July 20, 2008 / 4:37 AM / 11 years ago

Black Kids are all right with blog buzz

NEW YORK (Billboard) - The first chapter of the Black Kids’ story reads like an indie rock fairy tale.

Plucked from Jacksonville, Fla., after their demo impressed influential music Web site Pitchfork Media and the blogosphere, the band was the toast of the annual CMJ Music Marathon festival in New York last October with only a handful of shows under their white belts.

Even the New York Times weighed in on the band’s prospects, and blog chatter increased 900% in a matter of days, according to Nielsen Buzz Metrics.

“We were literally just plucked from Jacksonville and thrown in front of a crowd,” drummer Kevin Snow says. “And it just kept going. At this point, we haven’t been home in nearly a year.”

A management deal with Quest Management was inked the week of CMJ, and record deals with Almost Gold in the United Kingdom and Columbia in the United States followed. The band then decamped to London to record with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.

The result is “Partie Traumatic,” which arrives on Tuesday in the States; it was released July 7 in the United Kingdom and debuted at No. 5. The singles “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” and “Hurricane Jane” reached Nos. 11 and 36, respectively, on the U.K. Singles chart.

Despite the immediate success in the United Kingdom, the band’s team says focusing there first before the States was no easy decision.

“It was difficult to prioritize where to send them,” says the band’s manager, Kasra Mowlavi. “But a lot of the buzz started in the U.K., and the response to their shows in December was fantastic.”

“Starting in the U.K. happened really naturally,” Snow says. “The U.K. has a tremendous appetite for new music, and we were also influenced by a lot of English bands, so it was a good fit.”

Both band and label dealt with the hype by trying to play it down. “There are still lots of people just discovering the band,” says the group’s marketing manager at Columbia, Jason Hradil. “They will certainly be able to develop an audience beyond bloggers.”

Building a long-lasting career out of a Web phenomenon won’t be easy, but Columbia plans to put significant muscle behind the record. Black Kids will be highly visible around street date, including appearances on “Late Show With David Letterman” (July 24), “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (July 30) and noncommercial KCRW Santa Monica, Calif.’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” (July 28).

The video for “Boyfriend” has been added at mtvU and has amassed 770,000 views on YouTube. Digital sales of the song are at 8,600 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And while Hradil couldn’t confirm any specific deals just yet, he says Black Kids “love licensing. They have lots of offers and a great look.”

The band also has a solid record to back it all up. “Partie Traumatic” bounces along poppily, driven by keyboards and singalong choruses. Lead singer Reggie Youngblood lets his wordplay run free on the witty “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” and lets his unabashed love for the ‘80s shine through on “Listen to Your Body Tonight.”

“We had the record pretty much written before CMJ,” Snow says. “That was really helpful, because we were able to go straight to the studio and start laying down tracks.” Those tracks include rerecorded versions of the band’s four original demo songs, along with six new cuts.

Now the focus is on developing the Black Kids’ live show. Through the end of August, the band has scattered international and North American shows on tap, including a host of European festival appearances and a set at Lollapalooza in Chicago. A proper North American tour begins September 19 in Jacksonville.

Reuters/Billboard

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