BBMAK has returned with a new album in tow, but armed with the same infectious, soaring pop that lifted them to stardom.
With two solid pop albums and a worldwide fanbase under their belt, the English trio—Christian Burns, Mark Barry, and Stephen McNally—left a very particular vacuum behind them when they disbanded in 2003. Their brand of windswept pop made intimate emotions feel massive, refreshingly unpretentious in its feel-good touch. BBMAK felt very much of their time; and in their absence, it became clear that there wasn't anyone quite like them to take up that space.
Now, BBMAK has released Powerstation, their first full-length album since 2002's Into Your Head. The passage of time has matured the band's sunny-sounding pop, with their weaving harmonies and vocal power carrying them well into the realm of arena power ballads. "Uncivil War," the album's latest single, is a gorgeous rendition of a relationship in crisis, while "You Don't See Me" and "No One Like You" sound like evolved versions of the band's most famous tracks. Powerstation feels very much like a boy band's release, only made with the benefit of hindsight and growth.
Popdust got the chance to speak with Christian Burns, rhythm guitarist for BBMAK, back in September about Powerstation, what's changed for the group in the nearly two decades since their dissolution, and what's driving their music now.
BBMAK - Uncivil War (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com
What was behind the decision to reform BBMAK? What did you want to do differently this time?
You know, we've remained friends over the past fifteen years, since we did our last album [Into Your Head]. We got together one day, [and] we just started jamming for fun, to see if we could remember what we did all those many years ago. We started singing, we all remembered all our parts, we enjoyed it, and I put a little video of it up on my social media, and it went crazy! We had millions of views in a couple of days; we realized the fans were still out there. And we realized how much we missed singing together. It felt like the right time to do it.
So what—to you, to the band as a whole—is BBMAK about now?
Obviously, fifteen years of life have happened since our last record, so we've got a lot to write about, to be inspired by. It's good to be back after all this time, and we're excited to share this next chapter with everyone. I think everyone who liked the early stuff will definitely be digging the new stuff, as well.
How has time changed your songwriting? What do each of you find yourselves bringing to the table that you didn't have before?
All of us, I think lyrically, [we've] changed. I think the lyrics you write in your early twenties are a bit different. I hope we're a bit wiser now [Laughs]. We're experimenting with different sounds and different procedures that we've learned along the way and bringing that new stuff into the studio. That's the fun part of it, bringing stuff to the table that we didn't have back then.
Your vocal harmonies are still such a big part of BBMAK, notably on "You Won't See Me." How was it to flex that muscle as a group again?
It's amazing, actually. I've been doing a lot of solo stuff, a lot of dance stuff, which doesn't lend itself to lots of stacks of harmonies. To get back in the studio and start doing these three-part harmonies, sometimes eight-part harmonies, has been so much fun to do again. We can experiment with different sounds underneath the vocals, but as soon as we stack those harmonies on, it just gives you that BBMAK sound, as you say. That's the glue that brings everything together. It's been a lot of fun to go back to recording and arranging harmonies like that.
The music industry has changed wildly since your last release—was there any discussion of contemporary artists you guys should look to for inspiration?
You know what? There was no pressure; we wanted to go in and do this all on our own terms. There was no pressure from A&R guys, from anyone. At first, we wondered what [Powerstation] was going to sound like, and then it kind of just happened organically. I think that's the best way to do it: to let something happen naturally for us. We can definitely take the sound anywhere in the future. Who knows where this journey is going to take us? But when we went into the studio, it was just a natural progression for us.
It was more about just picking up an old thread?
Yeah, it was much more about the songs, really. We were more concerned about getting the songs right. We just want the music to stand up on its own.
So, it was about taking the ego out of the music?
Yeah, definitely! We had such fun in the studio making the music, and that's what we wanted to do, just do something that we really enjoyed and we believed in. Not trying to be something we're not, something completely different.
BBMAK - Bullet Train (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com
How do you want Powerstation to hit your fans? Are you hoping they've grown with you? Are you hoping the album finds a new audience?
Ultimately, we just want people to enjoy the music. And of course, we'd love to have some new fans as well. [At] a lot of our shows, some of the fans are bringing down their kids now, and the kids are singing along, so there's a new generation of fans already starting. We just want to reach out to everyone and anyone, really. It's the kind of music that makes you feel good, so we just put a bit of that on. If you can get a bit of enjoyment from our music, then we've done our job right.