Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: a vocalist from a little-known, unsigned band from Cambridge, Massachusetts, gets introduced to the guitarist from a 7-time Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum-selling, arena-playing rock band. Impressed with the unsigned band’s demo recordings, the guitarist invited the group to record at his band’s studio and said he wanted to play on the record.
It happened last summer, when Phil Cohen, lead vocalist/guitarist for Blackout Balter, met up with Dave Keuning from The Killers and listened to the demo together. Within a few weeks of that meeting, Blackout Balter was at The Killers’ Battle Born Studios in Vegas recording their debut EP with producer Robert Root.
The result is Twist and Bend, an electrifying 6-song disc of punk-dusted alt rock that’s been described as early Weezer meets The Pixies. Keuning plays guitar on two of the tracks (“Heavy Hand,” “Hello Operator”) and cello on a third ("Goodbye Cambridge”).
“It was an opportunity and experience of a lifetime,” says Cohen. “The fact that Dave wanted to record with us was extremely flattering. We were just hoping that he liked the demos. When we were put in touch with Root, he dug the songs and offered to produce. It was all very surreal. There we were in Vegas, at The Killers’ studio, with Dave, with Root, banging on The Killers’ instruments to make our music. I’ll never forget being in the studio and the four of us in the band just looking at each other, thinking, ‘is this really happening?’”
Blackout Balter’s roots can be traced back to 2014, when Cohen met drummer Chris Dorsey at a neighborhood block party. A mutual love of ‘70s underground rock led to an exchange of demos and within weeks, the two were in a studio working on songs that would eventually become Twist and Bend. They completed their lineup after finding keyboardist/guitarist/Ivy League grad Misha Kostandov and bassist Amelia Gormley, a Berklee College of Music grad and a founding member of the band New Highway Hymnal.
Taking their name from the Middle English term “balter,” which means to dance without a care, the quartet spent the past year sharpening their sound and playing every hole-in-the-wall up and down the East Coast. "We know we've got a long road ahead of us," says Cohen, "but we're excited about the journey."