D.C.’s bands and singers rarely receive their just due for their skills, swagger and unique style of musicianship — often overshadowed by those from cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta.
But with the victory of the Southeast-based band Black Alley who took top honors in the recent “Musicology — Battle of the Bands” competition, held at Prince’s enigmatic Paisley Park, the tide appears to be changing — a change that many would deem to be “long overdue.”
And so, with a platform for greater national attention and all that comes with it, this unexpected chance will not be taken for granted, according to two members of the band, particularly after years of surviving the “ups and downs,” while always remaining focused on realizing their collective professional goals and personal dreams.
The band’s bass player, JoshOnBass, and drummer, ANIMAL, shared their perspectives on how their recent victory has both catapulted their career and given them a boost of encouragement. Their two other musicians, as well as lead vocalist, Kacey Williams, could not join us for the interview but given their stellar performance in Minneapolis, it’s clear that they stand as integral pieces within the ensemble’s seven-year long journey.
“Our sound, ‘hood rock,’ exists more as a movement and we do as much as we can for our community and the people who support us,” the duo said. “We give them great music which allows them to release the stress associated with their own life struggles and personal challenges.”
When asked how they’d define their musical genre, they said, “it’s hard to define because our style encompasses jazz, funk, rock and even, and of course, D.C.’s cultural mark on the musical world, go-go. We can take a slow song and rock it out or tackle a song not known for having a go-go beat and give it our own style and creativity.”
Black Alley experienced several configurations before evolving into the current lineup. But after seven years together, they said, and with recent appearances on most of the top television and radio shows in the DMV and consistently sold-out performances, they’ve grown accustomed to one another.
“We just got back from touring in New York City, L.A. and Michigan,” they said. “And we’re still feeling the excitement and joy that came when we won the Battle of the Bands. Our fans even helped us raise money so we could get there. We’ll be going back soon to record in Prince’s studio and to be mentored by his own band, New Power Generation. Words can’t describe it.”
Black Alley bested 150 applicants from which nine received the nod as finalists during the four-day Musicology affair. Along the way, they joined a few of Prince’s musicians and dancers for on-stage opportunities. Critics who were there point to Kasey whose voice, stage presence and personality blended with the band’s pulsating vibe of rock, funk, hip-hop and go-go beat, including their own version of the Prince classic, “When Doves Cry.”
As they complete work on their next album, Black Alley realizes that challenges remain ahead.
“There’s so much music that dominates the mainstream and we have to continuously battle against those artists and their songs for a spot in the limelight,” they said. “Still, we refuse to abandon what we do — performing real music, and we feel that we’re doing an awesome job as indie artists while gaining followers every day. Truth is, a few indie artists have become as big as those in the mainstream.”
“We just wish we had more time — more hours in each day to rehearse, to create and to spend time with our families and friends. The support we’ve been given has been amazing and we’re very thankful. Sometimes, the grind can become a bit overwhelming. But we never forget how blessed we are to be alive, able to make ends meet — to survive another day — and do what gives us our greatest joy.”
“It’s our time now. And we’re ready,” they said.
For more about Black Alley, go to www.blackalleyband.com.