Blake might not exactly like look your cup of tea (i.e., they’re unlikely to team up with Rudimental), but behind the swanky suited and booted exterior are three rather handsome lads – Humphrey Berney, Stephen Bowman and Oliver Baines, who just happen to sing like angels. Think Collabro’s older brothers. Nice boys who sing nice tunes! Just the kind your mum would drunkely snog under the mistletoe.
With Christmas just around the corner, the boys have rather kindly served up the nation an album of festive faves for us to wrap our presents to, including one fine tune with legendary crooner Dame Shirley Bassey.
In the festive mood, and a little tipsy on mulled wine, we caught up with the boys to chat about disastrous Christmases, their surprising global success and why they hope to make the world a better place.
So you’re yet another music act on the Christmas album circuit. What makes yours different to, say, Kylie’s?
H: Firstly, ours has one of the greatest vocal legends of all time on it.. Dame Shirley Bassey. Her first every Christmas song and she sound amazing. The album has wonderful mix of classic Christmas carols and songs. Some are very beautiful and classical and some upbeat and jazzy. It has wonderful mix which suit everyone.
And Shirley Bassey… tell us something about her we wouldn’t know.
H: She has never recorded a Christmas album
Were you terrified of her?
H: Not at all. She is lovely. A very kind person with a great sense a humour and an AMAZING voice!
S: What’s the worst present you’ve ever had.
My great auntie famously bought bad presents. One year she sent me a wide, light blue tie, with little cartoon Spitfires all over it. I’d asked her for a PLAIN tie; it stayed in a drawer for 10 years.
What’s the earliest Christmas you can remember?
H: When I was about 4. I got a bicycle which was the most exciting thing ever. I can still remember it and going outside to ride it. Christmas was always so exciting!
Have you had any christmas nightmares?
H: When I was about seven I managed to get my foot caught in the wiring of the Christmas lights.I pulled the whole tree over, smashed quite a few things, broke the lights and a lot more. I was not very popular!
Humphrey you’re married, tell us about your family Christmases are like? Are you very domesticated. Who cooks? Who dresses the tree?
H: They are with family so most of the cooking is done by someone else. I generally lay the fire, help with the tree, help lay the table, pour the drinks etc. I do try and help out as much as I can. I think next year we may host for the first time in which case I better get my Chef hat on. I did it once and it was bloody hard work!!!
You’re releasing this album on your own label – how come?
S: We’re a proudly independent group, we pushed forward on our own record label back in 2009 and have never looked back. It gave us huge flexibility to make the albums we wanted to, and to work with artists we loved. We never would have been able to create this duet with Dame Shirley is we’d all been on major record labels; then men in suits and the bean counters would have got in the way. Independent is best!
What’s the difference between being on a major label and funding the albums yourself?
S: On a major label you’re just the can of baked beans on a shelf, on an independent label you’re everything from the field the beans were grown in to the person who put the label on the tin. Being independent is so much more satisfying. Major labels make you sign your life away and most of your profits too. It suits some artist though.
A lot of people are setting up on their own? Are the days of big companies ruling the world done and dusted?
S: I think majors labels and independents can happily coexist. I think it’s fair to say that these days the most interesting music is made my independents though.
You’ve had three hugely successful albums, but we don’t see you on TV that often. Does that piss u off?
S: Although we’ve had a little break from appearing on UK tv, we’ve been hard at work everywhere else in the world, with appearances on huge TV shows in China, Australia, The Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, the United States and Central Europe. Artists sometimes appear to go a little quiet, but we’re often busy in other parts of the world. We’re back on UK TV with a vengeance this year though, lots coming up.
Do you think you groups like the Blake help transport people away from a world where terrorists blow people up?
S: I think all music transports people away from the dark parts of life to happier uplifted places. Music makes the world a better place for us all. Sadly it’s not enough to end world conflicts, but it can ease tensions sometimes. You can’t live in fear, that’s what terrorist want, never live in fear.
Outside of the band, what do you do as side projects?
S: Humphrey recorded a lovely CD of lullabies for babies, very soothing! I tend to skulk off to other countries to do modelling shoots when we have time off, got to keep my awful Zoolander pout in training!
A Classic Christmas is out now. Follow Blake on Twitter