Owen Holmes (left), Reggie Youngblood, Kevin Snow, Dawn Watley and Ali Youngblood don’t understand the blogger backlash.
BLACK KIDS with the VIRGINS at the Mod Club (722 College), Sunday (October 5), 8 pm. $20. 416-870-8000.
Black Kids keyboardist Dawn Watley says she knew her band had officially "made it" when she heard that their breakout single, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You, was being played to shoppers at Pier 1 Imports.
Black Kids' insanely rapid rise through the indie-rock ranks, coupled with the now infamous 180-degree smack down by online tastemakers Pitchfork, might be the definitive example of how fickle blogs hyper-accelerate promising careers and then whimsically warp their trajectories.
That said, the Brit-influenced five-piece from Jacksonville, Florida, seem to have survived the "wham, bam, thank you, ma'am" of blog hype and backlash, and are now busy making the most of their strange slice of fame.
"It's crazy to think, but just one year ago, all of this was still just a dream. At that point we'd only ever played one show outside of Jacksonville," she says.
But that one gig - a showcase at the Athens, Georgia, Popfest last August - happened to be attended by throngs of influential music bloggers who unanimously bestowed their "next big thing" mantle on the unsuspecting Kids.
The months that followed saw Black Kids' fortunes rise exponentially. International gigs, critical acclaim, studio sessions in London, England, helmed by Bernard Butler (of Suede fame), a top-5 record in the UK - Watley says all of this was unimaginable mere months before it became reality.
But in the postmodern world of Internet buzz, the blogs giveth and the blogs taketh away.
In July, right before their debut LP, Partie Traumatic (Universal), was set to drop, Pitchfork - one of the websites leading the Black Kids' charge only months earlier - posted a cryptic but devastating review. While their four-song demo EP had received a glowing rating of 8.4 and a gushing write-up, Traumatic was skewered, receiving a measly 3.3 and no write-up - just a photo of two pug dogs with macro-text reading "Sorry :-/."
"At first I was like, ‘What the hell? Why are they doing this?'" remembers Watley. "I didn't understand why they hated it, because it's some of the same songs but with better production."
While she's obviously still confounded, she insists that the band knew the buzz bubble would eventually burst.
At this stage, Internet backlash can only do so much. Black Kids have managed to build on their meteoric rise (most successfully in the UK, thanks to their unabashed affinity for Robert Smith-style vocals), headlining a massive fall tour that will take them to Japan and Australia.
For Watley, longevity is the real test. "We want to make careers out of this and go on to make third and fourth albums. That's when we'll know that we've been successful."