A Caffeinated Chat with Black Coffee

June 22, 2018 – Hailing from Ohio‘s State capital city of Columbus are the rising stars, Black Coffee. Being a newer band to the local scene, they are making a huge splash around the area. From their throwback classic rock sound, to their amazing stage show, these three leave an impression within minutes of catching them live.

We had a chance to catch up with Ehab Omran (Bass/Vocals), Justin Young (Guitar), and Tommy McCullough (Drums) prior to their recent show in Mansfield, Ohio at The Electric Co. With a band so fresh and new, there are not a whole lot of stories out there yet, and these guys are still writing the first paragraph of their soon to be paragraphs of a novel. We got to know a little more about what makes up Black Coffee, being from the Mid-West, and the unsung heroes that make up a Rock ‘n Roll band. Enjoy our fifteen minutes with Black Coffee.

You three are a fairly new band that was formed just over a year ago in early 2017. How has the first year and a half treated you?

Ehab: It’s been very rewarding. We’re very humbled to be in the spot that we’re at and to have such a dedicated and killer fanbase.

Tommy: The biggest thing for me is like everybody from every corner. I feel great, the last year and a half has been great. We’ve gotten so much support, people wanting to help us out. It’s not as taxing as it could be.

Justin: Definitely, the word is rewarding. To have the opportunity to go out and play shows like this with Bobaflex. We got added on to a show September 16th in West Virginia with Pop Evil. To get added on shows like that and putting out an album, and doing all of that in a year’s time, it’s really rewarding.

Tommy: The first show we ever played was at the Alrosa Villa on April 22nd, 2017. April 21st, 2018, we released the album, that was our album release show.

Justin: Having the response we get at our live shows is what’s kept us going and got us to move so quickly. When we started the band we didn’t have a bass payer it was just the three of us and Ehab does a really good job of writing ideas on guitar. He was messing around on bass one day, and we’re just like we’re not going to let the fact of not having a bass player keep us from playing shows, and keep us from progressing as a band, and not following through on opportunities. He stuck, getting better and better with it. We keep getting better as band. I feel like our live shows, we get better feedback from them, and we just get better as a band. We’re looking forward to what the next year and half brings us.

Ehab and Justin of Black Coffee at The Electric Co. in Mansfield, OH 6-22-18 © Splice Magazine – Allen Heimberger. Please do not alter images.

The songs from your Take One album are all classic rock style. Who are your biggest musical influences?

Ehab: I’d say as a band our biggest influences are Black Sabbath, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, AC/DC, Free, Guns N’ Roses, Grand Funk Railroad

Tommy: Deep Purple

Justin: All of the godfathers

Ehab: The godfathers of rock. Tom Petty, Frampton. Anyone who came out of the 60’s and 70’s

What are some of your influences from outside of your genre?

Ehab: For me it’s Michael Jackson, James Brown… I get down to some of that.

Tommy: I’m split three ways. I like old country, so I get down to a lot of Hank Sr., Conway Twitty, and Waylon and stuff. I also like James Brown, and then like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth even though we’re not metal, I f**kin’ love metal, 70’s, 80’s 90’s metal into the Pantera stuff.

Justin: Yeah some of that old country stuff, chicken pickin’ guitars. We’re all like musicians so I like guitar players, he (points to Tommy) likes the drummers, he (points to Ehab) likes the singers. I love Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins and their chicken pickin’ licks. And even John Mayer, he is great, he’s frickin’ phenomenal. Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge.

Ehab: Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge… what a man! We love music!

Being younger, was it your parents or friends where you picked up your influences?

Ehab: For them their parents introduced it, the good ole American rock ’n roll lifestyle. My parents listened to a lot of George Michael and Phil Collins. Phil Collins was the closest I ever got to parental influence on rock. For me it was all my friends. I got into middle school, and I had a friend that listened to a lot of Mötley Crüe and that put me onto the 80’s, and the 80’s put me onto the 90’s. I ran into this hairy fella (points to Tommy) and he showed me the 60’s and 70’s… a lot of learning.

Tommy: It’s so funny being in a band with Ehab ’cause he’s made for rock, the voice and everything, the way he writes music is made for rock. It’s just like we (referring to himself and Justin) have grown up with it. My dad was a drummer in a band for 30 years, my mom listened to Metallica, my Grandma listed to Deep Purple back in the 70’s, all my parental influence growing up. Now hangin with with Ehab it’s like “man have you ever sat down and listened to Grand Funk Railroad?” No. “Deep Purple?” No. He’s just now getting into Jimi Hendrix, it’s so cool cause we (Tommy and Justin) grew up on that s**t so it’s second nature to us, and seeing him (Ehab) discover this s**t is cool.

Ehab: I’m like their child… their musical child.

Tommy: We give direction. (smiles)

Tommy of Black Coffee at The Electric Co. in Mansfield, OH 6-22-18 © Splice Magazine – Allen Heimberger. Please do not alter images.

I like the fact that while recording the Take One album you didn’t use pitch correction, triggers, or even click tracks. Did you try to use those processes, or did you just ignore it from the start, and just go for it?

Justin: We went in from the start with the idea and attitude we were not going to use click tracks, or use any of it. We basically operate from the standpoint of we want to catch our music on record like you would catch lightening in a bottle. That’s speaking of the forefathers, all the Sabbath and Van Halen, AC/DC and Aerosmith that’s how they all recorded. We were going for this old vintage feel and style but we want it to sound modern. There’s bands that do it today, like Wolfmother who still do it. We had that idea from day one and that’s something that we didn’t want to compromise on because we knew that we wanted this album to sound human. We wanted it to sound real, sound like music.

Tommy: Not like a bunch of robots

Justin: Not taking anything away from anything you hear on the radio today but there is a sound that people are expecting and when they hear us and hear our record they don’t get that thing you’re expecting, we’re a little bit different… for better or for worse.

Tommy: I don’t listen to anything post 1980 really, I listen to mostly all 70’s and 60’s stuff and my favorite part of listening to those albums is you can hear them talking to each other. You can hear f**k-ups, you can hear people hit wrong notes and go flat. Little guitar things, sticks hitting the rim.

Justin: It’s just a little bit wrong and everyone else was dead on so they’re like f**ck it, just leave it in there.

Tommy: We wanted to record live, and that’s best without a click track. Just listen to Supernaut by Black Sabbath. The hi-hat starts the song so fast. It’s so human, you can picture Bill Ward sitting in the room starting it off and then Tony Iommi’s like “no”, and they’re like “okay”, and they bring it down.

Justin: Unless you’re a record producer or an engineer and they sit down and are like “the beats per minute are this for the first 30 seconds, and then it changes to this for the rest of the song”, you’re never gonna tell. When people listen to music, they don’t listen to music like that. Can I bob my head to it?

Tommy: Can I stomp my foot to it?

Ehab: From a vocal standpoint, every time you hear me sing a chorus, that’s the first time I sang the chorus, or the second time I sang the chorus. It’s not me singing the chorus and it’s just copy/pasted and manufactured. Im gonna sing this word just a little bit different this time. You’re gonna listen to the album, and then come to the show, and you’re gonna be like, wow they sound better live.

Tommy: That’s the goal. Bands back in the day sounded better live.

Justin: What you see is what you get. What we did that day on the record is what you get. What we do tonight is what you’re gonna get.

Ehab: It changes every day.

Take One is a great album front to back. Are you preparing anything new at this point?

Tommy: Oh yeah! Every day.

Ehab: We have a lot of new material. The second album… without saying too much… we’re trying to debate whether or not it’s going to be a double album, just because of the amount of the music.

Tommy: We’ll give you a double album, a quadruple album… but only albums.

Justin: We’re writing every day so that’s how much music we have. That’s not gonna change, that’s not gonna stop.

Tommy: We love writing

Ehab: We’re looking right now to do two more music videos for Take One. Hopefully one of them will be coming out before the end of the year.

Do you have the song picked out for the next video?

They all shook their heads no and added in a little muttering. They were not going to divulge a thing.

Being from the Mid-West here in Ohio, are you excited that there seems to be a resurgence of the classic rock style in this part of the country?

Tommy: Absolutely

Ehab: There’s a lot of people opening the doors and there’s a lot of great things happening right now. Not just in rock ’n roll. Rock ’n roll is obviously the forefront, but if you listen to certain country songs you’re hearing a lot more electric guitar. Dare I say it, if you listen to rap songs, you’re hearing a lot of flute influenced things, hearing a lot more instrumentation. A lot more musical things are happening that a lot of people are just catching up on. It’s refreshing for sure.

Most of your shows have been centered around Columbus with only a couple of more shows currently scheduled. Any word on when you might take on a regional or national leg of a tour?

Justin: It’s in the works. We have something we will posting about fairly soon.

Ehab: There should be an announcement coming out very soon. We have a very strong team behind us that’s pitching us for a lot of very big festivals, national acts, and record labels.

Let’s talk a little about your video for I Barely Know Her. You had local legend John Payne of Payne Productions shoot, direct, and produce it. Can you talk a little about the process?

Tommy: John was technically the first member of our team, he was the first guy outside of the band that was like “hey we need to work together”. He’s been our head media guy as far as pictures and media go since damn near day one. Me and him (Tommy and Justin) were in a band years ago that John Payne shot and directed a music video for and it turned out awesome. With him being our media manager we knew what to expect. It was so cool, cause we did it in this historic opera house in our (Tommy and Justin’s) hometown of Johnstown. We just showed up, loaded all the gear up two flights of stairs set up, shot everything, tore it all down and took it home. Then he (John) took care of the editing process and stuff.

Check Out Their Video for I Barely Know Her

The cover art for Take One features a shot of Columbus. Was it important to you to keep the local roots intact?

Ehab: Absolutely it was. We had to have Columbus represented somehow on our album. The idea actually came from a fan who kinda did a quick shot with his iPhone and did a quick thing. I took John Payne on this wonderful two-hour car ride where I would pull over in the median and John Payne would run out in the middle of the highway and take a picture, and then run back real quick to my car. We’d look at it and be like “f**k this isn’t working”. So we stopped at a gas station and cleaned my windshield. We ended up driving around a lot of places in Columbus and took those photos, and that’s the photo we ended up choosing.

TAG Publicity seems to being working hard on your behalf. Do you have any others out there that are the unsung heroes of Black Coffee?

Tommy: Oh God!

Ehab: Anyone from Columbus, Ohio.

Tommy: Anyone!

Ehab: And the team that’s working behind us…

Justin: There’s some people we can’t name.

Ehab: Yeah there’s some people we can’t name that want to stay unsung for now. I think they want to break something through, and then start singing. I think that’s their plan. Some very important people that are very respected in the music industry that we are mind-blown that we even know, let alone that they’re working for us.

Tommy: A lot of unsung heroes getting us all together. TAG, Tom George obviously, Natalie from Tag Publicity. They have been the front line troops. Dude, it’s awesome. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with Splice readers?

Ehab: Don’t put any cream in your coffee

Tommy: Never!

You know you started your album off with Creamer

Tommy: Eh… you know…

Justin: There’s a time and place!

Ehab: It’s only 40 seconds though. You know what I’m saying?

Ehab and Tommy of Black Coffee at The Electric Co. in Mansfield, OH 6-22-18 © Splice Magazine – Allen Heimberger. Please do not alter images.

We do know what they’re saying. The 40-second acoustic intro titled Cream is the calm before the storm on their album Take One. If you like raw sounding, yet refined, classic rock style music, you will absolutely love Black Coffee.

There are big things brewing for this band, and if you want to catch them up close and personal, check out their Facebook page for a list of events. Bands like this are an absolute joy to see live in a small club setting. That’s the advantage of being a fan early in their career. You’ve all heard the stories about those fans lucky enough to catch Black Sabbath, or Guns N’ Roses, or Van Halen at the small clubs, before they got huge and were touring arenas. There’s only one way to do that, you must peel you rear off the couch and get out and catch a local show. I have a feeling you will not only remember it, but Ehab, Justin, and Tommy will too.

Buy or stream their music on iTunes and Spotify.

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