“The supermassive black hole renders our experience terminally irrelevant… we need to be more light-hearted about stuff”: Prog’s Best New Band EBB are guided by the galaxy

(Image credit: Boudicca Records)

Scottish art-rockers EBB burst onto the prog scene with their dynamic, edgy sound and hypnotic live shows. Such was their impact, Prog readers voted them Best New Band in last year’s poll. We catch up with Erin Bennett and Anna Fraser to discuss supermassive black holes, interpretative dance and their future plans.

There were celebrations in Scotland when art-rock collective EBB heard had picked up the Prog Readers’ Poll Best New Band award. Speaking from EBB HQ near Dumfries, Erin Bennett and Anna Fraser are still buzzing from this very unexpected accolade.

“We’re really very surprised. We put it out on social media and said: ‘Hey, the Readers’ Poll is out: vote for us.’ But never did we expect to get the email which said, ‘You’ve won!’” enthuses Bennett, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and composer.

Their debut album, Mad & Killing Time, coupled with live appearances at three notable festivals – Fusion, Summer’s End and Prog The Forest – cemented their reputation for bringing a show-stopping gritty dynamism and individuality to the prog party. But it was a one-in-a-million meeting back in 2005 that originally brought them together. EBB’s producer-bassist Bad Dog (Finn McGregor) managed a band touring the USA. It included backing vocalist/percussionist Kitty Biscuits, multi-instrumentalist Nikki Francis and synth player/backing vocalist Suna Dasi.

Bennett explains: “I’m originally from Texas, but I ran into them when I was cooking in a greasy spoon café in Dothan, Alabama, in the buckle of the Bible belt. Their bus broke down on the way to Florida. Nine British women walked into that café with their very different aesthetic and accents – and they all played music. I was in love. I grabbed hold of their legs and never let go! That was serendipity, if you ask me.”

Two weeks later, she joined that band, MT-TV, as a sound engineer and tech, going on the road with them for two years before moving to the UK in 2008. There, she started a band called Syren that included her wife, drummer Jo Heeley, who died of breast cancer in 2012.

Drummer Fraser, who comes from the Shetland Islands, signed up in 2013. “My schoolteacher managed to get a drum kit and since then I’ve been obsessed,” she explains. “I was quite a hyper child, so the drums calmed me down – I could put all my crazy energy into that. I did a music course at Edinburgh’s Napier University when the guys were looking for a female drummer. I met them and started jamming with them.”

Silent Saviour - YouTube Silent Saviour - YouTube
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The collective gathered around Bennett as she recovered from the loss of Heeley, culminating in EBB’s first official release, the EP Death & The Maiden, in August 2019. The prolonged lockdowns that followed enabled them to finally make their full-length debut, Mad & Killing Time, which came out in November 2022. The companion EP, The Management Of Consequences, which was released at the beginning of this year, expands on Mad & Killing Time’s themes.

“I guess you get this a lot in prog, where an overarching concept sits on top of an album, or a few songs with other concepts within it so that it’s almost like a spider’s web,” says Bennett. “The album was about two people we knew; it was like taking a snapshot from their lives, describing the human experience in and out of romance, and personal difficulties. When we started writing the songs for this EP, we realised so many people struggle with issues like this. They are not necessarily unique.”

It felt like there were about 800 versions of me inside my head.… I locked them in a room and let them beat the hell out of each other

The EP is dedicated to Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, the scale of which, say the band, puts any human suffering into perspective. “I think it was Finn who came up with the phrase, ‘Sagittarius A* renders our experience terminally irrelevant.’ I had never heard it put more beautifully than that,” explains Bennett. “That fact for me is what encapsulates this EP. Ultimately, it’s a dark reminder to live your best life.

“The human condition is one where we get so wrapped up in our daily things, we forget there’s this quite nihilistic perspective that you can take. Ultimately, it reminds us we need to be more light-hearted about stuff and stop taking things quite so seriously.”

Cost & Consequence - YouTube Cost & Consequence - YouTube
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Opener Silent Saviour’s three movements begin with a daybreak and end with a reel. Bennett explains: “You’ve got this spaced-out atmospheric start where the synths swell and the sax comes in. This movement, The Awakening, reminds me of a sunrise. The second movement, The Work, is the meat of the song. It represents a snapshot of a person’s day. This is when you look at yourself and realise the things you would like to change – perhaps how you interact with other people and yourself. The epic end of it is what we call Reeling In The Pub; it’s about having a good time. All the stuff you worried about earlier doesn’t really occur to you, so it doesn’t make any difference now. You’re still alive! It’s all a bit high-falutin,’ but we had fun doing it.”

We tease Kitty and tell her she’s as mad as a box of frogs – but she’s our resident frog!

Cost And Consequence is now a proven crowd-pleaser that hits extraordinary heights through Biscuits’ anguished cry mid-song. Bennett recalls: “The Ukraine war broke out as we were writing it. We thought it was a good metaphor for the experience of war, both individually with a single person and collectively with a culture. I don’t know how Kitty came up with it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the rehearsal room when she first did it. It almost renders the rest of the song irrelevant because it captures both the pains and the joys that come out of a nation at war.”

Closer Nieu is particularly personal to Bennett. “It’s me when I was going through some personal hefty stuff. It almost felt like there were about 800 versions of me inside my head. Each had a different opinion and all of them were talking at the same time. I said, ‘OK, I need to figure out who I am among all this noise.’ I imagined it almost as a weird, fatalistic bloodbath. I locked them in a room together and let them beat the hell out of each other until there was only one left standing, and that was my take on it.” She laughs: “But with that black hole in the background about to swallow you up, it wouldn’t matter anyway!”

Nieu - YouTube Nieu - YouTube
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The reviews have been very favourable so far. “It’s so crazy,” Fraser says. “We were bracing ourselves for some kind of reaction like second-album syndrome, expecting some rough reviews – but so far, it’s all been very positive.”

EBB have a string of live dates lined up in 2024, for which the band are planning new elements. These will happen on top of Biscuits’ highly interpretive dancing. “She’s the only one who rehearses her moves,” says Fraser. “She’s a wickedly good dancer, but she’s also into tai chi, so she’s always very physically involved.”

“Kitty interprets the music through her physical being,” Bennett says. “We tease her and tell her she’s as mad as a box of frogs – but she’s our resident frog!”

An actor will add more of a showy element as she comperes and narrates the concepts behind the show

The extra elements for the live shows include visuals and a new occasional addition to team EBB. “Nikki’s working tirelessly editing video footage to go behind us onstage,” explains Bennett. “She’s an incredible graphic designer, and she has created some amazing stuff. An actor will also join us onstage for our longer sets. It’ll add more of a showy element as she compères and narrates the concepts behind the show.

“Lending our focus to the live aspect is all part of being in a band,” she concludes. “Songs often happen when they happen, and beyond the shows, I think a new album will wind up writing itself.”

Alison Reijman

A life long prog fan, Alison trained as a journalist in Portsmouth after which she worked on local newspapers for more nearly 15 years. Her remit included compiling a weekly entertainments page, writing album and gig reviews. Alongside her career in journalism and PR, she regularly writes reviews, interviews and blogs for prog websites and magazines. She has also contributed features to band tour programmes. Alison’s writings helped her to be one of three winners of a national competition in 2013 to find inspiring women in their 50s. Alison still works as a PR coordinator and is a regular gig-goer.