SHARE
Photo by Brian McCorquodale

Two years ago, after a highly anticipated reunion was initially tabled by the pandemic and then later by the loss of a founding member, Black Tie Dynasty finally performed again. It was their first time onstage since frontperson Cory Watson dissolved perhaps North Texas’ most popular band throughout the aughts more than a decade earlier.

The sold-out show at Tulips FTW was a huge success that Watson said reignited a fire within him and was a profound reminder of just how much he loved and had missed playing with surviving members Brian McCorquodale on keys and Black McWhorter on bass. It was a different experience, however, that inspired him to want to begin writing new music with them. Eddie Thomas, the group’s late drummer who died from a COVID infection complicated by a preexisting battle with an aggressive brain tumor in 2020, appeared to Watson in a dream.

“I had never had anything like this happen, but I saw him,” Watson said. “We had a very brief exchange, but it was clear to me that he was at peace. He was in a good place, and somehow I knew he wanted us to continue to make music together.”

SO_WHAT-300x250-1-copy

After sharing the experience with McCorquodale and McWhorter, the three came to a quick consensus.

“Pretty much immediately we decided we needed to make another record together and dedicate it to Eddie,” Watson said. “In that same conversation, it was [McWhorter] who said we needed to call the album Steady,” a nickname the band had for Thomas.

“We used to call him ‘Steady Eddie,’ ” Watson continued. “It was somewhat of a play on his personality but also on his playing and his style as a drummer. He was just so solid and dependable and honest and honorable, and we’re celebrating that.”

After two years of work with engineer Alex Bhore in Dallas’ Elmwood Studios, Steady, the band’s first album in 14 years, will be released Friday. Though so much time had passed, the nine songs that make up the work seem to pick up right where the beloved synth-rockers left off in 2008. Celestial keyboard pads, infectious staccato guitar runs, and McWhorter’s driving, virtuosic bass melodies provide a familiar platform for Watson’s emotive vocals. Veteran drummer Mark Baker (Riverboat Gamblers, Ministry) provided the percussion in Thomas’ stead.

The material avoids the typical pitfalls of so-called “reunion albums.” Steady sounds like a progression for a band that retains the core of what they were but carries it forward to the present without sounding derivative of their past or as if they’re chasing their own tails.

“You don’t want to rehash anything, because what’s the point?” Watson said. “It took some exploration to determine where the Black Tie sound was going, but there was always something at the root of a song that felt natural and true. We didn’t want to mimic anything we’d done before. We just wanted it to feel natural. Things just fell into place. There was never a moment of trying to recreate something. That’s just our sound.”

In addition to the musical progress, there’s a newfound confidence and intention to the music that seems to be informed by the life experience gained by the group as individuals in the interim. Watson’s lyrics especially appear to be coming from a different perspective than they might have while in his 20s.

“I think I’ve grown up a lot,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and who I am. I think that this record is the most honest that I’ve written. I think I’m more self-aware. There’s a vulnerability and a rawness to the lyrics compared to some of our records in the past. I think that’s why it doesn’t feel rehashed. It’s because we are really trusting ourselves as to who we are in this very moment and not really looking backward for any inspiration. We’re finding inspiration in the present.”

In this way, Watson said that the name Steady has taken on another meaning beyond the homage to their departed drummer. He said that in addition to celebrating Thomas, “we’re also celebrating a steadiness within ourselves. We have become self-aware, and we know ourselves better than we ever have. In knowing yourself, there is a peace that comes with that. There’s a perspective that comes from exploring who you are and who you are not.”

The culmination of this focus makes an album as contemplative as it his danceable. Whether musing on being generally noncommittal like on opening track “Beginner” or the shifting of personal goals and expectations like on “Hurricane” or on Watson’s guilt over breaking up the band in 2008 as on “Mask,” there’s an element of vulnerability perhaps not previously seen in Watson’s writing. It lends extra emotional depth to the driving synthesizers and foot-stomping rhythms. The recent single “Maladjusted” showcases this best. Calming orchestral synths and a pulsing beat provide a tranquil bed for Watson’s tender confessional about pain and loss.

“We wanted to make sure that every single song on this record was a banger,” Watson said, “but we wanted it to ring true. We wanted everything to feel very honest, very raw and deep, and unvarnished.”

That’s not to say the album comes across as morose. Far from it. The tone is balanced nicely between Watson’s self-reflective lyrics and the band’s newfound energy.

“One thing that I think is going to leave an indelible mark on all of us is that the process of writing this record has been such a joyful one,” he said. “Even though it was rooted in pain and devastation, the process has been so beautiful, and I feel like we’ve learned a lot more about who we are as artists and who we are as people and bandmates. I’m really happy that this record feels so right and so satisfying in that way.”

When asked if this new record is just the beginning of what’s in store for Black Tie Dynasty, Watson shrugs the question off. Instead of worrying about what’s next, he said he’s just taking things as they come and enjoying the moment.

“I don’t know what the future will hold,” he said, “but speaking personally, I feel totally fine with where I am and where we are, just the fact that this record is out and enjoying this moment and soaking it up. There’s nothing left that I feel that I, or we, need to prove. There’s just a high degree of peace and satisfaction that has come with this.”

Black Tie Dynasty will celebrate the release of Steady with a show Saturday, returning to Tulips FTW, with Jeff Ryan (Sarah Jaffe, Motorcade) filling the void left by Thomas. Vinyl copies of the album will be available for purchase at the venue.

Black Tie Dynasty album release show
7pm Sat w/Lorelei K and Curl at Tulips FTW, 112 St. Louis Av, FW. $15. 817-367-9798.

LEAVE A REPLY