The Storm Tour
Black Pistol Fire, Billy Raffoul
Fri, February 16
Doors: 8:00 pm
ZZ Ward didn’t have to look far for inspiration on her second full-length album, 2017’s The Storm. Equally evocative of blues grit and hip-hop bounce, the Los Angeles-based vocal powerhouse and multi-instrumentalist leapt forward by taking a deeper look at some of her earliest inspirations—including Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Vera Ward Hall and Big Mama Thornton.
“For me, this album wasn’t really about experimenting,” she admits. “It was more about simplicity, honing in on what I love about music and what makes me who I am as an artist. Growing up, I listened to a lot of hip-hop and blues, and I love those two genres so much. Sometimes, to evolve you don’t need to go outside of yourself; you can reach further inside of yourself instead.”
It’s a realization earned over a whirlwind five years. The Fedora-rocking, guitar-shredding, harmonica-wielding blues siren peppered an old backporch musical recipe with hip-hop urgency and hashtaggable wisdom on her 2012 mixtape Eleven Roses. Followed by her full-length debut Til The Casket Drops yielded a veritable hit in the form of “Put The Gun Down.” The latter generated 7.4 million-plus Spotify streams and held strong in the Top 10 of AAA radio for 10 weeks as well as receiving over 100 high-profile licensing placements and syncs, including the feature film We’re The Millers. Kendrick Lamar [“Cryin Wolf”] and Freddie Gibbs [“Criminal”] were quick to collaborate, while Rolling Stone, Guitar World, Elle, Interview Magazine, USA Today, NPR and more extolled her. She lit up the screen on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, Conan, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, The View, and many others and practically set stages ablaze on tours with Eric Clapton, Gary Clark, Jr., and Fitz & The Tantrums and at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Made In America.
Coming off the road, she decided to open up more than ever before.
“All of my favorite artists would tell real stories,” she goes on. “I wanted to talk about similar things that were close to my heart. Every song became something I experienced. I’ve had my slew of disappointing relationships, times when I was pissed off, heart broken and times when I felt false senses of euphoria. There are times when you struggle with yourself or with somebody else. I wanted to pour all of those emotions into my music, stay true to my roots, and tap into what inspired me in the first place.”
Capturing this vision, ZZ recorded around L.A. at different studios and at home over the course of 2015 and 2016. She re-teamed with previous collaborators such as Blended Babies [Chance the Rapper, Kid Cudi], Neff-U [Eminem, Dr Dre], Ludwig Goransson [Childish Gambino, Haim] and Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz & The Tantrums in addition to Warren “Oak” Felder of Pop & Oak [Kehlani, Alicia Keys, Alessia Cara] for the first time. “It was all about getting that raw emotion,” she exclaims.
The first new single “The Deep” [feat. Joey Purp] emerged as a welcome surprise for fans, bottling the creative burst of confessional crooning and clever rap wordplay that defined Eleven Roses. A sample of The Charmels’ “As Long As I’ve Got You” draped in classic slide guitar scorches as ZZ sings, “Don’t know how much I can take, but I need it” before finger-snaps elevate the harmony. Kicking off 2017, W called it, “her most candid body of work yet,” and The Fader praised its “spectacular effect.”
"'The Deep' is about feeling trapped in a relationship that I knew was no good for me,” she sighs. “I met someone that made me lose control of myself. When I wrote the song, we noticed something really haunting about The Charmels' 'As Long As I've Got You,' and we just had to sample it. I thought Joey would be perfect to bring a fiery passion and flavor to the song."
Elsewhere on the record, she serves up a gospel-style plea on the stirring and stark “Help Me Mama.” “‘Help Me Mama’ is about my personal revelation that not everything in life is what it seems. Growing up I had expectations about what my relationships should be like with other people, the world and even myself. Realizing nothing would ever be perfect, I had to take control of my life and, unlike when I was a kid, Mama isn’t always going to be around to solve my problems.
Her booming delivery on “Cannonball” belies a delicate admission of admittedly being used by someone to pass the time.
Meanwhile, “Domino” hits us right in the heart. “Fitz and I wrote this song about recurring relationships that we’d had in our pasts that left us feeling unsatisfied,” she adds. “I spent many sleepless nights feeling like there was something more out there for me. This song talks about the hopeless journey I faced trying to find the right person.”
In the end, The Storm represents ZZ at her core. “This album as a whole really reflects much of the internal and external conflict that I've experienced. I feel like I dug deeper into what means the most to me,” she leaves off. “I hope that my stories connect with people out there and help them know they aren’t alone in these struggles. That’s what I can give to the world. Storms come and storms pass, it's how you weather them that defines you and makes you stronger.”
Black Pistol Fire
“Sleep on these guys at your own risk, because what they did to BMI on Friday afternoon was unholy… leaving a trail of scorched earth and melted minds.”
- Consequence of Sound, Lollapalooza 2015
Black Pistol Fire is a high-octane rock duo based out of Austin, Texas by way of Toronto, Canada; composed of Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums. Drawing inspiration from blues, R&B and rock greats such as Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, Buddy Holly and Muddy Waters, BPF’s gritty and dynamic performances are fueled by undeniable musicianship.
Dubbed the “next big thing” by Huffington Post after SXSW 2013, BPF has developed a reputation for their untamed live performances. Described as “Pure fire on stage”(Degenrefy), they are quickly becoming festival veterans, including performances at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch Music Festival, Shaky Knees and Governor's Ball, among others.
After Lollapalooza 2015, Yahoo Music described Black Pistol Fire as “a power duo that can almost match the power and intensity of the massive rock sounds of the likes of Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac… in a breakout set.”
Black Pistol Fire has shared the stage with acts like Gary Clark Jr, Weezer, Heart, Wolfmother, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Band of Skulls. Their signature sound has been featured throughout television and entertainment. Their single, “Show Pony” was featured in the Ted 2 official trailer and they performed their song “Blue Eye Commotion” in a national T-Mobile TV ad. Their music can also be heard in Madden ‘15 and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 video games and in numerous TV shows including Sons of Anarchy, Castle and About a Boy.
"Black Pistol Fire… were, by far, the best band that played LouFest… This was the craziest I've seen any of the crowds at the festival… Drummer Eric Owen, shirtless and wrists wrapped, pounded the skins like he was summoning a devil. McKeown stomps so hard during his rough and intricate dirty blues, you thought he would make a hole in the stage... A must see." - KDHX (St Louis), Loufest 2014
Billy Raffoul’s anthemic debut single “Driver” serves as a potent calling card for the 22-year-old singer, songwriter, and musician. His signature sound is a rough-hewn, low-timbered rock and roll that nods to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Neil Young, and Joe Cocker, and is powered by Raffoul’s gravelly, soulful voice and deeply felt lyrics. “That’s one thing for me — a song needs to be about something I’ve experienced or something someone close to me is going through,” Raffoul says of his sources of inspiration. “I find myself going back to moments of time from the past, picking apart these little experiences and building them into bigger things. I want people to know that the songs are genuine, that they've been lived in.”
“Driver” is one of those lived-in songs. It was inspired by his family picking up a hitchhiker one night after Raffoul and his musician father Jody played a gig on Pelee Island in the middle of Lake Erie. “This guy was really out of it, so he ended up staying with us for a few hours,” Raffoul says. The following weekend Raffoul told his story of the hitchhiker to songwriter Simon Wilcox and songwriter-producer Nolan Lambroza during a writing session in Los Angeles. “We turned it into something a little more sentimental, in that maybe I’m not singing about someone being lost on the side of the road, but maybe someone lost in life who doesn't know where they’re going or what they’re supposed to be doing,” he explains.
Raffoul has been fairly certain of what he wanted to do with his life from a young age. He grew up in a creative family in the small farming town of Leamington, Ontario — “the tomato capital of Canada,” as he puts it. His mother is an artist, writer, and teacher and his father Jody Raffoul is a solo artist and hometown hero who has opened for everyone from Joe Cocker to Bon Jovi. Raffoul’s earliest musical influences come from his dad. “The Beatles were like Jesus in our house,” he recalls, adding that he also listened to soul singers like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. On his tenth birthday, Billy received a ‘British Invasion’-inspired guitar with a Union Jack on its front from Jody and started teaching himself to play. By 16, had bought his first real guitar — a 1968 Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty. “It’s the same model and year as the only one Jimi Hendrix was ever photographed playing,” Raffoul says.
When Raffoul was in high school, he watched his dad headline a show for 4,000 people at his school’s stadium. “I remember in that moment thinking, ‘This is cool,’” he says. “I had appreciated music and written songs up until then, but I didn't think I wanted to be a live performer until that one show.” Raffoul’s first paying gig was playing to long-haul drivers at a local truck stop. “For the next three or four years I just put everything into it, playing out four and five nights a week in bars from Leamington to Detroit and back.”
Every so often Raffoul would get a gig singing demos for hire. “Just getting paid hourly to be the vocalist,” he explains. “One day I went into the studio to sing on some Kid Rock demos. The guys heard my voice in the booth and asked if I had any original stuff. I played them two acoustic songs. They shot an iPhone video and sent it to my now-manager, who used to work with Kid Rock. The next day we drove down to Nashville.”
Raffoul now splits his time between Nashville and Los Angeles where, in between playing shows, he has been collaborating with other songwriters and slowly but surely assembling his debut album. “Since it’s my first record it feels like I’ve been writing it my whole life,” he jokes. In addition to “Driver,” Raffoul is proud of another new song called “I’m Not A Saint,” which emerged from a conversation Raffoul had with his co-writer Julia Michaels. “We were talking about things we do or that we shouldn’t do, like swear too much, smoke too much, lie too much, and it just flowed from there,” Raffoul says. “Forty-five minutes later it was done.”
As he gears up to finish his debut album, Raffoul is also eager to tour and see the world. “I’m putting everything into this record," he says, "but I want to build my career on the live show. I want to be a true working musician." He knows that makes him sound like a traditionalist and he's fine with that. "It’s more of the old school way of doing things," he says. "But I think that even in this ever-changing music business there will always be a thirst for live performance and that’s what I want to do. That’s always been the goal. Connect with people, one room at a time.”
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001