Photo by Jose Berrio Lesmes
The music of Big Bliss is the auditory embodiment of a dream; it is ethereal and entrancing in the most exquisite manner. The Brooklyn-based trio (composed of Wallace May, Tim Race, and Cory Race) has mastered the ability of using sound and language to their fullest advantage in order to create a body of work that is undeniably artistically commanding.
The band’s newest single, “Fortune,” is an excellent embodiment of this ability. It is electrifying and effortlessly enchanting, with each sonic element standing out without overpowering another. The track oozes beauty while being simultaneously permeated with an electric zing-two sonic elements that would seemingly clash on paper, but Big Bliss succeeds in blending and streamlining into something that is both unique and cohesive.
Big Bliss’s recent EP, “Keep Near,” is also exemplary of these inherently unique musical and artistic abilities. “Command” is a beautifully reflective track that exudes incredible authenticity. The ethereal sounds of the guitar and vocal parts are sonically juxtaposed with the powerful and resonant sounds of the bass and drums, creating a sense of dynamic engagement that appeals to the ears of the reader in the same manner in which a good book appeals to the mind. “Visitant” radiates a sense of wonder, and is encapsulating of one of the most distinctive aspects of Big Bliss’s music: it sounds like a beginning. It is raw, refined, refreshing, and fills listeners with nexus of promise and anticipation that is so innately human that being moved deep within one’s soul is inevitable.
AMPLIFY had the opportunity to interview Tim Race about the band’s beginnings, artistic evolution, and upcoming endeavors. Read on, friends.
AMPLIFY: What’s the origin story of Big Bliss?
TR: The band originally started as a recording only project. My brother (Cory, drummer) and I have never been in a band together, despite playing in bands separately for about 25 years combined. We both moved to Brooklyn from Ohio between 2011-12 and after a few years of getting settled in NYC, we casually started writing tunes. We never intended it to be a full on band until we came across some songs we were really excited about.
For awhile it was just us two writing, until the summer of 2015 when I worked with Wallace’s (bass) band Young Tides on their EP, and during the sessions she mentioned she had played bass in bands when she was younger. Despite YT being pretty drastically different from what Big Bliss was going for, I just had a hunch she’d be a good fit. We met up a few times to convince her to join and piled on playlists for her to take cues from, and she totally got it right away.
We played our first show in late November 2015, and quickly met a ton of great bands and people involved in music in Brooklyn. Initially we thought “maybe a show a month?” and now we’re coming up on our 100th this summer!
AMPLIFY: How has the band’s sound evolved over time? Did you ever experiment with any other sounds or styles?
TR: We started off with a pretty clear goal. In my early twenties, I connected heavily with Joy Division/New Order, the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen etc. Both Cory and I love that era so it made sense for us to tap into that influence. It’s tough to appraise your own music accurately, but we try to keep an eye on our original post punk influence while allowing the music scene we are a part of inspire us equally. There’s a lot of really amazing punk/garage/psych stuff happening in Brooklyn these days, and going to those shows/playing with those bands has definitely affected our sound. Our new tunes have more drive, more energy, and that’s exciting.
AMPLIFY: Which artists have been the most impactful to you, both as individuals and as musicians?
TR: For me personally it’s Joy Division/New Order, but specifically it’d have to be Peter Hook. Using the bass as a lead instrument has always interested us, and as a trio the bass is so important. Wallace has an awesome, idiosyncratic style, and her parts can totally command a tune.
It may be a bit cliche, but on a personal level we are constantly inspired by the music around us in Brooklyn, and the bands we play with on tour. Our friends do some really amazing stuff, and we all operate with a DIY ethic I think is crucial in any music scene, especially one as large as Brooklyn’s.
Other influences I haven’t mentioned include MBV, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, the Fall, the Cure etc – recent bands we really love include Ought, Protomartyr, Priests, Flasher, Wildhoney, Big Hush.
AMPLIFY: What is your creative process like when developing new material?
TR: We write our songs together for the most part. Some bands function by having a central songwriter who brings in completed tunes to have the other members contribute to, but for us we find it works best when we start with a riff or a basic idea and flesh it out together. That way, everyone’s parts sort of inform the others, and we really like structuring the songs together.
AMPLIFY: How would you articulate the band’s artistic growth?
TR: Well, I hope we’ve grown, I think as a band we’re so much tighter, both musically and personally, just by virtue of the time we’ve spent working on this project on tour, at shows, in practice, etc.
AMPLIFY: As a band, what aspect of “Keep Near” are you most proud of?
TR: With that first batch of songs, we wanted to write as strong of a post punk influenced indie rock record as we could. We hope we did that.
AMPLIFY: Does your vision for “Keep Near” align with what you hope listeners take away from it?
TR: That’s the goal! We’ve received a lot of positive feedback, and folks seem to hear our influences in there. That’s really encouraging.
AMPLIFY: Do you have a favorite memory or story from any of your live performances?
TR: During one of our shows, on the last tune, I had gone into the audience and went straight for a new friend of ours we met that night. As soon as I reached him and we got to the “here’s the loud guitar part!” section of the song I stepped on my cable, which pulled it out of the guitar and cut the signal (always loop your cable in the strap, my friends). Pretty perfect timing, but what was great about it is that it didn’t matter. Everyone kept dancing, my friend helped me plug the cable back in and we ended the show the way we wanted to.
AMPLIFY: The music video for “High Ideal” is fantastic. How did you guys come up with the concept for it?
TR: Thanks! Can’t take credit for the concept, that was all from my writer/director friend Nick McCann, who helmed the video. He approached us with it fully formed, and we loved it right away. We liked how it matched the song’s dynamics and really appreciated the feminist message behind it, without it being too on the nose. Shooting the video was pretty surreal for us because we had a full crew, this amazing group of young actors, and everyone had a great time doing it. The crew worked really hard, and everyone involved seemed to really care about it. The girls especially loved when they were asked to scream at the camera and tear a bunch of books apart. What’s more awesome for a kid really?
AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for Big Bliss?
TR: 2017 has been a blast, just got back from SXSW and a tour with our good friends Fruit & Flowers, as well as getting to play with a bunch of bands we really love. Right now we’re getting ready to release a single, “Fortune,” in June and planning a few small tours mid summer, as well as a longer East Coast tour in August. Also in June we’re doing a few locals festivals in New York – Color Me Bushwick and Northside. On top of all of that we go into the studio soon to start working on our first LP. We’re very stoked about all of this!
To listen to more of Big Bliss’s work, click here to visit their bandcamp page
All images courtesy of Big Bliss