Fireworks Magazine Online 76 - Interview with Illust8tors

Illustr8ors

Steven Reid talks with singer Scott Sharp

They say fortune favours the brave and surely there's nothing more bold for a young band who've begun to make a strong, respected name for themselves, than to decide to start again. illustr8ors – note the lower case i – have done just that. From the outside ditching the name BlackWolf and all the momentum across rock radio, the internet and print media it built up, may feel like a backward move. However as Fireworks discovers, singer Scott Sharp believes the sudden change perfectly illustr8es his band's updated sound and outlook.


Illustr8tors

"The short answer is that we have grown and evolved into something different," Scott says passionately when asked about the name-change. "What we want to say as a band now, and what we want to achieve with our music has just changed. It made sense for us to treat this growth as a whole new project and fresh start because that's what it is, a new beginning. The name illustr8ors doesn't drag so many pre-conceived connotations with it, so it allows us to be whatever we want to be. We feel we're now doing something that is more individual and we're stoked to see where it takes us."

But even with such strong belief in illustr8ors and what that name is set to stand for, surely backing away from the Classic Rock foothold BlackWolf undoubtedly gained caused the band some concerns? "I wouldn't call them concerns, but we were aware of the likely reaction," the frontman confirms. "But that was the whole point for us. If we were going to do this, we were going to do it properly. We have said all we wanted to say as BlackWolf and have now put that to rest. We're starting over and that's what's so exciting for us. We have no intentions to link the past with what we're doing now. BlackWolf had a lot to do with tipping hats to heroes. As we grew as a band we just grew tired of that and felt it was time to take a long hard look at what we wanted to achieve together. Did we want to continue forward as another band mirroring the past, or become something that was current, relevant to what's happening now in music and essentially something more individual to us? When put like that the choice was easy. So we set out to find our own voice. We took what we feel are the intentions of Rock n' Roll and let everything else we love in music spill through them. We arrived here and we couldn't be happier. The best thing about it all for us is that we're only just getting started!"

Brave though changing one may be, a name is, however, just a name and, as Scott enthusiastically explains, there's much more to this band's evolution. "The music we're making now isn't Classic Rock. It's more than that. It's Rock n' Roll as we hear it today. Sure, it still has the elements we love in Blues and Soul as well as a big appreciation for 'the riff'; but there's elements of the 90s Seattle sound in there now, there's a sort of hip-hop way of looking at rhythms, a big love of danceabilty and a sort of Pop sensibility about the melodies. So we chose a name that's more open-ended. Just as our music is saying something more now, we wanted a name that does that as well. To us illustr8ors achieves this." But, with BlackWolf making strong inroads on the scene, what was the catalyst? "It was something we had been thinking about for a long time but that only really started to make sense when we began writing again. There was a lot to figure out behind the scenes which is perhaps why it seemed so sudden from the outside, but these sort of things always do I guess."

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Considering that the band's debut album, 'Photopia', won't ever see the light of day outside the PledgeMusic campaign that funded it, it could be suggested that the early efforts of the band have been misplaced... "No, not at all!" Scott exclaims. "For us that Pledge album was about finding ourselves as a band, figuring out what we were really all about and what we wanted to do next. It's done that for us and then some; it relit the fire in our stomachs! I think during that process we all fell in love with music again. It was an incredible experience and one we won't ever forget. That album, as it exists, won't be released publicly. We've taken focus tracks from it that create a sort of journey through what we've achieved and experienced, and we will be releasing that as a four track EP. We'll then pick the best moments of the Pledge album, along with the tracks released on our self-titled EP and some new songs, and this will all go into making our public debut album as illustr8ors. So absolutely nothing has been wasted. We've devoured the whole process and hopefully we can give you all the best of it. The songs on this EP sort of create a snapshot journey of what we've been through. They showcase some of the more focal elements of what illustr8ors is about. Lyrically the songs also connect very strongly with each other and what we've experienced. They're about change, growth, what it means to sacrifice yourself for something you love and believe in, and they're about hope. Hope for the future."

And as all this evolution has come to pass, 'little angel', Toby Jepson, has, as Scott explains, proved to be a key figure in illustr8ors evolution. "Toby's been really important for us. He was exactly what we wanted and needed from a producer. He gets under your skin and forces you to dig deep and figure out exactly what you want to say, not just as musicians but as people as well. It's quite an uncomfortable experience at first because you can feel quite overexposed, but he knows that's where the best music is made, in that vulnerable spot where creation meets truth I guess. When it all just started to click things just blew up, it was amazing. He has a brilliant way of looking at things, really positive. He helps you see the moments you're missing and more often than not those moments become the most important parts of a song. Speaking of which, the biggest thing he taught us was to write songs, not just music. To say exactly what you mean and make sure it connects with your listener in some way that is important and personal...the guy's been like our Yoda."

Keen to let people hear why illustr8ors are just so excited by their altered outlook, the band hit the road in September and October with Toseland. "It will be great to have the chance to connect with the Toseland audience," the singer says, impatient to get started. "We feel the fit is a perfect start for what we're aiming to do. The set-list will be a collection of songs from the EP and the Pledge album, as well as a bunch of new material we haven't recorded or played live yet." Although the band have actually made their live debut already. "It was great! Ramblin' Man Fair was a very cool festival and a fantastic platform to kick things off again. It had been a little while since we had been on stage, so we were a little edgy at first but soon as we saw how much the crowd were feeling what we were doing, we settled into it. We just want to get back up there again now!"

Click HERE to read the Illustr8tors 'Photopia' album review on Rocktopia.

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