‘You guys aren’t a radio band’ they were told. And just like that, in true rock ‘n’ roll essence, The Black Moods broke off their deal with a label giant and showed the world just how radio their rebelliousness could be when they broke top 40 charts not once but three times.
The power trio formed in the deserts of Tempe, Arizona saw near instant success or so they thought, when landing a major label deal while recording their album Medicine in 2016, an opportunity that only inspired them to start over and record the success that is their sophomore album and true claim-to-fame, Sunshine, out May 8 on Steelhorse Entertainment.
The Black Moods found their actual success with the release of hit “Bella Donna” in 2018, when it secured a top 40 spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart for 14 weeks, a track that also made its way onto Sunshine. Other singles “Whatcha Got” and “Bad News” were chart toppers as well.
“It was shocking,” frontman Josh Kennedy said of the singles’ chart status. “We put out a record Medicine in 2016 and the whole time the label wouldn’t take us to radio, and said ‘you’re not a radio band’. So, we asked to get out of our deal and as soon as we got new management and put out “Bella Donna” it went to radio. It was just such a defining moment for us.”
Another defining moment for The Black Moods was the stellar opportunity to have the company and collaboration of Grammy winning producer Johnny Karkazis or Johnny K as they call him. Throughout the experience of recording Sunshine surrounded by the late-night parties in the studio to the writing sessions when Johnny would look at Kennedy and say ‘ehh I’m not hearing it’, they fostered a bond that Kennedy now describes as a brotherhood-family.
“Johnny K was amazing, he’s very southside Chicago, so he doesn’t let up, he’s very matter of fact and doesn’t take any shit,” said Kennedy. “So, it was great, we met him through some mutual friends and another band we were touring with. We were going to make another record and wanted to do something a bit different and Johnny’s name came up, we flew out and met. Now we’re just like brothers, he’s just part of the family.”
“We searched around for studios everywhere and he came into our rehearsal studio that we built and he just brought his own gear and we just kind of camped out in there. It was much more lax because you weren’t paying by the hour ya know” laughed Kennedy. “Everything was kicked back, we would have parties sometimes while recording, so it was very loose. Overall, it just felt like home.”
The idea for the title track was sparked by a friend of the band, who worked in the studio. A guy who tirelessly made demo snippets on his keyboard, brought a riff to Kennedy. The frontman ran with the idea and kindled the shell of what would be “Sunshine”. The track stood strong for some time unfinished, lacking a bridge section. But Johnny K lent a hand here after listening to the original verse-chorus version the group had, initially saying “ehh I’m not hearing it,’ but sat down with Kennedy and wrote the bridge that would close the circle of “Sunshine.”
“When he and I sat down and wrote the bridge, it just came to life,” said Kennedy.
While Kennedy and Johnny K worked vigorously to shape “Sunshine” into the hard-hitting title track, the record, a medley of 70’s and 90’s rock if CCR and Gin Blossoms collided, was absolutely a joint effort between Kennedy, drummer Chico Diaz and bassist Jordan Hoffman.
A song that surely takes a chord from the Gin Blossoms songbook is the one and only ballad from Sunshine, because everyone needs a ballad right? Johnny K thought so too. And “Home” is what came. The ballad was the final touch on the never faltering hard rock track-list, but since Kennedy was not roused by the idea of writing the next “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, he chose to write about a narrative closer to his soul, his son.
“My son was living in Arkansas and I was Face-timing with him and his mom,” Kennedy shared. “He was little-bitty, maybe 1 and I would just sit with my acoustic guitar in front of the phone and just play a kind of lullaby for him and I was like ‘oh shit, I got to go’. I got off the phone and wrote ‘Home’, the whole thing in like ten minutes. It was really about ‘don’t grow up too fast, wait for me, I’m coming home.”
The Black Moods remain a humble and no-frills group in a rock world where egos fly free and money talks, explaining their end goal is to keep making records and playing music as a band, a relationship Kennedy said is definitely more of a family.
“We want to keep making records, because that’s what we do,” said Kennedy. “Even when we’re not on the road, we’re always in the studio working together. I just want to keep making music with my friends and make songs people want to hear.”