“There’s no pretenses, no costumes, nothing on stage that we do that is out of the element of bringing heavy, beautiful music to you.”
-Ben Flanagan (Black Map)

There really is no better way to put it. If you don’t know who Black Map is yet, seeing them open up for Chevelle on their current summer tour will engrain them into you. With a stellar new album, In Droves, the band mines territory both musically, and lyrically that is familiar yet fresh, as songs such as lead single, “Run Rabbit Run,” and “No Color,” beg to be heard. Repeatedly. For hours.
Before hitting the stage in Pennsylvania, we caught up with bassist/vocalist Ben Flanagan to discuss the bands sophomore smash, touring, and some of the changes this up-and-coming band has had over such a exciting year. Get ready for Black Map.
Matthew Pashalian
 

I’m sure like myself, many fans discovered Black Map through Chevelle, who you are currently out on tour with. How did this tour, and that initial overseas tour first come about?
The way it started was just – they heard of us. You know, Mark’s [Engles] other band Dredge they had toured with, and Chris’ [Robyn] other band Far. So we got together, even when only a few people had heard of us and didn’t really have may fans we ended up on their radar. Three years ago, the label that we were with – Minus Head Records out of San Francisco, they asked me to write down a list of bands that we would want to tour with and they reached out to Chevelle and immediately they were like, ‘Yes, we’ll take them out on tour.’ So it was kind of surreal, because that kind of stuff doesn’t usually work. But they really liked the music and they knew – they didn’t know me yet, but they knew the other two guys and they’re good guys. They aren’t the type of trash back stages, ruin the kind of tour guys. So they took us out on tour and we just kept a great rapport with them and they have continued to take us out. So it’s been pretty great.

2017 has seen the band playing some pretty big festivals. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of playing to those type of crowds?
I don’t think the crowd is the challenge, but festivals are a whole different animal as far as sound checks and load-in, playing these gigantic stages, etc. Logistically they can be difficult, but as far as the crowds there are no negatives. It’s all exciting. So many people coming out to those festivals, not necessarily to see our band, but it’s basically a way to see people who have never heard you and to give a lasting impression. You play for about a half hour so you pick your six best songs, come out and try to make the people who haven’t heard of you before or have only heard your name to become long-time fans.

Now how hard is it to pick those six best songs for a set like that?
A little difficult. Maybe best wasn’t the right word because I think you just want to pick the most high-octane; at least for a band like us who plays these hard rock/metal fests to figure out which are the most impactful. Figuring out their qualitative worth is difficult, but figuring which are the most impactful is difficult.

New album, new label – how did the deal with eOne happen and how do you compare it to the former with Minus Head?
We love Minus Head, have nothing bad to say about them. The label was really good to us. But they kind of had a ceiling, and we felt like we just wanted to explore some other options. We recorded three songs that are on the record now; “Ruin,” “No Color,” and “Cash for the Fears,” and we kind of sent those to some labels and we got a bunch of interest and ended up going with eOne. Their reach is massive and they have been really good to us. The common thread with both labels is that they let us do what we wanted to do. They don’t tell us how to write songs or say, ‘go in a more metal direction or a pop direction.’ They let us be who we are. We kind of insisted on being with a label that would not try to change us. It’s been all positive and eOne is a great label. We’re very lucky and happy to be with them.

Musically, I want to say you guys remind me of bands like Helmet, Quicksand, Deftones and Chevelle; but you almost transcend beyond that being more bass groove driven and relying a bit more on effects then straight up power chords like 98% of the rock bands out there. With the way you balance everything, is it conscious or planned out?
We never talk about what we want to be our how it should be. It’s all organic. I’m a guitar player turned bass player since before this project, so I probably play a little differently than a lot of bass players. Mark is who he is – very effects driven, he’s always been, so that hasn’t changed. The way Chris’ drum grooves have never changed either. It’s just a melting pot of the synthesis of the way we all are and then you put the three of us together; the 33.3% each, and that’s what it is. We aren’t trying to sound different from other bands, but we also aren’t trying to sound the same. We just get in a room and whatever comes out comes out.

Going back to how effected your music is, almost a chicken/egg question – how is a Black Map song composed? Is it more driven from bass or the ambience, vocal melodies etc.?
Usually not vocal melody, it’s about 50% either Mark bringing in a riff in or me bringing a riff in. I usually write on guitar and so does he. We just come to rehearsal with the skeleton of the song, just the basics. You now, like maybe a riff and chorus chords. We’ll jam on it and I’ll usually figure out what kind of melody, or a place holder melody at least to sing over it for a while. It’s kind of funny, but I still use Garage Band. I know it’s kind of archaic, but I never need the song to sound particularly good, it’s just to get the idea down. So often I’ll record it with a little beat and send it to the guys and learn it that way as well. Often times though, usually it’s Mark and myself bringing a riff to the table and that’s it.

While writing the lyrics for In Droves, did you tend to find that you were focusing on certain elements or concepts?
Yea definitely. To a point where I actually had to consciously try and leave a little bit. I read a lot about individuality, a lot about trying to actualize our humanity and not just follow one set of ideas for what it means to be human and what it means to thrive. There are a lot of ways to do that, and how precious our individuality is. A lot of the record is about that, and the album title kind of eludes to that as well.

While writing and recording In Droves, was there ever a big moment or song where you felt you made this huge break through or that really guided everything?
Good question – No, I don’t think so. [Laughter] We really truly are happy with all of it. There is no track on the record that anyone cringes at, no lyric anyone cringes at, no drum fill or anything like that. We’re all universally happy with it. It was all a very positive recording experience.

A few years ago there was a half hour long ‘behind the band’ kind of feature video with a few live performance videos from overseas. Do you plan on releasing that in a full physical or even digital format for those who would like to experience them in full, especially the live concert aspect of it?
Hey alright! Probably not, mainly because it’s already free up the iron YouTube, and it was only three songs that were filmed, not the whole concert. We could potentially think about doing a live DVD at some point. I hadn’t thought about it, but I am now! [Laughter]

For people who are about to experience Black Map live for the first time through this tour, how would you describe the band to them. What’s your pitch – sell Black Map!
The thing I would say is you gotta show up and see it. We’re three guys and there is no pretense. We show up, we wear what we normally wear; like what I’m wearing right now will be what I’m wearing on stage tonight. Not that fashion matters; what I mean is that we just show up and play rock and roll that we believe in. There’s no pretenses, no costumes, nothing on stage that we do that is out of the element of bringing heavy, beautiful music to you. It’s real, so that’s what I’ll say. It’s real.

What’s next for the band after the Chevelle tour and beyond?
We’re going to take a tiny break for about a month and then we’ll be hitting these four huge festivals around the states in October. We’re figuring out what tour we’ll be on around that supporting a bigger band. It’s all being figured out right now. It’s been a really busy year and October/November will round it out. It already is our most successful, and biggest year of growth and we just want to keep it going.

Purchase Tickets
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 – The Fillmore,  Miami Beach, FL 
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 – The House of Blues – Orlando, FL

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