Wednesday, May 12th, 2021
Premiere: Blvck Hippie Debut New Video For “Bunkbed”
Watch the Video and Read Our Exclusive Q&A Below
May 11, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Lawrence Shaw
Josh Shaw, frontman of Memphis-based indie rock band Blvck Hippie has long been looking for a place to belong. If the band’s latest work proves anything, that place is at the top of the world of moody indie rock sad boys. After picking up guitar in college and recording solo as St. John, Shaw joined up with Casey Rittinger and formed Blvck Hippie. The pair would later be joined by Anna Welden on bass, solidifying the band’s combination of shimmery emo-tinged guitars, jazzy bass lines, and agile drumming.
Fans last heard from the band with their bitter Christmas anthem “Lonely Christmas” and since the band have signed with Kansas City label The Record Machine, and re-released their 2020 single “Bunkbed.” Now the band are back again with a new video for “Bunkbed,” premiering with Under the Radar.
Shaw’s aforementioned longing to belong comes to the fore in a powerful way on “Bunkbed.” Though on the surface the track appears to be about relationships, the lyrics quickly point deeper to a fundamental desire for intimacy, a desire to love and be loved that self-destructive habits disrupt. It’s no surprise that the song’s most cathartic moment comes with the bridge as Shaw screams “God I hate being alone.” All the while Shaw’s ever-present guitar riff snakes and winds, intertwining with the driving rhythm section as he explores heartbreak and loneliness, effortlessly shifting between gentle croons and shouted climactic heights. The whole track is despondent, emotive, and delightfully DIY, displaying a homespun charm equally shared by the video.
Shaw explains, “The Bunkbed music video is a collab between me and my older brother, Lawrence Shaw, who does freelance film in Memphis. Our aim was to show the slow cyclical, destruction of personal relationships by ending in the same loneliness the video began with. The video is an intimate look at how a self-destructive personality can ultimately drive away those who we strived so desperately to hold close. The end of the video is a rewind back to the start, to show a never-ending cycle of love and self-sabotage.”
Check out the video here and read Under the Radar’s exclusive Q&A with Josh Shaw below.
Congratulations on recently signing with The Record Machine! Has it been different working with a label now?
I was doing everything by myself for so many years, so now having a team to work with feels like a weight off my shoulders. Nathan runs the label and he is a great guy. He’s super supportive and keeps us on track. It’s also stressful ‘cause I feel like things matter more now, but it’s the right amount of pressure — it keeps me focused.
How has the band been coping with COVID and, now that vaccination efforts are improving (in the US), are you looking towards touring?
I spent months planning a tour for last summer which we had to cancel, which of course was rough, but I live with my drummer so we were able to keep writing and playing. Last summer we got to play some Occupy Protests for Black Lives Matter and we’ve been able to play some outdoor shows here and there. We feel lucky that we had those opportunities and because we were able to write and record this past year. With more people announcing their tours, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to tour this fall! Whenever it is, we plan on touring heavily off this album and you know we def won’t exceed occupancy limits ‘cause no one knows who we are.
How did the dynamic change moving from recording solo as St. John to with a band?
The writing process stayed about the same because I still do all the writing and arranging for Blvck Hippie. What’s different now is writing for a band allows me to be freer and more angry with my music because I have more instruments to work with. And of course, shows are way more fun with a band than solo. I still demo everything solo so I get to scratch that itch of working alone. Recording this record, I got to work with a producer, Ethan Mayo, who is amazing. He really helped me get out my head and bring the best version of my work out.
What were your influences when writing Bunkbed? Lyrically? Musically?
The writing of Bunkbed was honestly wild. I got off work, picked up my guitar, and just played the rift, then I hated it and ignored it for a few weeks —I was actually going to send it to my producer friend to use for something. But I came back to it and ended up liking it.
The writing is influenced a lot by Midwest emo stuff and it came during a dark time in my life. I wrote Bunkbed around the time I was starting a second degree in recording, but then I dropped out of college and I basically nuked my entire life up to that point to try to put more focus on my band. I was in a very uncertain stage of my life, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing and that all kinda came out into the writing of Bunkbed.
I was still writing in metaphors and not as openly as I have been recently, and so it seems lyrically like the song is about love or a relationship or something like that but really it’s about me struggling with my mental health.
What was it like working with your brother for the “Bunkbed” music video?
Any time I get to collab with my brother it feels like a dream come true. He always pushes me to be better and he’s one of my biggest inspirations for creating.
My brother and I have been writing and recording movies together since we were kids using my dad’s old video camera. As kids, we made the Adventures of Josh and Javan, which is an action movie about me and my friend Javan, and Horror on Chairmen Drive, which was set on the street our church was on. When I was older we made a lot of Legomation films and we even had our little production studio when I was about 10, we called it Shaw Brother Productions. Now my brother has a film degree and is an incredibly talented artist, graphic designer, and all that. Getting to work on this project with my brother was surreal.
It’s awesome to see black artists getting more attention and representation in the indie and DIY scene. I’ve been following your “Black Indie Tunes” playlist and it’s been a great way to get turned onto new bands. Has social media and the Internet been useful in building that support and community?
Definitely, ever since last summer, it seems like people are suddenly realizing that Black artists in predominantly white genres make amazing music, like they realized we’re just as good if not better than a lot of these other bands.
Last summer one of my managers and I collabed on finding Black-fronted Indie Rock projects. I started posting on my Facebook about how people should pay more attention to these artists and so many people were like, “how do I start?” And so we created an entire playlist dedicated to all these indie rock bands fronted by Black people. I feel like seeing Barteese Strange’s success and Oceanator’s success is amazing and I wish I would’ve had a Barteese Strange or an Oceanator when I was like 18. Also I feel very privileged, I feel like I’m in this moment of Black indie artists coming up in this predominantly white scene, where we can create a future for the younger Black kids who want to make that kind of music. We can show them that they have their space, they’re good enough, and they deserve to be here.
I’ve also been able to make some cool connections just from sharing this playlist. Like I just talked to M.A.G.S. a couple days ago because he was one of our featured artists for the month of May and he ended up checking out our music and hitting me up, and just getting to make connections with all these people who look like me and are doing what I’m doing is incredible.
We’re also big fans of Proper. here, and I read that you played with them in 2019. How was that experience?
Proper. reached out to play a show in Memphis with us. I think they found us through Bandcamp. Great dudes and I love Erik. It was an amazing experience. It was the most at home I’ve felt playing my music like ever. Seeing their success and drive continues to inspire me and show me that I’m doing the right thing even though it’s so hard in a predominately white space.
What more do you have planned for Blvck Hippie going forward?
We are dropping our first full-length album at the end of the summer. Then we plan to buy a bus and tour heavily — as much as we can within the next year or so before writing and recording album 2.