Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Black Ends are a self-described ‘gunk pop’ group consisting of singer/guitarist Nicolle Swims, bassist Ben Swanson, and drummer Jonny Modes. Last month, they released Stay Evil, the follow-up to their 2019 EP Sellout. As hinted by the record’s cover artwork, the 4-track EP has a surreal quality about it, at once bizarre and electrifying. The pure dynamism of the band is evident from the first moments of the mesmerizing, propulsive title track, which showcases Swims’ strangely hypnotic vocals as she proclaims “I’m not paranoid”. Listening to the rest of the EP, however, feels much like spiralling into some sort of neurotic fantasy: ‘Monday Mourning’ carries with it the same kind of raucous energy, this time with more of a grunge flair. But perhaps the EP’s biggest highlight is ‘Live in the Sea’, which evokes the disquieting intimacy of Kurt Cobain’s acoustic demos. “What’s the use in crying? I live in the sea,” Swims repeats over and over, as Maxwell Patterson provides some utterly chaotic percussion that swirls around like a hungry tide. Swims leaves us with the raw power of her voice: “Am I warm?” she cries out on the closing track ‘Low’. As absurd as music like this can get, Black Ends aren’t afraid to hit you with a wave of unadulterated emotion.
We caught up with Nicole Swims of Black Ends for this edition of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk about their music.
How did you form Black Ends?
Black Ends was my project for a while before I moved to Seattle. I decided I wanted to start a band to finally get these songs going once I moved. Ben reached out to me and asked to play bass and Jonny was playing drums at a house show and I loved his playing so reached out to him to see if he’d be interested in being in our band.
What are some of your influences across the group?
I’m really into Nirvana and Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith. Stuff like that. I really like dark pop music if you could call it that. Jonny and Ben kind of just listen to chiptune and French black metal. They also really love listening to the Barney theme song on a loop for hours. Pretty disturbing honestly.
What was the inspiration for your ‘Stay Evil’ EP?
No idea. I just wrote the songs and thought they sounded good. I was inspired by the things around me. Books, movies, songs. The world in general.
How was your approach different from your previous releases?
This time was a bit different just because we recorded basically everything besides Monday Mourning in Jonny’s basement. Low was recorded mostly at my house during Covid because we couldn’t really do much else.
What’s your favourite track from the EP, and why?
‘Live in the Sea’ is probably my favorite track from the EP just because it’s rambunctious and calming at the same time. Maxwell really did the song justice and made it so fun to listen to. I just love that track.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’ll probably record some demos. Maybe do a few music videos and just kind of promote the EP as best as possible. It’s kind of hard to know what will really come along since things are so all over the place right now. I just hope we stay creative through all of this.