at a handful of other top tier festivals – Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and Shaky Knees, to name a few – and they claim there’s one thing that always remains consistent at their shows:
“When you see Black Pistol Fire, shit can go wrong!” laughed Kevin McKeown, guitarist, and vocalist of the band.
Black Pistol Fire’s Riot Fest set was no exception: McKeown was welcomed by dozens of eager hands as he leaped from the stage and into the crowd to finish a guitar solo on his back. After a few seconds and a look of confusion, McKeown reached for the cords running to his guitar.
“I look up at Nick, our tour manager, on stage,” said McKeown, “and he’s just holding the cord up there in his hand yelling, 'It ain’t in! It ain’t in!'” He shook his head and laughed while drummer Eric Owen interjected.
“You’ve done that at least 20 times, dude,” Owen said. “That’s the only time that’s happened.”
After McKeown threw his guitar from the crowd to the nearest tech, the band recovered in a seemingly-effortless 60 seconds. Owen continued the synthesizer and the drums in a repetitive melody until McKeown was on stage once again strapped with his guitar, and with a nod of the head, they launched ahead to finish the song.
There’s an unspoken language between the two while they perform that shows in their quick glances and flashing smiles, but as lifelong friends, the two experienced their fair share of trouble to reach this level of understanding.
“We actually met in kindergarten,” Owen explained, to which McKeown replied, “Eric beat the shit out of me on my first day of school. Kicked the living shit out of me.”
Between bursts of laughter, McKeown mentioned spitting out blood and teeth.
“His mom came over to my house and tried to blame my mom for the whole thing, and they got into a fight,” Eric said. “And it was crazy. And they don’t talk to this day.”
After a gasp, he followed that last statement with a ‘not really.’ No matter how violent kindergarten was, exaggerated or not (who can tell?), these two have managed to stick together long enough to write and record five studio albums, the last being their latest album, Deadbeat Graffiti, due out September 29.
“We were dangerously close to making a record that kind of felt the same or sounded sonically the same as what we’ve been doing,” McKeown said of their upcoming release.
“[Deadbeat Graffiti] is definitely pushing the boundaries to keep the listener guessing,” Owen added. “The BPM jumps all over the place – fast, to slow, to medium, and slow again.”
The two explored the genres that stick out on Deadbeat Graffiti, spotlighting post-rock and garage, while McKeown made a heavy emphasis on the record’s groove aspect.
“There is not one song on the record that sounds remotely like another song on the record,“ Owen declared. “Not even remotely.”
Black Pistol Fire recorded 20 songs in their latest sessions, later trimming the album down to a final cut of 12 tracks.
“We’re gonna release an EP by year’s end of the other stuff,” said McKeown. He also mentioned a possible “sick split-single” special release of cover tracks: one being The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” and the other, a yet-to-be-told Nirvana song, done very differently, Owen said.
Until then, Black Pistol Fire is heading out on tour across the U.S. for the rest of the year to promote Deadbeat Graffiti.
McKeown and Owen tore through the open air at Riot Fest in a raw, melodic frenzy – a perfect accompaniment to the classic punk rock style that the fest embodies. But by popular argument, some say punk is dead; so what do these rockers have to say about it?
Eric Owen: Punk’s not dead, punk’s ready to move on to the next thing.
Kevin McKeown: Punk’s not dead, punk’s ready to pounce!
For more on Black Pistol Fire visit: https://blackpistolfire.com/.
Check out photos from their Riot Fest performance below captured by Mandy Pichler Photography. You can also view them in the Gallery!