As Kentucky’s The Black Shades tell it, they formed out of sheer necessity. In their own “wild minds” they like to reveal a little about their origins with this tale: “Jack White and David Bowie got together over a dinner of boiled goose (prepared by Julian Casablancas) and asked that fate bring Aaron Clark, Michael Dean, Michael Thomas, and Jerry Kessinger together in order to create the indie-dance-pop tunes that so many folks are pining for these days. Jack White probably said something like, “Man, there needs to be more bands that aren’t so gimmicky and indie and just plain talented.” And David Bowie probably said something like, “I love to dress up and prance around.” And thus, The Black Shades were formed, and lucky for us, they definitely aren’t afraid of killer sideburns, healthy doses of pop rock swagger and some sexy prancing.

How did all the band members meet?

Musicians in college towns all know each other.  Sooner than later, you’ll know everybody that slings a guitar or pounds a drum and whether or not they’re in it to win it.  Our singer (Aaron Clark) and bassist (Michael Dean) met first over a bucket of chicken wings and noodling around on some covers and eventually, our drummer (Jerry Kessinger) and guitarist (Michael Thomas) joined the fray.  Part of the addition of those two is that girls dig how they look in white pants.

What is the band’s favorite venue/city to play?

Live shows!  Maniacs! We’re maniacs for live shows! We’ve played everything from city-sized festivals with headliners like Daniel Johnston and The Walkmen to small-town festivals that celebrate the lovely red fruit that is the strawberry. And it’s still hard to pick a favorite.  We frequent the great Nashville venue that is The Mercy Lounge–highly recommended for musicians and show-goers alike.

What’s your funniest band audition story?

When we were first considering Jerry for the band, he came to a couple practices in the basement of our old house.  We all met up.  Jerry and Michael Dean smoked some cigarettes, Aaron messed around with his pedals, Michael Thomas complained about something surely.  And then Jerry came in and played the drums the quietest any of us had ever heard.  It was like the most gentle tapping of drums, little baby-bird sounding taps and chings on the cymbals.  People upstairs in the same house didn’t even know we were trying out a drummer!  Of course, Jerry’s politeness still remains, but he bangs the shit out of the drums now.

What was the strangest/most interesting thing to happen to the band?

Strange: Once upon a time in a sketchy part of Cincinnati, ( just for clarity, we LOVE Cincy and LOVE playing there) we ordered a greasy pizza from a window on the street. As we stood around waiting for the yummy goodness to come to us (and to hopefully sober Michael Dean up…) a man on the street approached with a sketchy looking business card and asked Michael Thomas to call the number on it.  Michael Thomas replied, “That’s a scam, dude” and shrugged as per usual.  The man on the street quickly became angry and explained, “That’s my cousin!”  The situation somehow escalated.  One of our fans/friends began pushing the man.  Aaron’s girlfriend and all 100 pounds of her began screaming.  The man grabbed at our pizza box until his friend intervened and pulled his shirt over his face and slammed him into a brick wall.  Michael Dean, still drunk and disorderly, and somehow maintaining the integrity of our pizza box, had the smile of a wonderous child as we walked away.

Interesting: Once upon a time, we all boarded a plane to Vegas for Neon Reverb Music Festival.  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  And it should be that way, always.

If you could meet any musical hero living or dead, who would it be and what would you say to this person?

Collectively, The Black Shades all have a nice man-crush on Sir Paul McCartney. We would say to him, “good job, sir.” That is all. Not really, Aaron would probably blurt out something about LOVING WINGS! and kiss him on the face. Michael Dean would try to grab Paul.

What do you simply hate about being in a band? You know, like the soundman showing up two hours late for a gig, buying guitar strings from “that guy” at the music store who is more interested in his Chinese food than ringing you up, or trying to find your drummer, (sorry drummers), or insert your band mate who always goes missing, two minutes before your set time.

We really don’t hate that much.  As popular as it is to be laid back and indie cool and say, “We hate being out of cigarettes,” the most irritating things are bands that play over their set-time and driving home late, late, late at night.  I will have to say a redeeming factor for late night drives home are 24-hour establishments like Dunkin Donuts and Jack In The Box.  We will stuff our faces like there is no tomorrow at about 4 in the morning. Also, when we’re out on the road, we always stop at the local music shops.  Every musician hates a bust of a trip to a music store.

What is the band currently working on, now that you’ve just returned from playing SXSW 2011?

The Black Shades are currently working on our next recording, playing… and still promoting our current EP, We Are The Black Shades. College radio has really responded generously to our poppy EP and it has really made some waves for our band. If you’ve ever had that feeling in your gut like you just might be doing it, like you’re so close to getting what you dream about, that’s how we feel lately. We have a maybe-strangely close relationship with a lot of our fans.  We keep in touch. We believe in that…

A Sonicbids selection

  1. This is an awesome article I learned so
    Something and became somehow closer to TBS!! I enjoy everything they bring to me! I’ll support them for as long as they will let me be a fanatic fan!!! Much love !!


  2. “Indie rock artists are known for placing a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, releasing albums on independent record labels and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, airplay on independent or college radio stations, sometimes modern rock radio and, in recent years, the Internet for promotion.”

    You guys sure sound an awful like a “cool indie” rock band. Don’t be dicks.



    We agree whole heartedly with you, Frank. We follow our indie DIY roots to the core and have made it this far by our blood, sweat, and tears. We are easily approachable and invite you to join our movement! Find us on Facebook and come say hi!