Photo by Kiki Vassilakis
Blackcat Elliot has been kicking around the Albany music scene for the better part of 20 years. The three-piece garage rock band is in good company, especially as of late, as they shared gigs with The Supersuckers and The Fleshtones last year.
It’s difficult to stand out as a garage rock band. When one thinks of the genre, The Fleshtones certainly come to mind. It’s a sound that conjures up CBGB’s in New York’s Bowery. Bands like The Clash, The Ramones and The New York Dolls have fueled an aggressive, fuzzy and distorted sound with aggressive lyrics that gets a live crowd moving.
Blackcat Elliot has twenty years of original content, showcased on three CDs as of November. The band’s third installment “There Is No Good In Us” comes out on Saturday, Nov. 16, at a release party to feature sets from The Erotics, Mordwolf and The Lawn Sausages at The Hangar on the Hudson, in Troy.
The trio keeps it fun and loose. Kostas Gus Hais writes the songs, as well as sings and plays guitar. And, when Marky Balboa and Fast Eddie are not playing drums and bass, respectively, the two supply the nunchucks and six packs. I imagine that’s what you need to kick butt. The subjects of the band’s material focuses on “our mischievous adventures,” songs, the band says, that cater to the blue collar, broken-hearted and the unsung hero.
“There Is No Good In Us” was recorded at AAA Studios and engineered by John Chiara. The band said each of the ten tracks are “road tested, go-for-the-throat gems” they recorded after last fall’s gig with The Fleshtones. Most of the songs come out fast and dirty. A gritty sound with each track clocking in at around three-minutes apiece, with the longest listen coming from the opening track, “Come Take Me Away” (4:03).
Hais provided great insight into what their fans and future listeners can expect from “There is No Good In Us” in this exclusive interview.
TheSpot518: Where did you come up with the inspiration to write these songs for the new album? Were these based on personal experiences or other significant moments that had occurred between yourself and your band members?
Gus: First, I’d like to thank The Spotlight/The Spot 518 for continuing the support of local music. Blackcat Elliot has been together for almost 20 years and with that much time, you start to establish a method for the right ingredients on writing and developing songs. With this album, the music was more of a team effort. Every time we got together, and a riff came about, we would try to structure it into a song. If it passed inspection, I would bring it home and write lyrics to it and most importantly, find the right phrasing. The songs on “There Is No Good In Us” are pretty much experiences from all over the place. Some are personal, some are stories, and some are inspired by movies. Fast Eddie and myself are movie buffs and we always have discussions on movies we’ve recently seen while we’re packing up after rehearsal. Sometimes, those discussions turn into ideas for lyrics and themes for songs.
TheSpot518: What is your favorite song or songs off the new album and why?
Gus: Just recently, Marky Balboa (our drummer and my best friend since 1987), were just talking about our favorites. Personally, my favorite constantly changes with my mood. As far as performing live, I do have to say that I really enjoy blasting through “Come Take Me Away”. There’s something about that song that I really “feel” when we play it live on stage. The lyrics I wrote for that song deal with anxiety. In the last few years, I feel like I have some issues with anxiety and when we play that song live, it’s always therapeutic. I’ve been in rock bands since I was 16 years old. I can’t imagine how I would handle stress, everyday struggles and anything negative life will throw at you without having rock-n-roll as a shield.
TheSpot518: What made you and the band decide to release a third album?
Gus: It was time. It’s been 13 years since we recorded and released “Never Come Clean”. As you can imagine, a lot has happened since that release. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to continue doing this. And I really mean fortunate. I had a medical scare a few years ago with my vocal cord and I had to put Blackcat Elliot on hiatus for 16 months. It was a wakeup call for sure. Once I got the okay that I could sing again from my doctors, I told Marky and Fast Eddie that we aren’t stopping now. The plan was to test these new songs from the new album with a series of live shows and to hit the studio in February with John Chiara at the helm. “There Is No Good in Us” is what came about.
TheSpot518: How different or similar is this album in comparison to your previous two albums that you have released to the public?
Gus: Marky, Fast Eddie and myself are fans of music from the CBGB’s era. Classic punk like The Ramones, The Clash, 70s rock like Cheap Trick, Vintage KISS and 90s Seattle-based grunge rock. You’ll hear these influences on this album. This release has a bit of our previous two albums sound as well. Our friends and fans may realize that we have matured with our music, style of songwriting and I feel like I have developed more as a lyricist with this new one as well. Overall, we keep maturing. Slowly but surely.
TheSpot518: What has been your audience’s reaction to the new songs that you have written for this album, both online and at your music shows?
Gus: The songs on this album have been road tested and fan approved. We’ve had them on our set list for some time now but there’s also a few newer ones that have gotten people shaking on the floor while we perform. So, those are all positive signs. “There Is No Good in Us” will be showcased on popular streaming and digital sites for all the new and younger fans to grasp. Most importantly, nothing comes close to a live rock show. We’re always trying to encourage new people to come out and forget reality for a bit, have a couple drinks, let their hair down and enjoy a live Blackcat Elliot rock-n-roll show.
TheSpot518: What are you and the band most looking forward to your upcoming CD release party at The Hangar on The Hudson in a few weeks?
Gus: It’s a rock-n-roll marathon race and November 16th at The Hangar in Troy, NY is going to be the starting line. We’re going to have our better halves April, Danielle and Erin by our sides. Our families, friends and supporters there to help us get on with the show. We have The Lawn Sausages, The Erotics and Mordwolf sharing the stage. My brother Nick and his wife Colleen from Greek On the Run are going to cater with some delicious food. It’s going to be a celebration of a live rock-n-roll show with Blackcat Elliot. It’s a night to show everyone who has known us that we’re still out there keeping the original live rock show experience alive in the Capital District.