By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Among the first original songs penned by Black Kids frontman Reggie Youngblood were birthday tributes meant to impress girls who'd gotten a rise out of him, so to speak—but, he admits with a laugh, "that method has never worked for me" when it comes to hooking up.
So why did he keep writing such tunes? "It wasn't something I could help," he says. "It seems like whenever I get the idea for a song, I'm very anxious and uncomfortable until it's laid onto tape and done."
Youngblood credits the same sort of drive with boosting the Florida-based Kids, whose first full-length, Partie Traumatic, is a catchy, danceable throwback that more than justifies their buzz-band status. Although Kids drummer Kevin Snow and bassist Owen Holmes, who join keyboardist/singers Dawn Watley and Ali Youngblood (Reggie's sister) in the group, once worked day jobs they actually liked, "playing music has just been my only option," Youngblood concedes. "I've always been compelled by discontent—by not being happy with my situation. That always motivated me."
A Navy brat whose family made stops in the Philippines, Sicily and Washington, D.C., before settling down in Jacksonville, Youngblood developed a love of music based on what he refers to as "perverse genre-mixing"—Michael Jackson and Prince on the one hand, Poison and Slaughter on the other. He played in a slew of acts over the years before Black Kids earned attention for 2007's Wizard of Ahhhs, an EP posted on MySpace. But Youngblood says a live gig and old-fashioned CDs deserve much of the credit for the Kids' subsequent success.
"We had those songs up on MySpace for quite a while, and no one paid them any mind," he allows. "But the actual, physical act of traveling to Athens, Georgia, and performing in front of people is what actually brought attention to the songs online. And we passed out free homemade demos to people who were there." At the show, he adds, "what excited people was our performance. They didn't really care for the demo. But people who heard the demos first preferred the demo and thought our live performance was... lacking."
He chuckles before noting, "Thankfully, we've got both situations under control now."
Judging by the words on Partie Traumatic tracks such as "I've Underestimated My Charm Again," in which a woman sends Reggie come-hither notes while on her honeymoon, Youngblood's love life is in pretty good shape too. "It's hardly original, but it's just a different perspective on relationships," he says of the lyrics. "Where instead of crying about having your heart broken, just being very cold and being a heartbreaker instead."
Guess that's what happens when all your birthday songs get rejected.