Who are Black Heart Saints?
With a dynamic, original sound founded upon an explosive stage show, Black Heart Saints surrounds audiences with unapologetic, aggressive rock that begs to be experienced live. After debuting at SXSW in 2014, this powerhouse quartet has been building a solid reputation as a support act for national touring bands such as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, Sevendust, Nonpoint, Coheed and Cambria, Filter, POD, Tantric, Everclear, Pop Evil, Alien Ant Farm, and more.
The soaring vocals of front-man Josh Ross have drawn comparisons to Myles Kennedy and Chris Cornell. While the band is influenced by the likes of Motley Crue, Guns ‘N Roses, and other legendary Hark Rock acts, the commanding presence of Black Heart Saints’ live show brandishes an updated take on the genre. Quickly conquering some of the biggest stages and festivals in the United States, Black Heart Saints has built an impressive resume and has been recognized as one of the nation’s emerging rock acts. In 2014, Black Heart Saints represented their hometown at the ESPN X Games in Austin and performed along with several national headliners such as Kanye West, The Flaming Lips, Gary Clark, Jr., and more. Last year wrapped up with several completed regional tours, which have firmly established the band as a premier force in new music.
The band’s first release – “Black Heart Saints EP” – is currently getting radio play on several FM stations throughout Texas and the West Coast, and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews by some of the most prominent rock critics and bloggers, which has boosted demand for the band’s live appearances tremendously. Currently topping online music store sales charts, the EP has also enjoyed success at select retailers such as Austin’s own beloved Waterloo Records.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
How did you meet and come together to form Black Heart Saints?
Mark Sean: After my last band broke up, I was looking for a singer, and found Josh [Ross] from a flyer that he posted at a rehearsal space. We hit it off immediately but took some time experimenting with some various projects and concepts before launching Black Heart Saints at the beginning of 2014.
Your debut performance was at SXSW in 2014. How have you grown as a group and as musicians in the last 3 years?
Black Heart Saints: We’ve been able to discover our sound by recognizing our strengths and weaknesses early on. Playing countless live shows and traveling outside of Austin has been key to developing our work ethic.
You released your self-titled EP in 2014 before going back and recording a string of upcoming singles. What was the process like? How has your sound changed since your first release?
BHS: We worked with Omar Vallejo at 512 Studios here in Austin. Omar understands our sound and is someone we look to for guidance in achieving our vision, which is to create larger-than-life groove rock. Our foundation is still very much guitar-driven hard rock, but we’ve also been incorporating more diverse sounds and textures – for example, we will feature our good friend and acclaimed violinist Haydn Vitera on a song or two on our next release.
Your music proves that rock ‘n roll is very much alive and well. Who are some of your rock idols and influences?
Josh Ross: We look up to artists who were able to have crossover hits and still bring that “rock ‘n roll” attitude. Some examples that come to mind are Guns N Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, and Black Crowes.
EJ Laurel: The Beatles were my biggest influence growing up. My dad was and still is a big fan, and that had a huge impact on me.
You won the Buffalo Trace Battle of the Bands in 2014, and were awarded a $10K Grand Prize. What did that win and award mean to you? How did that money help the band’s progression?
BHS: Winning the Grand Prize allowed us to purchase a van, which gave us an early leg up on traveling and branching out to places outside of Austin. We are steadily growing our fan bases in neighboring cities such as San Antonio, Dallas, etc.
In 2015, you guys took over Puddle of Mudd’s “deleted” Facebook Page to promote BHS. Tell us about that experience and what kind of reaction you got from the public and media. Did any opportunities arise from your brazen strategy?
MS: I came across an article that reported that after a gig where Puddle of Mudd was accused of lip-synching, the lead singer deleted their Facebook page to shut down all of the criticism and backlash that was happening. With the URL available, we took advantage of the situation to issue a statement to industry folks — which was, to sum it up — “invest in us and we won’t squander our opportunities like Puddle of Mudd did.” We did attract some international attention that resulted from the whole situation. Funny enough, we ended up playing a show with [Puddle of Mudd] in San Antonio in January 2017. We all ended up having a laugh looking back at it.
You guys have played some major music festivals and opened for a lot of big artists like Coheed and Cambria, Alien Ant Farm, and POD. What’s been the most memorable show you’ve played to date?
JR: Opening for the Winery Dogs (supergroup featuring members of Mr. Big, Dream Theater, Poison) in San Antonio last year was quite the accomplishment. It was an honor to share the stage with some of the top rock musicians in the world.
MS: I’ll never forget playing the 2014 Summer X Games in Austin. It was a major step for us and helped us start to get on the radar.
How did you guys get involved with AMF? Is there anything you’ve learned since working with AMF that you wish you had known earlier?
BHS: We got involved with AMF through Alex Vallejo, our friend and mentor. This business is really all about people and relationships — we wish we had met the team at AMF sooner!
What does it mean to be named AMF Artist of the Month?
BHS: It’s truly an honor to be named AMF Artist of the Month. There are some amazing individuals that work for the organization, and we greatly value any opportunities to work more closely with the AMF team.
What’s next for y’all? Any big plans for 2017?
BHS: This month, we’ll be in the studio working on our first full-length album with Omar Vallejo and Kevin Abbenante at 512 Studios. We’re going to continue to keep growing: playing bigger and better shows, expanding our reach inside and outside of Texas. We’ll also be looking to build our “behind-the-scenes” team to help take us to the next level, which could involve forging strong partnerships with sponsors, management, and others who want to grow with us.