The Black Tones album title Cobain and Cornbread is a description of the band that lead singer/guitarist Eva came up with playing at a show, in answer to the most commonly asked question, “What does your band sound like?” This tasty adroitly description sums up her and her twin drummer Cedric David’s Seattle-spawned punk-blues. “Sometimes we don’t even sound like our influences,” she explains, “So the best way I found to describe The Black Tones was to talk about our environment we were raised around, which was a bunch of southerners living in the Northwest.”
Louisiana-bred, though born and raised in Seattle, The Black Tones’ reference to grunge god Kurt and the Native American quick bread cuisine, evokes “Southern influences in the grey of the Northwest,” Eva says. “It sort of creates this offspring of rebellion and soul. We eat gumbo in our flannel shirts, and we eat red beans and rice while head-banging!”
Music was a huge part of Eva and Cedric’s childhood, their first shared fandom being for “Turn Your Love Around” by iconic vocalist and guitarist George Benson, which they would dance to together every time the radio played it. They enjoyed looking in at what their older siblings were digging on MTV, such as Jay Z, Nirvana, Blind Melon, Michael Jackson, and “90s pop music was awesome too! And R&B like SWV, En Vogue, etc.,” Eva says. In high school their tastes had drifted; Eva was introduced to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. After high school she researched and grooved on the old blues and folk that had influenced those classic rock bands. At the same time, she and Cedric were also big World-Wide Wrestling fans — “we loved wrestling! Cedric loved it before I did, but then I became a fanatic too.” They really enjoyed the hard rock music used in bouts, drawing them closer to heavy metal.
About this time Cedric had started to play the drums and wanted to hear the songs that Eva was writing, which she found exciting. He matched drum parts to songs she had only worked out so far on guitar, later on getting a bass player and another guitarist. As soon as they had a few arranged, they were ready to start performing. They went through some changes: The Black Tones as a four piece only lasted for a while, then became a trio, “but Cedric and I were the founders and the only consistently reliable members, so now we just keep it as a duo, while hiring other musicians to play instruments live with us.” Eva had also been in an all-girl punk band called BUST, but she ended up channeling everything into The Black Tones with Cedric.
Through countless shows supporting a few early singles, The Black Tones felt they finally got their first big breakthrough opening for Death Cab for Cutie in an anniversary benefit for the Paramount Theater. “That was the biggest show we’ve done!” Eva exclaims. She gives credit for reaching that height to NighTrain, the all black female punk band that she says discovered and championed them when they had freshly started.
For Cobain and Cornbread, The Black Tones are returning from their singles to work with the renowned, glorious grunge producer Jack Endino, introduced to them by Eva’s fiancé and music writer Jake Uitti. Jake had interviewed Jack and sent him their song “Woman in Black” without Eva’s knowledge and Jack replied how much he loved it and wanted to work with The Black Tones.
“I was never really big on recording in a studio,” she says, “I’m a live show nut, I just love performing. Being in studios was always very stressful for me, but when we worked with Jack, that totally changed! It was the best recording experience I’ve ever had. Jack is like a scientist, a chemist behind the soundboard. He had great ideas that strengthened each song. I’ve never met anyone with an ear like his, it’s unbelievable, though he’s a calm, humble, kind, efficient, honest and very intelligent guy — I was so intimidated at first, I mean, here’s the guy who recorded the Melvins, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the list goes on. And now he’s working with us and he’s really into it!”
Cobain and Cornbread also features help from their friend Mason Lowe from Bread & Butter, on “Chubby and Tubby” (a frenetic garage rock instrumental ode to the landmark Seattle variety store) and “Welcome Mr. Pink” (the band’s autobiographical anthem). “Mason has a great ear and was really amazing to work with.” Ed Brooks mastered all the songs on the record, with Jack checking back in to make sure he was looped on everything. “As a band we are of course rooting for the record, but it’s even more special when everyone else is as well!”
There’s something very unique about the songs (all originals save for a cover of “River of Jordan”) and sound unique about the minimalist sound Jack helped The Black Tones achieved, reminding one of the debuts from The Ramones to the Stooges to the Modern Lovers. Eva acknowledges the brute power of the album’s sound, “it’s pretty vulnerable and raw and I like that,” she says. “There are songs like ‘Welcome Mr. Pink’ where you can hear the click sound from me pressing down on the button to turn on my reverb pedal.” Or in their righteous, ferocious Black Power anthem, “Key of Black (They Want Us Dead),” “after the second guitar chorus when I go back to the solo, I almost forgot to press my Wah Wah pedal back on so it comes in a little late.
“We’re not factory made or even ever scratch the surface of perfection, we’re real people, this is real life and these little details remind me of the imperfections of life,” she says. “Life’s real, life’s the blues, coming from the heart. My doctor told me I have a slight heart murmur, well, so does our music!”