By: Garrett Bethmann
Want to know how you know twins Eva and Cedric Walker of Seattle’s The Black Tones are close? They don’t mind dropping their kids off at the pool together, as they nonchalantly show on the cover of recent single “Where Do We Go From Here” b/w “The Devil and His Grandmother.”
Want to know how you know twins Eva and Cedric Walker are a little weird? They want to take pictures of themselves dropping their kids off at the pool together and making it the art that’s plastered on the cover of a single. I don’t care who you are, that’s some funny shit right there.
“There are these double toilet’s I call the “Twin Toilets” at Hollow Earth Radio here in Seattle. I like toilet humor (laughs) and we’re twins, there’s two toilets, we do a lot of stuff together, why don’t we take a shit together (laughs)?” said Eva.
Want to know how you know twins Eva and Cedric Walker are funny? The siblings made an 8-bit Streets of Rage-style video game (http://www.theywantusdead.com/) to fight boss Donald Trump and his randy band of Klansmen to a digitized version of their pro-black hit song “Key Of Black (They Want Us Dead).” The art for first album Cobain & Cornbread is Eva and Cedric hanging ‘round naked and in their underwear, serving up cornbread and mugging for the camera. If it’s off-color and a little weird, Eva and Cedric are gonna probably wanna get deep in and laugh about it.
The same can be said of the music of The Black Tones, which is a sonic extension of the twins’ humor, personalities and overall dynamic. Eva is the outspoken, 1,000-watt frontwoman on guitar with cartoonish exuberance while her brother is the relatively soft-spoken, steadfast soul of the group on drums, supporting his sister however he must. Eva’s big weird energy drives the scope of the music and group, though she’ll be the first to admit she ain’t driving anywhere without her brother sitting shotgun.
They come at rock music from a nonchalant angle, with simple musical ideas that are leaned into hard and enthusiastically like an inside joke just starting to metastasize between them. Eva has an oblong vibrato that grows on you the more you get to hear its personality, while her guitar playing is a big high-five of elementarily effective riffs that want you to hang out and have fun, not wallow in critique or complexity.
Nary a drum fill exists in any of The Black Tones’ songs, though it took me over a year to realize that because of the way Cedric subtly pounds the rhythm into a submissive pocket with just his snare, kick and cymbals. The Black Tones’ style can make for an initially bumpy, unsure ride, but soon you love your hair getting blown back by the fuzzy crunch, oddball melodies and garage drone of the duo as they hammer away on the whammy bar of life. It’s blues music for people who have no intention of being sad.
Want to know how you know The Black Tones are cool? Mike McCready of Pearl Jam is a big fan and put out the twins’ latest record “Where Do We Go From Here” b/w “The Devil and His Grandmother” on his passion project label HockeyTalkter Records. They even collaborated on a song for the recent Songs of Hope benefit concert. Legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino produced their first album and subsequent singles.
But even more so, The Black Tones are the real cool kids, the genuinely cool kids, who want everyone in their weirdo group of friends to succeed. Eva and Cedric produce talk show Video BeBop as a way to promote music videos of other artists in their community and always look to bring friends to the stage when performing at large shows for bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Weezer and Thunderpussy. Cedric and Eva are cool because the music is fun and the hang is easy and anybody who can make it is invited.
Want to know how you know Eva and Cedric Walker are dope? Because knowing everything you know about them now, how can you think they are anything but the closest, weirdest, funniest, coolest pair of zero-pretense rock star twins out there?
Oh, and because Eva and Cedric Walker are in The Black Tones, and that’s a pretty dope band from Seattle. I read it on some blog once.
Read below for an interview with Eva and Cedric Walker. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
From your photo shoots to songs, I think ya’ll are funny as hell. Who are some of the people whose humor you appreciate in the musical space?
Eva: I like Naked Giant with all the colors and Kraftwerk, which is not so humorous but still a little out there. I’ve always liked Pink Floyd, as well as slapstick humor, so I’ve always loved Charlie Chaplin, he’s just my favorite artist ever. And don’t forget Funkadelic.
Cedric: I definitely agree with Eva on Naked Giant and I’ll throw in Talking Heads. Very quirky and I didn’t at first get it but I’ve grown to love it.
Do you remember some of your first conversations about what you wanted to hear in the music of The Black Tones as it was coming together?
Eva: It’s changed from when we originally started. We’ve had different members and along the way we’ve discovered different influences but I think it was definitely rock and roll. It got more blues obvious the later it got, it just ended up being that as I drifted more and more because it felt so good. I love the British Invasion and all those rock bands from high school but we didn’t go that way ‘till later. The turning point on that was kind of listening to some afro-rock out of Nigeria, that was a big influence on the music of Cobain and Cornbread, and then a Seattle band called the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. It was listening to that psychedelic rock from around the world, 1970’s Nigeria gets me (laughs).
Cedric: I want to echo those sentiments. Eva and I were living together and when I was coming home from work she’d have 1970’s Nigeria music going. Being the drummer, I wouldn’t have even thought to go there but Eva is a great digger of music from all over the world.
Being in a duo with your twin, the whole concept is about synergy and being the sum of your parts, about togetherness. For each of you, where do you feel sole ownership of a singular aspect of this band?
Eva: I feel that way about my singing. I don’t consider myself a great singer but I’m getting more comfortable with how I work it and how I present it. It’s very me now (laugh), which it took a lot of time to get to this point. It’s this weird combination of two singers I appreciate and want to sound like, which is Billie Holiday and Jim Morrison. The vibrato of hearing my grandmother hum is also the vibrato of Billie Holiday that I like and it’s hard to say how much influence Jim Morrison has had. It’s funny, if he were alive I’d never want to meet him because he’s an asshole, but I love his voice and what he does with it.
Cedric: I’m getting way more comfortable with my drumming, which is thanks to Eva. But I’d say my intangible — which isn’t really part of the music — is my role to Eva, my sister. Whether that be her teaching me drumming or we have a big show and I’ll take all the questions from my mom because she’ll ask the same thing 100 times (laughs). The reason I say it’s my role is because in other interviews Eva has said that she couldn’t do this without her brother. My role is being her twin brother that she can rely on to do her thing, which is kind of already the role of the drummer.
Eva: Sorry to add onto your Cedric, but what he does in The Black Tones, literally, no one else could do: drum-wise, communication-wise, vibe-wise. If he wasn’t in the band, I’d change the name.
You do a lot of things outside of the music, from video games to coloring books to your talkshow Video BeBop. Are they avenues to support the music or is music a smaller piece of the creative puzzle for you than one might think?
Eva: We just have a lot of ideas. We grew up playing video games, love video games, and hate hate groups, so why not combine the two (laughs)? Quite naturally it will support the music but it’s not necessarily why we did it. Video BeBop is a platform for other artists in our community who make music videos, we miss music videos on television and we wanted to bring that back. We have a lot of fun curating stuff and that was the main intention with that.
Even with that we don’t really bring up The Black Tones, it’s more Eva and Cedric. We’re not into being exclusive or thinking people are not cool enough. We know what it feels like to be excluded and we don’t want to do that, that’s why when you come to a Black Tones show you are like family. We try to be very inclusive with the work we do and welcome all kinds of people. It’s why when we do big shows we try and invite people and artists from our community to perform a song with us. We have to keep giving back when we get something amazing.
With the coloring book, the most important thing about childhood is using your imagination. Lets not color in the people, let the kids color in the story however they want. Black kids, white kids, Latino kids, let them interpret the story how they want. Of course features of the characters are african-american — which is important to represent because there is a lack of representation — but also giving kids the opportunity to make that world look however they want.
I saw that meme y’all posted about the face you make when white blues musician’s tell you they were black in a past life. That’s so funny and I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in there, but what’s the most egregious example of that?
Eva: (Laughs) I’ve gotten it so many times. I used to go to this blues festival in Port Townsend and it was workshops and concerts and everyone there was white, which is fine and whatever, music is for everyone. But being me there, a lot of the instructors and students who were white, would tell me it’s so great seeing a black woman here. I heard from three people that they believed they were black in their past life because of how much they loved the blues. What?! The blues isn’t about being black, it’s about pain and suffering and dealing with it. It was invented by black people because they were the ones doing the suffering (chuckles) but white people can suffer and enjoy the blues. It doesn’t mean they were black in their past life.
What was the We Are Music event with The Recording Academy and what input did you provide?
Cedric: Basically we get to be a part of The Recording Academy. They’ll see your body of work, see what you’ve done in your region and nominate you. Once you get nominated you’re able to join. You’re doing stuff like Save Our Stages and COVID relief, getting on Zoom calls with politicians and telling them why it’s important and why we gotta get money to venues. As a band, we get a vote for the Grammys. We get to go through all the nominees, I actually got it the other day and I’m gonna have to team up with Eva to see who we are voting for. There’s ways to get involved to make the Grammys better, obviously it being more diverse. It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of.