Ahead of their gig in Whelan’s late last month, Conor Halion catches up with Blanco White frontman Josh Edwards, and discusses the inspiration behind their music, as well as their plans for 2020.
I remember first coming across Blanco White while aimlessly scrolling through Spotify playlists one night back in 2017. ‘El Buho’,the first song which I listened to, with its chilling vocals and the gentle plucking of a Spanish guitar, is a song that has haunted me ever since. There’s something about the melancholy lyrics of Blanco White that reminds me of the early work of artists like Leonard Cohen, who also drew the inspiration for his music from his own personal mythology. However, Blanco White’s innovative use of traditional Spanish instruments has the simultaneous effect of creating music which, to an English-speaking listener, feels at once both familiar and exotic.
“Blanco White’s innovative use of traditional Spanish instruments has the effect of creating music which, to an English-speaking listener, feels at once both familiar and foreign.”
Beginning as the solo project of Josh Edwards in 2014, Blanco White has gone from strength to strength in the past two years, having released three singles and an EP, they have managed to also garner a following of over 1.4 million listeners on Spotify. Having seen them live at the Wily Fox last November, frontman Josh Edwards very kindly agreed to speak with OTwo ahead of their live performance at Whelan’s last Tuesday.
Edwards himself being a Londoner with both English and Welsh roots, the first question which springs to mind when speaking to him is, where exactly did the Spanish influence in their music come from? As Edwards explains: “I think it all actually started when I was a kid. When I was about eleven, my dad quit his job and my mum took a year out. We took a year off school and my mum was teaching us whilst we were travelling around Latin America. Experiencing something like that at that age was pretty impactful for me, as you can imagine. It’s what gave me a fascination with the Spanish speaking world, and ever since then, I was planning how I was going to get back there.” As Edwards went on to say, he always had a fascination with the Spanish guitar, but it was only when he moved to Cadiz at the age of twenty that he truly began to immerse himself in the culture.
Folk and traditional music of all countries has always been a big inspiration for Edwards as he explained when describing his current favourite band, Tinariwen, who hail from northern Mali: “The way those guys play music is very intuitive, you can tell it’s very ingrained and natural. It’s a style that’s very unique, and I think that’s something that you can often find in Ireland as well. With traditional and folk music, there’s always this sense of improvisation which manages to weave itself together beautifully, there’s a real sense of living energy in traditional music.”
Another question which has always interested me about the band is where exactly the name comes from, Blanco being Spanish for white, and white being well, English for white. Edwards laughs and explains: “Well I knew that I didn’t want to just name the band after myself, that would be weird. The name actually comes from a Spanish writer, by the name of José María Blanco y Crespo. His father was an Irishman with the surname of White, but when he moved to Spain, he married a Spaniard and so the family surname became Blanco. Eventually José Maria left Spain as an exile and became Joseph Blanco White. He’s not a particularly famous writer or anything, just a figure I stumbled across but ended up reading quite a lot of. I suppose I’d say that he’s a personal hero of mine because he had this real dual identity that felt relevant to what I wanted to try to achieve with my music, because I wanted to fuse these different influences from the Spanish speaking world with what I had grown up with, and he really helped me to focus in on that.”
“I suppose I’d say that he’s a personal hero of mine because he had this real dual identity that felt relevant to what I wanted to try to achieve with my music.”
When asked what his plans for the following year are, Edwards had this to say: “Well we’re currently working towards releasing our first album, which I’m about halfway through at the minute, I’m hoping to finish the other half after the tour. The plan is for it is to hopefully release in Spring.” To date, Blanco White have only played in Dublin venues in Ireland, but Edwards said that he would love to play in more cities around the country: “I do want to try and play a few different cities in Ireland, maybe like Galway. I actually want to do a trip around Ireland someday, to watch a few trad artists around the country.”
Blanco White will be releasing their first album early next year, and I for one, cannot wait.