Governors Balls to the Wall: Check Out This Insane Blues-Rock Duo Gettin' Ready to 'Riot'

Explosive blues-rockers Black Pistol Fire are taking it easy right now in their adoptive home of Austin, Texas awaiting the release of their fourth LP, Don’t Wake the Riot. 

For now, they’re riding a couple of weeks of chill time before striking out on a tour that will bring them to New York City for two Governors Ball shows, including a night set on Saturday, June 4th at Gramercy Theatre presented by Gov Ball After Dark.

The Wake the Riot Tour begins May 20th with their record release show at Emo's in Austin before heading to BottleRock Napa Valley where they share the line up with artists like Stevie Wonder, X Ambassadors, and Rodrigo y Gabriela followed by their return to NYC. 

The new record has three singles available now: “Fleet Foot,” streaming on Spotify and featured on Ghost Games' Need for Speed (2015) soundtrack, “Hard Luck,” heard on Toyota’s Prius commercial from Super Bowl 50 and available on iTunes, as well as their latest ear-popping single available on both platforms, “Bad Blood.”

I recently spoke over the phone with the duo from guitarist/singer Kevin McKeown’s living room, alongside drummer Eric Owen and Kevin’s sleeping dog on what seemed to be a lazy Texan day.

The two come from Toronto originally, but have gradually transplanted themselves in Austin’s fertile music scene. 

They’re settled, comfortable calling themselves Austinites—Texas Drivers Licenses and everything.

Kevin and Eric took their time recording Don’t Wake the Riot at Arlyn Studios over the course of about eight days, they told me, with an air of reverence and excitement when listing others who have famously recorded there including Willy Nelson, Merle Haggard, and their tour mate Gary Clark Jr.

Before the band’s arrival on Modern Outsider and their label debut LP, 2014’s Hush or Howl-- which only took about four days --their self-released albums were banged out in only two to three.


The guys made a concerted effort to try something different this time around, having said that it’s their heaviest and also most delicate album to date.

And after listening through Don’t Wake the Riot, it’s clear that taking their time paid off in a big way.

The record is true to form badass and ballsy, but also demonstrates growth by painting with more colors than all their previous efforts, including introspective sauntering down vulnerable pathways and a wider tonal gene pool.

Eric calls it "more groove oriented," and the evidence is on tracks like "Tombstone Taillight," "Copperhead Kiss," and "Morning Star--" which was, oddly enough, inspired by the last passage in DMX's "Who We Be," he shared.  

Surprisingly, "Blue Blazes" contains more sensitivity than previous efforts. 

"We wanted to try new things out on this record, and that's where the vulnerability comes in," Kevin told me. 

But it doesn't detract from the the record. Instead, it fleshes out the band's character. 

The "Ooh's" on "Bad Blood," the major key energy in "Slowknife Stiletto," and the haunting heartbeat bass drum in the "Blue Blazes" all sound like successful forays into new territory. 

Kevin explained,"You can get pigeonholed being a two piece band putting out the same type of material again and again. This was us trying to shake things up." 

And shake they did. 

Don't Wake the Riot is more focused and flourished. It marks some type of evolution, or fruitful exploration for the band that'll undoubtedly attract wider audiences at festivals by appealing to more sensibilities, and provide a little new fertile ground for greater intimacy at club shows.

And the band is excited for both prospects this summer, agreeing that festival and club gigs each present unique challenges and blessings. 

Like last year's Gov Ball for example, they were a last-minute replacement on the lineup and ended up playing in the rain.

Nevertheless, they've been invited back to play the festival and featured on the Gov Ball After Dark lineup. Now a festival's not a festival without some killer sit-ins, so I asked the band who they'd like to have come play a song or two during their set.

They're quite into Beck, but surprisingly after touring Europe and some of America together, their friendly tour mate Gary Clark Jr hasn't yet sat in with Black Pistol Fire, and they'd love to have him.

"You couldn't ask for a better crew to tour with, from top to bottom. The band, Gary, the crew-- everyone-- they're great," Kevin had to say.

It was totally their idea, but I think it would kick ass too. What fan of both of them wouldn't be stoked on that? It's a match made in rock and roll heaven. So Gary can we make something happen here, or what?


Black Pistol Fire is also excited for their Gov Ball After Dark set at Gramercy Theatre, citing their last NYC club performance at Mercury Lounge as one of raddest sets they ever played. 

So there's a lot to be excited about, especially because the duo has brought on some new gear.

Eric has made the addition of an 18-inch floor tom, and Kevin's now using an octave and wider variety of fuzz effects to really push the limits of what a duo can sound like. 

Grab Black Pistol Fire's new album Don't Wake the Riot on May 20th via iTunes and Spotify and check them out at Governors Ball and Governors Ball After Dark.

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[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram] 

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