The Blackout’s Sean Smith: “I Can’t Wait To Play These Songs Again”

The Blackout’s Sean Smith: “I Can’t Wait To Play These Songs Again”

After calling it a day in 2015, The Blackout are back and they are just as delighted about it as you are. Here, Sean Smith and Gavin Butler talk us through how the reunion came to be.

Photo: Ashlea Bea

Just in case you didn’t know, The Blackout are back!

After calling it a day back in 2015, the boys have returned with the announcement that they will be playing a set at next year’s Download Festival. And from there? Well, anything is possible.

And that’s what makes their return so special. They are doing it just for the thrill of it. For the love of the songs that they created together and the love of being on stage together.

To find out more about how it happened and what it means to them, we had a catch-up with vocalists Sean Smith and Gavin Butler…

Now that the cat is out of the bag, how does it feel to be back?

Sean: “I was surprised at the reaction, to be honest! When we started talking about potentially doing this, one of the things that we brought up was that we felt we had a dwindling fanbase. People who liked us are getting older, and people go to fewer shows as they get older. So if we were going to do this now, it would be a fun thing where we aren’t out for the megabucks or expecting that. Let’s go out and have fun and remind people of what we did. There are people in my life now who I would love to show what The Blackout are capable of that didn’t exist the first time around. My girlfriend’s seven-year-old nephew, for example, who has been listening to them non-stop recently and asking so many questions about our videos and everything. Things like that make the difference, you know?

“But I genuinely thought it would get announced, and people would say, ‘Oh, whatever, they are back’. But it trended. When I checked the trends on Twitter, in a row, there was ‘Metallica and Slipknot’, ‘Nurses’ and then ‘The Blackout’. How amazing is that? It’s just been brilliant and seeing how it has affected people has been fucking mental. To see people say that it is the only good thing that has happened to them this year and that they have something to look forward to is mad. There are a trillion bands out there, but people have put everything they have into this mad thing these six boys do. Just crazy.”

How has it been in the band’s absence, and how do you feel about it has changed, now with you being in different places in your lives?

Gavin: “When we finished, I had reasons why I thought it was time to walk away from the band. Most of them revolved around the business side of the music industry. It felt like it had sapped all the joy I had ever gotten from the band out of what we were doing. I was at a time in my life when I wanted to pursue and try new things, even start a family, and the lack of financial security put a lot of strain on my partner and me. So I thought I had had ten years of having the best time travelling the world with my best mates, and it was time.

“But in the years we have been apart and not been playing, it has given me the distance that I needed to think about what it means to come back into the band. The fact that we are only doing this for ourselves is one of the main things that makes it feel possible. There’s no pressure to release an album, sell out a tour, or hit a specific point or target in a cycle. None of that bullshit is there. It’s just about us getting back out and playing a show. For years after the band finished, I would have the same anxiety dreams, and I’m sure Sean has had the same ones. I would be stood on stage, and I either wouldn’t know any of the lyrics and the band would be playing a song I have never heard in my life, or we would be playing to two people at a massive festival. Both would feel heartbreaking. But the response has really put those feelings to bed. Our music has been involved in people’s weddings and significant moments in their lives. We never anticipated anything like that to happen.”

Sean: “The seven years that we have been away, we have been able to live our lives and do other things that mean a lot to us. And because of that, when we look back on what we did now, we remember the best moments rather than the shit. I have always wanted The Blackout to be together, and I always joke that I’m the only one who never really left.”

What would you say the turning point was that put things into motion?

Sean: “Me and Bob [Guitarist] went to see Young Guns when they played at 2000trees this Summer. Seeing that tent packed and enjoying what those boys were doing was something else. They hadn’t put out anything new. It was just remembering what they had done. And seeing how loved they were and how much they loved it themselves was a switch in Bob more than anything else. That’s when he thought, ‘I’ll do this if it means we don’t have to do all the other stuff’. Because it’s almost like restraining fun when you have to go and write a whole album or a batch of songs and put stuff out. We never want it to feel like that again.”

So what were the conversations like?

Sean: “We’ve got a WhatsApp group called ‘Main Band Chat’, because we had so many other ones that had splintered off over the years. That’s never died. We have always been in contact with each other. I’m sure there was a two-year period where we didn’t speak regularly, but the chat stayed. So after 2000trees, that’s when it really kicked off. The last one on board was Rhys [Bassist] because he is returning to university for another year. He’s an audiologist now. Plus, he’s got a three-year-old, so he was initially slightly unsure. But we got together on a Zoom call and talked it all out.”

Gavin: “Before that, we had gone for a curry together when we had decided to have then a proper sit down and talk about nothing but the band. When you go for a curry as a group, it’s not the place as there are other people and close friends with you talking about other things. The Zoom call was the moment that it changed.”

Sean: “Yeah, we spoke through the plan. We could do the weekends for further shows or practices if needed. It was just an excitement again that everybody seemed to have.”

And that first rehearsal?

Sean: “It was magic. We had three hours in Music Box in Cardiff. We all turned up at seven o’clock, we had a big hug, talked for 45 minutes, and then Snoz [Drummer] just started playing the drums to ‘Top Of The World’, and we all kicked in. We played about ten songs without stopping, and it all returned to us. There were moments when me and Gav would look at each other just because we didn’t know what the next line would be, but then when the beat came, we had it without thinking. Seven years of muscle memory. I don’t really do much personal reminiscing, watching old DVDs and videos, but being in that room and feeling like no time had passed was magic. Everybody was really good.”

Gavin: “It was so straightforward. There were a couple of sliding notes in there and people being a fret up or down, but it was just so natural and normal. I know this is leftfield, but I was scrolling through social media the other day, and there was this video of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast getting back together. It was so surreal because of everything that they were saying. Johnathan Frakes said it felt like they had wrapped last Friday, and it felt like that in the practice rooms for us. We were just back at it again.”

Sean: “That was cool as fuck until you mentioned Star Trek.”

It’s really easy in those positions for emotions to run hot as well, and then you start thinking above your stations. But perhaps because it felt so natural is why you’re not getting ahead of yourselves in terms of what this can be…

Sean: “That’s exactly it. We’ve got Download Festival next, which is exclusivity. Then a few weekends later in the year, we will have some more things planned. But the truth is that we don’t have the time to focus on it 100%, which is a blessing as much as anything. If one of us were in on this full throttle, it would annoy them that the rest of us weren’t.”

In those ten songs you played, were there any in particular that made you feel a certain way? Was there a lyric, chorus, or moment that hit you the hardest?

Gavin: “I know this will sound like a cop-out, but they all stood out. Not one single one was the one that sent tingles up my spine. That’s solely because all the way through, I was enjoying it all. I love playing ‘The Storm’ live, as I do ‘Said And Done’, where I would think of the other times we played them and what those shows were like. Playing them also made me look forward to what it will be like to play them on stage again. But every song has one of those moments.”

Sean: “We made sure to pick a group of songs that don’t have negative connotations. Songs that we know that the crowd like as much as we like playing. So whilst going through ‘STFUppercut’, I just remembered getting the rev in me to run about and go because that’s what the song reminds me of. Carnage. The same happened when we did ‘Save Our Selves’, which made me think of the last show where I pretty much cried out the line, ‘So this is where the story ends’, but now it made me think, ‘We’re back motherfucker’. Things like that. There’s nothing that brings us down.”

It’s almost like if every moment of this didn’t make you feel like you had been struck by lightning, then you would know it wasn’t the right time or right place…

Sean: “Absolutely. This is just about six boys who had a great time writing and playing songs together, having a good time and a good laugh together again. There’s no reason not to feel good about that. It’s all about those moments. Recently we lost a friend of ours, and I went to the funeral and saw so many old friends who used to be in bands, and some still trying to be in bands, and it made me think that we are wasting time. We need to be doing the things that we love, having fun and not taking everything too seriously whilst we can. Life is precious. It’s put a fire under me to do everything I can to make the most of it.”

Ultimately, what does it mean to have The Blackout back in your lives again?

Gavin: “It’s just so great because it has come back in a position way more than any other. It’s not something I need to rely on to get by. I can rely on it to provide me with a good time. I can step away from the grind of normal life and enjoy this band for what it is. It’s undoubtedly a positive piece of my life and will continue. Having Download there, it feels like we have a boy’s holiday booked for the Summer, and we are just sitting here waiting for it to happen. Though it never really left my life because you always have the memories inside of you. It’s such a force for good in my life, as it has always been, and it is now here to help me to enjoy myself.”

Sean: “I just can’t wait to play these songs again. I wouldn’t have cared if nobody was bothered. If it just meant that us six lads got to be in a room with five other people in it, I would be happy to play these songs again. I have missed them. It’s amazing even to be able to consider it, and then the bonus is seeing how it is making everybody else feel. The Blackout started with setting little goals. First, I wanted to play somewhere with a stage. Then somewhere with monitors, even though I didn’t know what monitors did. Now those little goals feel more like bonuses, and I hope they keep coming.”

The Blackout will be playing Download Festival 2023 at Donington Park between June 8-11. You can grab your tickets right HERE