In the Spotlight: Blunt Force Trauma

Perth band Blunt Force Trauma were the lucky winners of our first lesser-known band spotlight: nominated in, and voted for, by the public. By the sounds of things, if you haven't heard of these guys yet, you probably will soon: they're focused and driven, and working really hard.

I spoke with Damien and Andy – who had been in bands together prior to Blunt Force Trauma, and played several festivals both locally and interstate – Metal for the Brain being among the biggest. Eventually these guys' other bands dissolved for various reasons, so in late 2006 they started a new one, which ended up being Blunt Force Trauma. The next year and a half was spent writing and jamming. By the end of 2008 they'd played the first show.

That first show was a resounding success, and they've followed up that success with several shows since. Gaining more gigs, to build up awareness of the band, and start building a solid fan base, is the key focus of Blunt Force Trauma for the immediate future.

One thing about this band is that they have a bit of an old-school side to their promotional strategy: going so far as to give away demos of their work to anybody who will take them.

'We made a three-song demo a little while ago and we've been pretty much handing 'em out like a business card – to anybody who's wearing a metal shirt really,' Damien laughed. 'It's surprising, people are quite impressed by that, which is strange. But when you look at it, we just went, well, we can't miss out on all opportunities.'

While Blunt Force Trauma are keen to head to the Eastern states and tour with any bands that would like to hook up with them, for the time being they're focusing on their local scene. In terms of local networking, keeping their rehearsal time limited to hired rehearsal space has proved to be a good move. That, and the fact that having hired space forces the band members to rehearse and to make the most of the time that they have.

'I have to say that if you don't get to practise, if you don't get to go out there and do what you have to do every week, well, you're never gonna be good at,' Damien pointed out. It's like your sporting teams, that's why they have training.'

And yet, Blunt Force Trauma were also quick to acknowledge that if a band didn't have to means or resources to be able to do such a thing, it would potentially impact negatively on its ability to develop. Similarly, because Blunt Force Trauma have recording technology like ProTools at their fingertips, they were able to record and produce their demo themselves, which also saved them a ton of money.

When I asked these guys how they'd describe the Blunt Force Trauma sound, they said that it's pretty much how their name sounds, telling me:

'One of the reviews that we had said, “blunt chunks and blistering riffs”.'

But they were unwilling to commit to any particular genre because of the huge diversity of influences that the band members bring to the project. Interestingly, what they could tell me is mainly what Blunt Force Trauma isn't.

'It's thrash, but thrash has a lot of guitar solos that we don't do … it's progressive, groove thrash but not very core. It's not power metal, it's not black metal, it's not Metallica,' they laughed. 'But we've kinda been asking people as well, what they think and how they'd sorta classify it, and everybody just goes “it's metal”.'

One thing about Blunt Force Trauma that piqued my interest was that these guys have a presence in so many areas online, and that they have entered such competitions as The Next Big Thing: a comp that is not noted for its metal contingent. I asked Damien and Andy about that experience, thinking that there would have to be a story to it. Turns out I was right.

'We knew, from a metal perspective, that we weren't going to win it based on marketability. You know, we're a metal band and never has a metal band won,' they explained to me. 'It's not one of those things that we expected to do well in. But we turned up with none of the crowd on our side, and left with the entire crowd on our side. We put on a blistering show and got really good feedback from the judges.'

Being realists, and being metalheads, Blunt Force Trauma know as well as any other fan of metal that the metal scene is a pretty close community – and that the reality of not selling as many albums as a pop star is the way it is, and nobody expects it to be any different. However, that sort of thing is what the Next Big Thing is based on; regardless of that fact, the band left the venue after performing that night having made a number of real fans.

The feedback from the judges of the Next Big Thing was also quite useful for the band, and the exposure to another audience was really valuable for them. And yet the power of marketing continually demonstrates itself to this band; for instance, putting the notion out there that they'd been nominated for this spotlight feature yielded enough votes here at Metal as Fuck to push them over the line; it blew them away,  especially given that they've only been doing their thing for about six months.

One key person that Damien and Andy were quick to praise in this regard was Chelz Bowen, their publicist. Chelz looks after these guys' promo and bookings; although she works for a major promotions company as her day job, the guys had asked her as a mate whether she'd want to do some promo work exclusively for them as well.

'As a friend, we went, “well, you've already got all these contacts in the music industry, would you mind doing that exclusively for us, alongside what you already do?” And she went “yeah no worries” and jumped at the chance. She went out there and she signed us up with every website that promotes metal, everything, she went right out there, bam-bam-bam. Gets flyers, gets us organised, she goes you've gotta do this, gotta do that, gotta be here, gotta go there, gotta do this. And we're like, wicked.'

The thing that these guys appreciate the most about having a publicist on board is that Chelz can do so much for them that they don't have the time to do themselves. The online visibility that Blunt Force Trauma now has, combined with their ground-level demo distribution, is also starting to them a broader range of fans, such as the younger kids who can't yet see them at shows. These kids ask them to play under-age shows, ask them when they're going to release a full-length album, and whose contact occurs primarily via the internet. Perhaps more importantly, these kids find Blunt Force Trauma through their own means, and not through the band being in the kids' faces all the time.

And, in perhaps an unusual mode, Blunt Force Trauma consider Chelz as being the sixth member of the band, though one who doesn't play an instrument or write any songs.

'Part of being in a band is self-management, if you don't have a manager, so I suppose to a degree she does take on a management role,' explained Damien. 'If she's booked a gig, then she's the one who tells us where and when we have to be and what we have to do to contribute to that gig, as in, getting flyers going, where we do promo, that type of thing.'

When I asked whether they'd consider having a publicist essential for a young band that really wants to go places, Damien and Andy conceded that it probably isn't, but that it really helps.

'Having her on board is not essential but it's really beneficial,' Andy added. 'But it's made a whole lot of things happen for us that probably wouldn't have happened otherwise. We probably couldn't do without her right now'.

Currently, Blunt Force Trauma are working their live scene to build up enough of a groundswell to the point where, if they do release a full-length album sometime within the next twelve months, they'll know that it will hit the ground running. As these guys told me, there's no point releasing an album just because you can, especially if you don't want it to fade into obscurity.

At the same time, the band is focused on getting interstate to play sometime in the next twelve months.

'How we do that is another matter,' Damien cautiously commented. 'We've got friends who tour nationally and what-not, so whether we jump on board with them or... we've got mates living over East, so we might just go over and go, right we're gonna go hang in Melbourne, we'll just book dates and stay at a mate's place and treat it like it's our local scene.... It's definitely something we wanna do.'

To check out Blunt Force Trauma, hit 'em up at MySpace.