Black Orchids are pitching a new religion with a simple ideal: survival through cathartic, bone-shaking rock.
California-born Kay Elizabeth is the frontwoman and rhythm guitarist of this motley four-piece. All hail from different parts of the world, but share a deep love of making relentless, rhythmic patterns.
“Black Orchids allows me a pathway to express my love of heavy music in my own way, with all my other influences. It’s almost like a coming home in some ways,” Elizabeth tells Fringe Frequency.
On stage, Elizabeth is a rock queen personified: knee-high boots, tattoos, thick, dark hair and a towering presence when she wields her instrument. And when she says “heavy”, she means it. The battering growl of bass and drums in ‘Blood Moon’ is like the rumble of judgement coming ever closer. But the ethereal and otherworldly is also a major part of their sound, emanating throughout these songs from the psychedelic rock rhythms to Elizabeth’s stout vocals.
“Growing up in the Bay Area, I was surrounded by loads of local bands. That’s all I did really: drink beer and go see bands!” – Kay Elizabeth
Elizabeth’s love of music started early, as she explains: “Growing up in the Bay Area, particularly in the east side, I was surrounded by loads of local bands playing metal, punk, hip hop. That’s all I did really, drink beer and go see bands!
“I discovered a love for heavy music in my late teens – Obituary, Death and Helmet being a few of my favourites.”
Now residing in London, Elizabeth recruited her fellow bandmates one by one.
First was British-born baritone lead guitarist Magnus Box, whom she met as part of Latin-funk music project, The Fontanas. “His production expertise and creative ideas have been paramount,” says Elizabeth.
Drummer Brian Hedemann, from Denmark, was next up. “He was indeed my first choice of drummer with his sheer energy and musicality of his playing.”
Finally, Belgian-Finnish bass player Alain Duchesne was introduced to her at The Blues Kitchen in Camden. “Alain has held together and creatively interpreted my music, especially with his knowledge of rhythm and harmony subtly translated amidst heavy riffs,” she says.
“I find the creative process necessary for my survival as a human being!” – Kay Elizabeth
The group’s debut EP, Blood Moon, has been heartily reviewed and got them booked to play Afropunk London. There are echoes of classic rock here, like Stevie Nicks and Black Sabbath. But it’s more than that. Listening to Black Orchids’s bold, rhythmic rock is like being part of a summoning.
“I find the creative process necessary for my survival as a human being!” says Elizabeth.
“Performing arts as a pathway of expression is equally important. Writing music allows me to dig into the archives of the self, to dig beneath the surface of emotion. In my writing, I attempt to dive down, deep into the recesses of how it’s ‘supposed’ to feel and transcend through to the other side.”
So far, in their quest to the break out of our mortal world, the band has released their debut EP and the single ‘Still Remains’. They are working on their debut album now, fully independent – as they are without a label and management at the moment.
Elizabeth has ambitions to play Download Festival and Bloodstock. If they can maintain the power of their early music, it’s an ambition she will surely realise. Along with artists like Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes), Sate, Deap Vally, and Nova Twins, she is reminding the world that heavy music isn’t, and will never be, “just for the boys”.
“This project is a journey shared between four musicians intuitively connected, which makes Black Orchids.” says Elizabeth. “It’s dreamy hard rock for complicated people”.
Group members: Kay Elizabeth (vocals and rhythm guitar); Magnus Box (baritone lead guitar); Alain Duchesne (bass); Brian Hedemann (drums)
- Blood Moon (EP, 2015, Self-released)
- Still Remains (Single, 2017, Self-released)
File next to: Black Sabbath; The White Stripes; Fleetwood Mac; Sate
Still Remain by Black Orchids is out now. You can listen to the group play a selection of their favourite songs on a special one-hour show for Rinse (it’s truly great).
Image: Stephanie Dray