Music is and always has been an ever-changing form of artistic expression. Musical instruments as well as taste have constantly evolved over time, consistently bringing a new definition to the term “musically talented.” Ronnie Shingelo, front man for Black Bird White Sky, has seen this evolution for himself over his years in New Jersey and New York and has managed to adjust his musical style accordingly to accommodate the fleeting but precious balance between modern music and old school identity.
From his former place in what can be described as a “dark” and “emotional” rock band, SkinGod, Shingelo has moved his music career closer to his roots in the club scene surrounding the tri-state area. In addition, he has pared down his collection of fellow musicians to a mere two, sometimes three, band members, making their stage presence much more malleable and impressive.
Accompanied by his occasional keyboardist, Jenna Perry and DJ, Luke Wagman, Shingelo has embraced the incorporation of various drum machines and an all new instrument known as the “maschine” in the sound associated with Black Bird White Sky.
“I grew up listening to dance music and working in clubs, so dance music is inherently in me anyway, so it wasn’t a difficult transition from the whole rock scene,” Shingelo explains. “It definitely is cool because it has the feeling of being totally live in a rock band with live instruments. Electronic instruments, like the maschine, now are really considered ‘instruments’ and people all over the world study it.”
In terms of his work with the new technology associated with one of humanity’s oldest known art forms, Shingelo shares nothing but pride and admiration for his youthful bandmate.
“He’s awesome,” Shingelo notes succinctly. “He’s been a real asset to the project. He’s a lot younger than me, so he keeps me on my toes, which is awesome. He’s a great guy, a really talented kid.”
Despite the experimental nature of Black Bird White Sky’s sound, inspiration and motivation are derived from many of the same sources as traditional musicians. As do various other songwriters and composers, Shingelo cites everyday activity as a frequent source of inspiration in his creative process.
“In terms of general inspiration, I definitely sometimes just hear a word someone will say and the way I hear it I’m just like, wow that’s really kinda hitting me in a way that I wanna explore that,” Shingelo explains. “Then I’ll just go in and sort of lyrically explore that word from where I am at that moment. Sometimes I’ll hear a sound and I’ll just build on it.”
Shingelo maintains that a beautiful poem, a piece of artwork and even an intelligent conversation can be catalysts for compositions. He also describes spending a dedicated portion of time to his craft before beginning his typical day.
“Other times, a lot of times, I wake up in the morning early and I’ll just sit with my acoustic and I’ll just fool around with the chords and start humming and try to be open,” Shingelo says. “In the morning I feel like I’m the least judgmental and critical of myself, and I’m out of my own way. I always find that when I’m in that place, shit always comes in.”
For Shingelo and Black Bird White Sky, much of the movement behind the music originates and thrives in emotion as well as its effect on each person.
“I do go through phases where I’m completely obsessed with something and I’ll try to absorb all of it and then I’ll just forget about it and it goes into the archive, and when I’m writing it starts to come out through my own interpretation,” Shingelo describes. “You’ve gotta be able to look at the demons. I’ve been in places where if I look too much at what’s there, I get really upset, and it’s not a cool place. That’s pretty much the essence of walking the walk of an artist.”
For Shingelo, emotion not only plays a large part in creation of each Black Bird White Sky track, it also proves a necessary component to delivering a memorable live performance. With regards to his wide vocal range, Shingelo maintains he relies heavily on his emotional state to reach octaves that are not as easily attainable.
“I just kinda found that place through trial and error. I kinda tag it to the emotion,” he notes. “That’s the challenge every night is to try and be in that place. Especially when you’re doing it over and over, it’s easy just to kinda run through the motions. Luckily, I’ve been pretty consistent with it lately. Focusing on the lyrics and the intention behind them. Going to that place is just taking a couple of minutes before the show. I’ll listen to a really moody track, like an Adele track or Radiohead track or a Chopin piece even like for just a minute and now I’m in that place that I can’t even tag to words. Just that connection with music where I can’t even understand where it comes from.”
In addition to the implementation of the modern maschine, trim lineup and emotional connection, Black Bird White Sky draws from a wide range of musical influence to create a unique, accessible sound with strong ties to pop, electronica and rock simultaneously. As the band’s front man and songwriter, Shingelo finds guidance in a variety of artists including Chopin, Radiohead, Muse, Ezben and the Witch, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, and at the forefront most recently, Charlie XCX and the everlasting Bob Marley.
“I’ve always listened to him but I’ve really for some reason been so connected to his early, raw recordings,” Shingelo says of Marley. “The message he was trying to deliver and what he was able to do in terms of humanity is profound. I’ve changed so much because of it. I feel like I’m nicer listening to his music. ‘Everyone should listen to it. What you just said is exactly what he was trying to do, and it worked, it’s just that the world is a tough place.”
Following months of preparation and studio time, Black Bird White Sky is set to release its newest album, The Fall, on October 16, followed by a combined CD release party and CMJ performance on October 17 at Matchless in Brooklyn.
Aside from this Brooklyn show and CD release, Black Bird White Sky is focusing on expanding to the East Coast and increasing membership on their website (p.s. increased membership leads to free giveaways, just saying!).
A dynamic combination of electronic and rock backgrounds, intimate writing, a constant evolution and experimentation, Black Bird White Sky presents an emerging musical style with potential to make a large-scale impression on today’s music scene.