Arkansas quartet Drawing Blanks have honed an engaging sound that harnesses classic rock and rock’n’roll influences and themes around everything from the hypocrisy of religion to sex.
The Fayetteville band released second EP Lover In The Sky in July, from which they sent us the edgy, rocky That’s All. It opens up with delicious high-pitched guitars then drops into big vocals answered by bursts of guitar, then upbeat guitars and organ take over. It builds up to a lively chorus that gives way to cool little guitar solos, before the lively guitars and organ jump back in. A second chorus feeds into guitar and bass answering each other then a huge guitar solo that drops into a final chorus.
The EP ends in fine fashion with the superb Father, which begins slowly with light guitar and a drawn-out organ sound then a distant guitar sound. Joel’s low vocals Lay me down in the back of the room, No you don’t have to go so soon, Say you’re sorry and that you knew, No you don’t care enough to choose.” Sawyer’s higher-pitched vocals join in as the atmosphere builds “And with every rule that I break, The skies still remain, And with every smile you fake, I am still to blame, Love me like a father.”
Drums kick in and introduce a seriously good blitzing guitar solo. That eventually gives way to more intense vocals “Don’t play pretend and act like you don’t know, You know the kind of man he is, Make me look at myself, I’ll tell you what’s broken, Fill my dirty wounds with soap and sin, And tell me I had it coming.”
Another huge solo takes over and feeds into more laid-back, emotional vocals that bring the track to an end. Check it out below:
We had a chat with frontman Joel Robertson to find out more about the band. Read on below…
GR: Who are Drawing Blanks?
JR: “Drawing Blanks is Joel Robertson (lead guitar, vocals), Sawyer Hill (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jared Guinn (bass), and Spencer Hill (drums). Joel’s the higher voice, Sawyer is the deeper one. We’re from Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
“Back in 2014, I was in a band with Sawyer and some of my friends. They were all seniors except for Sawyer, so after graduation the other members left for college, but me and Sawyer wanted to keep it going and started DB.
“It was just me and Sawyer jamming and writing songs for a few months until I met Jared while he was playing bass in the University of Arkansas’ jazz band. He was really good, and looked good playing it, so I asked him to join. We jammed with a drummer for about a year, but it didn’t work out and we ended up letting him go. It just so happened though that Sawyer’s older brother Spencer had just moved back from Tulsa, and we asked him to fill in on the ole trap set in March of 2016.”
GR: You just released That’s All. What should people be expecting from the song?
JR: “It’s a really heavy, kind of angry song. I got inspired to write it after watching Hot Girls Wanted on Netflix. The level of everyone’s greed in that documentary kinda pissed me off.
“All of us, aside from Jared, are from a smaller town about 45 minutes west of Fayetteville called Siloam Springs. It’s a really big Christian community, and growing up there you get to see a lot of hypocrisy, especially from the youth. Like on Wednesdays at the youth services, all these kids would be your best friend, but back at school they couldn’t care less about you.
“So the song blends those two experiences together. It’s kind of sung from an ironic standpoint, like how I see those people and the way that they think. It’s also got some allusions to Rock & Roll in there as well.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
JR: “Our sound is this heavy, semi-psychedelic, blues-rock. I don’t know if you can put this on your website (we just did), but we like to say we write songs about fucking and getting fucked, hahaha…
“There’s a lot of references to religion in our writing, having been raised in the bible belt. We really like the mysticism of it. We like writing songs that are kind of dark and seductive, soulful and groovy, a lot of guitars, anything that makes you wanna move.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
JR: “We have a lot of different influences. Most of us were raised on 90s country (Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson) but as we got older we shifted more and more into Rock & Roll. My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade album was a big game-changer for us, and was kind of the turning point and made us be like ‘That! I wanna do that!'”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
JR: “A lot of classic rock, The Beatles are huge for us, as well as Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, The Doors, Pearl Jam, The Who, Tom Petty. On the more modern end, The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, Father John Misty, Hozier. Spencer and I are big Dave Matthews fans, but the other guys hate them! Jared’s kind of the odd man out. He’s really into Miles Davis, and Jazz Fusion, and really progressive stuff. We try to listen to as much as we can. Anything that makes us want to move or we think is really meaningful and has a soul to it.”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019?
JR: “We’re recording some new songs right now, I don’t know how long it will be before they’re out though. We’ve got a music video coming out soon for our song Violet, that’s also on the new EP Lover In The Sky.
“We’ll be playing a lot of shows in Arkansas in the days and months coming, and I think we’ll be up in St. Louis on November 2nd, not sure where though. Anybody that wants to come see us out can go to our website, we try to keep that pretty updated.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
JR: “We’re just four dudes trying to bring something to people that they can hold on to, something that’s real and can resonate. We feel like rock & roll in a lot of ways has lost its soul and kind of forgotten what it is that made it so great in the first place. It’s not supposed to be about ‘the look,’ it’s not about how fast you can play guitar, or how many girls you’ve been with. We feel like that’s actually a corruption of what it’s really about. (Thank you 1980’s)
“It’s about soul. It should move you either emotionally or mentally. Make you love more, or really feel the pain the artist is feeling, or make you want to face the ugliness and corruption of the world. Maybe that’s why it isn’t as big anymore. I think a lot of people want to focus on self-image more than self-care. We’re very disconnected from ourselves to the point where we don’t even want to acknowledge our emotions, cause it’s easier to just knock it back with pills than facing them.
“So yeah, that’s what we want to do. Bring back feeling, and maybe make people forget about all the bullshit for a little while.”