In the mid-aughts, Fort Worth’s Black Tie Dynasty was one of the most popular North Texas bands around. Their blend of pulsing rhythms, slinky guitar lines, and hooky electroclash, along with singer/guitarist Cory Watson’s enthralling, emotive yawl, saw the band quickly snapped up by Dallas’ Idol Records and sent out on tours supporting the likes of Guided by Voices and Spoon. Their comet-like rise would flash brightly and then soon fade, however, as the group disbanded in 2008, just six years after forming, leaving fans starved of their danceable, synth-heavy brand of rock.
Some fans will now have a chance to have their decade-long hunger satisfied. On Saturday, Black Tie Dynasty will take the stage in their hometown for the first time in more than 12 years.
It’s a return years in the making. Shortly after the release of their second LP, Down Like Anyone, frustrated with newfound pressures and expectations, Watson dissolved Black Tie and relocated to Brooklyn. He explained his feelings at the time and his decision this way.
“Going through the writing [of Down Like Anyone], we were just having some creative differences,” he said. “We truly, truly cared about each other, really loved each other. Things just became a little more complicated. It became a bit of a chore to do shows and to some degree to [try to] live up to the success of our first LP. It was an exciting time, but it was also fraught with tension. Eventually, the responsibility of being in the band just wasn’t a super-fun time anymore, and I just decided I had to get out of it.”
For a short time after the band’s dissolution, Watson would still collaborate with Black Tie keyboardist Brian McCorquodale, remotely from New York, in the project Mon Julien, which would at times include Mark Pirro of Tripping Daisy and Polyphonic Spree and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith.
After living in New York for a while and a brief stint in Thailand, Watson moved back home. He soon reconnected with McCorquodale and the other two former BTD members, bassist Blake McWhorter and drummer Eddie Thomas. Eventually, the idea to play together again began to bubble up.
“The idea of playing again was always there,” Watson said. “I think I missed it almost immediately. It was just such a big part of my life. Even though I was still writing music, and that was exciting because it was new and different, a part of my heart was still with the band.”
After rekindling their friendship, the foursome planned a “reunion” show for the spring of 2020. As with so much else, the pandemic stole that chance, and the show was canceled just two weeks before the planned date.
Tragically, it was a missed opportunity to see all four founding members of Black Tie play together again. Drummer Thomas, a fixture in the North Texas music scene who played in several bands beyond BTD, including The Crash That Took Me and Go Imperial, would succumb to COVID-19 himself in December of that same year, immunocompromised as he was from a long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor.
“It was super-sad for us,” Watson said. “It totally rocked us. He was the real center of the band — from a personality standpoint, from a musician standpoint. We just called him ‘Steady Eddie.’ He was the steady force behind the drums that made the engine go.”
After an initial attempt at a reunion last November was thwarted again by COVID, this time due to the “second-wave” surge of last fall, with drummer Mike Ratliff (Calhoun, The Machines Are Winning) filling in for Thomas, Black Tie Would finally reunite in February of this year, playing a tribute show dedicated to their late drummer which also featured several of the other acts Thomas had contributed to.
That tribute show was initially supposed to be a one-off. Then something Watson could only describe as “spiritual” happened.
“I had a dream where I spoke to Eddie,” Watson recalled, a hint of emotion in his voice. “I’d never had a dream like this in my life, but it was super-real, and I feel like I was really connecting with him in a spiritual way. I knew that he was at peace and he was happy and in a good place.”
Watson keeps the specifics of the exchange in the dream appropriately to himself, but he went on to describe what happened next when he told the rest of the band about the experience.
“I told the guys about it, and through those conversations, it just came out that we need to do this again,” Watson said. “We have to make music again. It’s what makes us happy. Eddie would have wanted us to keep playing the music that made him so happy and brought him so much joy and even helped him through his fight [with cancer]. It just made us realize how much we love each other and how much we need to play together.”
Black Tie’s live shows have always been captivating, high-energy affairs, and attendees at this weekend’s show at Tulips FTW are no doubt in for an experience that will be well worth the 12-year wait, but new shows aren’t the only thing fans can expect from the band in the near future. They’re even working on new music. In fact, they have studio time booked in September.
“We have tons of musical ideas,” Watson beamed. “We’re doing a lot of experimenting, creating sounds. We have all of these new toys to play with, and there’s this perspective that I’ve gained. If I’m honest through the songwriting process and the creative process, I think it can lead us into some spaces we’ve never explored before, which is super-exciting. I’m so excited for us to work through it and for our fans to experience it. And maybe by getting to listen to that new music, they can feel like they’ve been a part of this journey, too.”