Since Amber Alexander and Johnny Noble of the Denver stoner-rock duo Blakk Mantra are both big fans of the band Clutch, they wanted to work with Gene "Machine" Freeman, who had produced and engineered three of the group's albums. In June the two trekked to Freeman's studio in a barn in the hill country outside of Austin, Texas, to record two songs for their new EP, Welcome to El Rey Blvd.
The night before the sessions started, Alexander, who plays bass, and Noble, who sings and plays guitar and drums, talked with Freeman about what they wanted the songs to sound like by playing him tracks from Black Keys, Death From Above, Highly Suspect and Royal Blood.
"We talked about our songs in depth," Alexander says of their conversation with Freeman, "about what we wanted them to come out sounding like, and he was taking notes. He was diligently listening to us. And the next day, he started. He had a ton of ideas of little things we could start doing to get it pushed in that direction."
Over two days of working with Freeman, the band laid down most of "Perhaps We'll Live" and "Queen of Infinite Space." As the time came to an end, the two sprinkled in a few extra things they wanted on the tracks, like a bass synth and a synthesized version of a boys' choir. Freeman also suggested a few woo hoos for "Queen of Infinite Space."
"He would say, 'Hey, let's try this,' and then we would do it," says Alexander.
Alexander says that when she penned the riff and lyrics for "Queen of Infinite Space," she thought about a guy driving in the desert and encountering an alien coming down from space and how the two end up having sex. She says "Perhaps We'll Live" is a commentary on how unreliable news is and how people are unsure of what's going on in the world.
"Even though it can be confusing right now...perhaps we can all talk about how we need to love each other," Alexander says. "In that song, that's like the basis of life. Basically, through this love, we'll live."
While Alexander and Noble both have an affinity for Clutch, the two bonded initially at Centennial's Eagle Crest High School over stoner-rock bands like Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. Since forming Blakk Mantra six years ago while still teenagers, Alexander says the duo's music has always been a groovy take on stoner rock.
"We work really well together, and 99 percent of the time have the exact same vision for what we want sonically," Alexander says. "Our music taste is basically identical. So, writing-wise, it's just simple for us to come together and write songs. It just makes sense."
And the band has a simple message, says Alexander: You can make it in this world.
"You can climb up and do something, whatever it is you want to do, and you can do it," she says. "We can all do it together."
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