BLACK TAXI is a rock band from Brooklyn, NY. Fully formed in 2007, the four-member ensemble consists of Ezra Huleatt (vocals, keys, trumpet), William Longyear Mayo(guitar, vocals), Krisana Soponpong (bass), and Jason Holmes (drums, vocals). BLACK TAXI is recognized for their animated stage performance and a diverse song catalogue, which amassed as a result of the members’ distinct musical backgrounds. Singer Ezra Huleatt started off studying jazz, guitarist William Longyear Mayo was an R&B/Hip Hop session musician, bassist Krisana Soponpong an 80s synth-pop revivalist, and drummer Jason Holmes an orchestral and theatre percussionist. Dance-Punk and Big-Wave dominate the foursome’s Grit-Pop sound, which is highlighted by carnival drums, glockenspiel, trumpet, keyboard and synths, in addition to their core setup of guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
I recently caught up with the band’s Ezra and Bill. Interview below:
Your new album, We Don’t Know Any Better comes out in January. What’s different about this album than your debut Things of that Nature?
Ezra Huleatt: There was a difference in approach, I guess. Our first record was recorded on analog tape, and we basically just performed the songs in a room until we got a take we liked. The tunes had been around for a while, so we pretty much played them as they were, without much experimentation. The new record, We Don’t Know Any Better, was written specifically with recording in mind. We left whole sections of songs blank just to be filled in later while we were in the studio. We’ve discovered how important it is to create while in the studio. Some of the best moments happen when you discover an unexpected sound that only exists in that moment, some weird feedback occurring, or some obscure instrument that some band left there from the previous session. When everyone in the room is laughing their asses off because of pure joy of discovering these sounds, you know have a winner. But all of that said, the new record still sounds authentically like Black Taxi. We embraced technology a lot more this time around, but we can’t escape our own songwriting. That’s a good thing.
Your stage show is pretty wild and energetic – designed to get people up and dancing. You seem pretty fearless – with the megaphones, hats, and general presence. Have you guys been playing live for a while?
Bill Mayo: We were pretty fearless even when we started, even though we sucked. Maybe we should have been more timid ’cause man, we were awful for a couple years. The caliber of our sound only started to match the performance around the time we released our first full-length album. Ever since, things have gotten tighter. We’ve focused on details that would have never crossed our minds, and we rehearse the hell out of it. The idea is that once we hit the stage, the details have become second nature and we can just play and enjoy the energy.
Most of your songs seem to be influenced by post-punk bands and there’s definitely some Talking Heads about. Is that a fair assessment – or how would you guys describe your sound?
Bill Mayo: I only learned what post-punk meant like six months ago. Turns out I do love those bands like Talking Heads and The Clash, and Gang of Four. But my favorite bands growing up were Nirvana, Primus, Zappa, The Rolling Stones, and Steely Dan. I also listened to a lot of 90’s hip-hop. My older sister was always listening to Wu Tang, and Biggie so that really rubbed off on me and I have a lot of love for rap. And my younger sister taught me what it really means to be a singer. I never paid much attention to vocals until I started jamming with her. I think I’m more influenced by my friends and family than any artist. I guess it does come across as a post punk thing. But I heard it put best the other night – we played a show in Albany and some kid came up and said, “you guys don’t sound like anything, you sound like everything!” I’m sure he meant that in a good way. He was dancing like Thom Yorke all night.
You also use the glockenspiel on some of your songs. Did you learn to play that before the band or was it something you thought might sound cool for Black Taxi?
Bill Mayo: Incorporating the glockenspiel into our music happened fairly organically. At the time we were writing “pretty mama,” we were rehearsing in a loft in Brooklyn that was shared by a number of other bands. We had the essential elements of the song down but were lacking one sound that would put the song over the edge. As fate would have it, one of the other bands had a left their glockenspiel in the space, it was missing most of its bars but it did have the “E” and “D” bars which worked out perfectly for the song. I had never played one before that night.
Black Taxi seems to have fun with the usual conventions of what a song can be. For instance – “Up Here for Thinking, Down There for Dancing” has a pretty big 70s style riff but turns into an art-rock dance song. And “It’s a Ball” starts off as kind of ballad but then switches to a more up-beat song mid-way though. Is that deliberate or does that just come naturally when you write the songs?
Bill Mayo: We deliberately keep things that come naturally. Songs write themselves. Nobody sits down and says, let’s do a 70’s punk thing here, and a Ke$ha synth line here.
What plans do you have for promotion for the new album?
Ezra Huleatt: Our manager can answer that best, but we are willing to try everything to get in into people ears We have hired a PR team, given the first single out for free, and are working on a video for the second single.