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Black Boys in Rock: Blue Kubricks

I’m Jim, lead singer of Leeds based alt-rock duo Blue Kubricks. I have a story I think you may be interested in hearing. My brother and I write and record all our own music and have been rigorously gigging the Yorkshire circuit for upwards of three years.

We are black boys in rock; our mother is from Finland, where we were born, and our father is from Ghana. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, it is time for our voices as black rock artists to be heard.

Too often we are mistaken for rappers. We joke a lot that when we tell people that we’re musicians, their response is almost always ‘So what kind of rap music do you do? People are surprised to see two black boys playing rock music rather than rap or drill. This stereotype has to end. We want to inspire the next generation of black kids to not succumb to cultural pressure prescribed by the colour of their skin, but instead know they can too pick up a guitar.

The rock scene in Leeds is remarkable. We love it here and the musicians we collaborate with are second to none. We relocated to Leeds to pursue a career in music three years ago, and we are the only BAME-led rock band in Leeds that we have come across. Throughout the years we have played almost every venue in Leeds, from the smallest pubs and bars to the O2 Academy, and we’ve always been a minority. Despite Leeds being such a diverse city, this whiteness is part of the wider racial disparity at large within the music community.

We are saddened, but not shocked, to have heard about the racial injustice in our community (we donut want your Nazi donuts, thanks Temple!), but we’re pleased that people are finally speaking out. We feel it is time that the industry celebrates our niche position as a black rock band, something that we are extremely proud of. There are a number of record labels in Leeds that sign bands at our level of notoriety, yet if you look through their roster of artists they again lack diversity – there are no black faces. Given that rock music was founded on black musicians, we want to see more black faces at the forefront of our scene. Jimi Hendrix fundamentally inspired my writing as a child, and it’s safe to say that the white rock scene of today would be nothing without him. Blue Kubricks want to change the status quo and disrupt the current whitewash; we want to be our generation’s pioneers of black rock.

Considering the Black Lives Matter movement, we believe that genuine ally ship comes from collective action. The industry responded fantastically to the need for more female voices in rock music, and answered the call to sign more female-led bands. This is the exact step-up that we need to see from labels, radio, venues and journalists for black artists. We need more than Blackout Tuesday. As a band, we found this counter-intuitive, as real change comes from actively championing voices like ours, rather than blacking us out. If we want to see real change in the world, it takes action and not simply symbolism. We are a sum of our parts and closing your eyes to the blinding monochromatism in rock music is as counterproductive as it is to simply post a black square on Instagram.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Pre-lockdown, we were on the cusp of embarking on our UK-wide spring tour. Naturally, we are shattered that this couldn’t go ahead, but we are excited to thrive in a scene that is unafraid to have these difficult conversations. Ultimately, we want to challenge the notion that the rock scene is best served white.

Jim Dubnium

On behalf of Blue Kubricks

Venue closures are sadly happening all around the UK, what are your favourite venues to play at and go to gigs?

Our favourite venues in Leeds, in no particular order, are Oporto, Lending Room, Chapel until those suits shut it down and turned it into a public toilet or library or whatever, and Bar Below which is an underground bar in Headingley we got our first gig in Leeds at.

We saw you were on the cusp of a UK wide tour, where were you set to play?

Our tour started at Santiagos in Leeds which was our last gig before lockdown, we were then set to play two nights in London, Tessfest in Doncaster, two nights in Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle, Huddersfield and Ipswich.

How do you think the Leeds music scene and beyond can improve to be more inclusive?

I think the music scene in Leeds and beyond can be more inclusive by finding and supporting BAME rock artists through the universities and open mics. Weve seen BAME artists playing at open mic nights and many at Leeds College of Music but do not see them represented at gigs and through labels. I dont put the entire blame at the feet of the labels and venues. In most part there is simply a deficiency of BAME rock artists around the country. As an example, years ago when there was a systemic lack of females in rock there was a huge grassroots campaign to encourage young aspiring females to pick up instruments. It has even swung so far that term "female led" has expired from over use and is now even considered derogatory. There needs to be a comparable push for aspiring BAME artists in light of the BLM movement. This is done through creating an ease of access for these groups and also having BAME led bands having equal opportunities to white bands.

What impact has lockdown had on you guys as a band?

We've obviously played far less and our focus has shifted from gigging to online content and networking. We have studio booked at the end of July and are in the preparation stages of that. We are also shooting live videos with the lads from Live in the Hive and are shooting a music video for a single in Cornwall. Trying to do all the things we can do and release while everyones sweating inside.

Have you got plans as a band post-covid, or is it just too far ahead to think about?

Our tour has been postponed so once were at the arse end of covid well just continue that and carry on recording. Hopefully then getting picked up at some point by a label.

When can we expect new releases?

Our single You're a Beach will be out end of july and were gonna start working on an album end of the year and part of that will be recorded in Finland!

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