When The Blackout Pictures played their first show a little over six months ago, the band they were billed to support dropped off just a couple of days prior. Our hometown heroes decided to go through with it anyway, some of them having not played their instruments in years—and others, like vocalist Lindsay Payton,
having never sung in a band before. A debut with no one else on the bill in Santa Fe at Zephyr Community Art Studio on a Monday night in December might have been a death sentence as far as attendance goes, and the group was prepared to play for themselves and have fun doing it. By showtime, however, the venue was, by all reports, packed to capacity. Metalheads, indie rockers, punks and everybody else mingled in a way that reflects the band itself; namely, a crew of eclectic would-be misfits, if they didn't somehow seem to gel with any lineup.
Drummer Jeff Jedlowski and guitarist Jared Weiss were the initiators of The Blackout Pictures, both having put down their respective instruments for some time to focus on visual arts. Brandon Smith joined on guitar and later, Theresa Anderson on bass. The band then asked illustrator Lindsay Payton if she had ever sung before, to which the answer was no.
"I just decided to go in and try it out," says Payton, whose vocals and stage presence are one of the band's main draws. Payton is emotive and engaging with a range of styles from gothic croons to black metal shrieks. The fact that members of the band are either, by their own description, untrained in their instruments or were out of practice is a bit shocking; they produce some of Santa Fe's more complex music.
Still, the members were of course curious as to how their music would be described in those first days. The laziest way to genreify is by using the oft-used signifier "post-hardcore," but The Blackout Pictures' sound has numerous lineages that go well beyond that. It's chameleon-like, heavy rock with dark tones that can be both nimble and bludgeoning, often thanks to Weiss and Smith's techy dual guitar assault.
Similar to other Santa Fe acts such as Future Scars or Bodies, The Blackout Pictures appear on unexpected shows. Just recently they performed at Lost Padre Records' indie rock-leaning one-year anniversary show, and this week they'll share the stage with death metal act Heretical Sect. It's that versatility that makes them hard to pin down, but well worth exploring. In a town like ours, we have many bands that each do very specific things. This leads to eclectic shows that might lack cohesion, but that make up for it with unexpected blends of crowds and acts.
But how do five people agree on one sound, or is that partly why they can go in so many directions within one song?
"While we're writing we do fight each other a bit," says Weiss—and the band does not argue on that point. "We really just try to break the norm, like, let's just play whatever we want to play and see however we can get it from start to finish in a song. Like a rollercoaster, but one coherent piece."
Weiss often brings the initial ideas and riffs to the table, but from there the band acts as a democracy with each member responsible for their own piece of the puzzle. Plenty of bands function this way, but more often than not, one benevolent dictator acts as the final word on disputes. This is not the case in The Blackout Pictures, and while it seems like such a songwriting practice could be a nightmare if the chemistry were even slightly off, each member seems to have it dialed in.
"I feel like it's getting easier for me," Anderson, the bassist, tells SFR. "I have an idea of what I want to sound like."
Weiss chimes in, "It's gotten more simplified, more direct."
Jedlowski describes the band's growth as reflective of their growing personal relationships, saying that "a lot of it is just us learning ourselves and each other, and we're kind of bending each other's way of learning."
The band is prepared to go into Augustine Ortiz' studio The Decibel Foundry to record their debut full-length this June, and has no plans to turn down any show offers simply based on other bands' genres or sounds.
"No shows turned down," says Weiss with a laugh. "Bluegrass venues—call us up."
They could probably pull it off.
Tuesday Night Draft Punx: The Blackout Pictures and Heretical Sect
8 pm Tuesday May 28. Free.
Second Street Brewery (Rufina Taproom),
2920 Rufina St.,