“Wild One” wasn’t even supposed to appear on the debut album from Nashville’s Blackout Balter.
The band, which got its start in Massachusetts, had already finished recording the rest of the songs on Animal when singer-guitarist Philip Cohen went and recorded a demo. The band members got hooked on the song’s call-and-response vocals; a nod to the military “jody call” song format.
“Jodies are military march songs. They’re fun to sing and easy to remember,” Cohen said. “The idea that backup vocals can play a prominent role in a song isn’t new, but the idea that someone is going to repeat almost every word the lead singer says throughout an entire song is a bit of a strange experiment. In a way, the essence of the lyrics are a mantra of sorts: ‘I’m wild, do what I want; sew all the pieces, throw all the pieces.’ If you say that over and over again, you’re going to start believing it.”
Cohen describes Animal as a diverse and energetic collection of 14 songs that speaks to the band’s gut instinct, with the new single standing out as being on the grittier end of the spectrum. It was produced by Grammy-winner producers Jeremy Ferguson (Cage the Elephant) and Emily Lazar (David Bowie, Coldplay).
He said that as in most of his songwriting, he focused on the melody and vibe while writing “Wild One” rather than on telling the story. He wanted the verses to be darker and have a sharper attitude, while the chorus needed to be lighter and happier; to provide an escape or sense of freedom. Still, there’s a protagonist who’s weighing some heavy decisions that need to be made. When he got the idea for it, the song came quickly.
“Sometimes it’s hard to pull the song you hear in your head out of your brain,” Cohen said. “The song I was hearing in my head sounded good, so the next time we were in the studio, I asked our producer Jeremy if we could record a quick demo. Before the day was out, the demo was finished. … For me, songwriting is a challenge—this is one of the reasons I love to write songs. It usually takes months to write one song; and—for me—each song usually starts off with a singer-songwriter sound, on acoustic guitar. It’s another challenge to take an acoustic-guitar-driven song and transform it into a rock song, so there’s always a lot of hard work that goes into music creation for me. But ‘Wild One’ was different. The melody and lyrics came to me quickly.”
Animal follows Blackout Balter’s debut EP, Twist And Bend, which featured contributions from Dave Keuning of The Killers, who was so impressed by the band’s demos that he invited the members to record at The Killers’ Battle Born Studios in Las Vegas.
Blackout Balter formed in 2016 and moved to Nashville a year and a half ago. Cohen said he and his bandmates have been working hard to succeed in the city’s active music scene, which hasn’t always been easy.
“Throw a stone, and you’ll hit a bunch of people who have perfect technical proficiency when it comes to their instrument of choice; but what if technical proficiency is not exactly what you’re looking for?” he said. “It’s actually more of a challenge … than I had originally thought. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. All good things require hard work, and we’re definitely willing to work hard.”