The growing discussion around whether Key West is the next “Music Town USA” will intensify on Saturday, Dec. 4, when the Black Pumas, who launched in 2017, highlight a star-studded lineup of mainstream musical artists at the COAST is Clear Music & Arts Festival.
Over the past four years, the Black Pumas have received four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Album of the Year. And if those credentials aren’t enough to impress the most rigid of critics, a quick Google search of the band is filled with descriptive praise from platforms like Rolling Stone and Billboard, in addition to videos of live performances for Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres.
And yet, even as the band collects 200 million streams and their music continues to appear in commercials and hit shows, such as the intro for HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada (lead vocals and lead guitar for Black Pumas) are just as authentic and original as their music.
On Dec. 4, the Black Pumas will play Key West during the peak of their meteoric ascent, while returning from a European tour (which included a stop in Australia) that solidified the Austin, Texas-based band’s place as one of the world’s most sought-after acts. For those fortunate enough to have tickets, it will be a historic evening within the equally renowned brick walls of Fort East Martello on South Roosevelt Boulevard.
This week, we caught up with Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas to discuss their current European tour, what other unique bands they listen to and what they love about each other.
Visit coastisclearfest.com for tickets while available.
Your music has been described as psychedelic soul, retro soul and different sounds, but how do you guys describe your music to those who haven’t heard you or can’t apply a label to your unique sound? Adrian: When we have to describe it to people, we’re not great at it and I know psychedelic came up early on and we obviously reference and study the soul greats, but the most important thing to us is that it feels honest and sincere and not a facsimile of a particular era or sound. Obviously, we studied music and continue to be students to this day. We are forever on that path and I don’t know if we’ve quite arrived at exactly what we would describe it as, but it’s just a journey. So yeah, I think soul music is an apt enough term.
Your “Celebrating America” performance during Joe Biden’s inauguration was a special moment that seemed to transcend politics during a time of healing. You guys played before and after names like Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Foo Fighters and John Legend, but did the momentousness of that moment ever sink in, and what did it mean to you guys? Eric: First and foremost, we are artists and human beings with families who are in the role of leadership in our own households and communities. When you get called to the forefront to grace the stage — that is our political infrastructure in the United States, our home, it is quite an honor just to be there as individuals and as a team. We were honored to be there in that degree. And I think we both know America was in a place that was teeming for change and generally it feels like an interesting time to be alive and the fact that we got to do that, we will be forever honored.
You guys are so much more than a cover song, but your cover of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ comes up a lot. Why that song and is there a deeper meaning to why you chose to cover it? Eric: It was just a song that really worked for me and a reflection of where I was energetically and emotionally, wanting to go somewhere and be somewhere, while also experiencing just the pain and the struggle of not having everything set up as it is right now as an artist. Earlier on we would do hometown festivals and that was a song I would bring to the table because we didn’t have such a full set list. And because Adrian liked the song quite a bit, we decided to record it and put it on the deluxe album. It’s also quite special that Tracy Chapman would give us a licensing agreement and I heard that she had only done that for two people including ourselves.