Latest release: Noise Smasher (Independent)
When Sydney trio played last year’s Dead of Winter Festival, vocalist Ryan Miller went beyond even his level of unpredictable antics and found himself on the balcony of Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre. There was only one thing to do at that point, and the shot of him leaping onto the crowd below was up on LOUD’s Facebook page for almost a year.
“That was pretty funny man!” Miller says with a laugh as we catch up with him a few days away from his band’s first international dates. “I wasn’t intending on climbing up there. I was just running the crowd, giving people hugs and being silly. There was a cable on the side and I climbed up that, then my head hit something and I looked up and it was the balcony! So I grabbed the railing and heaved myself up and over. I got up there and looked down and suddenly realised what I’d gotten myself into! So I was like, ‘Oh fuck, what am I going to do now?’ What goes up, must come down I suppose. What can I say? I was a little bit scared!”
He laughs again, something he does a lot as he chats on the phone while tidying up his recording studio ahead of Black Rheno’s blitzkrieg visit to Japan to kick off touring in support of their album Noise Smasher. A visceral slab of grinding groove and rumbling sludge, the eleven-track full length debut comes a full three years after their previous EP release, Let’s Start a Cult.
“We took a little bit longer to bring the album out than we originally planned,” Miller admits. “Things slowed us down. We had so many… we were touring so much, going so hard with the gigging and the touring and that kind of stuff. Then we started recording the album, and that was a slower process.”
After hitting up Kurt Ballou to do the mix, and getting his staunch approval, the band decided to work over every song. Miller’s own experience as a recording engineer and producer gave him a professional insight into the recording process and the importance of having a different set of ears listening in.
“We spent a bit of time demoing the album so we could send it to him. We wanted to get another person’s perspective on it. We know what we’re doing – I record bands in a commercial recording studio, so it’s not like it’s new to us, but we also understand how important an extra, fresh perspective is. When a band comes in and wants to work with me, part of what they’re paying for is my fresh perspective, because I haven’t been working on those songs non-stop for two years, so we understand how handy that can be. So we demoed the album pretty extensively and sent it over to him and he sent back some notes, and we thought about the songs a lot before we went in and did it properly.”
The new songs have already proved a hit with Black Rheno’s audience, which they’ve been steadily building through four years of relentless live work.
“We had a gig in Sydney [the weekend before this interview], and that was a treat,” Miller says.. “We played with a bunch of cool bands and tore it up and ran around, and bashed out a heap of new tunes, which was really cool to be able to play. It’s always great to bring them out and watch people jump around and groove with you, and there’s a couple of meaty riffs in a few sections that are just gruelling, headbanging stuff. It was really cool to see people responding to that the way that we respond to it. So if they’re reacting to it that way and it’s the first time they’ve heard it, it’s a cool feeling.”
With a musical style that draws appreciative audiences from across metal, hardcore and punk crowds, Black Rheno have been able to slot into any number of bills. Musically solid, they’ve also built their reputation on a high energy live show. As a three piece, the focus of most of that is Miller, who invariably spends as much time ploughing through the crowd, balancing on tables and bars, dangling from fixtures and running amok as he does on stage. Sometimes more. From their earliest days Black Rheno has made playing live their priority, and they’ve never made bones about where, or to how many. The philosophy has served them well so far.
“From the get-go, we just said, ‘Let’s go super hard on the touring’. It wasn’t play some shows around town for a while and then go interstate – it wasn’t anything like that. I know how to book tours. I’ve mucked around with this sort of stuff before, so we just had this mentality to go hard. In the first year, within three months we’d booked out first show, down in Wollongong, a month later we were in Brisbane and a year later we’d done 55 shows. We’d been a band for 14 months. It was insane.”
Since their first rehearsal in 2015, Black Rheno have been popping up all over the east coast, appearing at festivals and opening for other touring bands. Their work ethic has been formidable and has so far been paying off in spades, but the singer credits a lot of their success so far to luck and making the right connections.
“We’ve been really lucky,” her begins. “A couple of years ago, the guys from Soundworks Direct… we had just put out that video for [No Time for] Numb Nuts, and one of the guys came down to check us out while he was in Sydney checking out some bands. They hit us up and we got a random offer to go on tour with Napalm Death. That came out of nowhere, and then we’ve done some really good tours. We did Thrash, Blast, Grind Fest [with Psycroptic, King Parrot and Revocation], and now Eyehategod through them as well! I guess we got lucky that they like our band and threw a couple of tours our way. Amazing opportunities, and we just ran with it.”