From day one, the members of San Francisco’s Black Map possessed one common goal. So what united singer and guitarist Ben Flanagan [Trophy Fire], guitar player Mark Engles [Dredg], and drummer Chris Robyn [Far] in 2013?
Well, the answer is simple.
“The goal was to create a band that was really heavy and simultaneously beautiful, "Ben declares. “Mark and I were having beers one night, and we talked about creating a band that was heavier than anything else we had previously done before. The project set itself apart from that moment on. As a unit, we were collectively searching for that apex of heaviness and beauty at the same time.”
They find it on their full-length debut …And We Explode. Sharing a long history, Trophy Fire supported Dredg many times on the road with Ben even filling in as a touring guitarist, while both groups embarked on full tours with Northern California icons ‘Far’ on more than one occasion. The three musicians clicked from the jump. Musically, a wall of distortion wraps around polyrhythmic percussion as Ben’s transfixing vocals instantly captivate. It ignites their career together and fuels this undeniably heavy journey.
Within a month of their first jam session, the trio hit Hellam Sound in Oakland with producer Aaron Hellam behind the board. They cut their independent Driver EP and went on to support Chevelle on tour and play various shows with the likes of ††† (Crosses), Tombs, Pelican, and Kill Devil Hill. In early 2014, they inked a deal with minus HEAD Records for the release of …And We Explode.
The first single “I’m Just The Driver” fuses together robust riffs with Robyn’s instantly recognizable drumming and chillingly catchy lyrics. It immediately turns the key, establishing the group’s inimitable identity.
“It’s the first complete song we wrote as a band,” says Ben. “It's about a driver. He sees all of these terrible and nefarious things, but there’s nothing he can do about them. He’s stuck in this situation where there are all of these troubling things going on around him, but there’s no way he can act on it or change the situation.”
Meanwhile, “Melee” delivers an infectious hook and more impressive instrumental fireworks. “I’m observing birds in the trees essentially looking down on chaos,” the frontman explains. “I don’t view the world as a dystopian place, but there’s a lot of chaos. When you see the melee within that, there’s nothing to do sometimes but look away for a moment.”
The two-part “And We Explode” 1 & 2 prove to be an aural powder keg of uncontainable energy as it mounts into an unforgettable climax. He goes on, “It’s essentially about living in modern society, trying to function within the day-to-day rigors, and the yearning that comes along with it. The big explosion is getting away from it, being free and not feeling bogged down—trying to live life to the fullest.”
The name Black Map suggests unexplored territory and uncharted waters. That’s precisely where these artists have gone, and they’ve found exactly what they were looking for at the start of the journey.
“You don’t know what’s coming next,” Ben concludes. “That’s what excites us about this band, and we hope it translates. We want everyone to know beautiful and heavy music can be moving.”