Meet Blackheart Orchestra, the Mancunian proggers with a twist

A press shot of the blackheart orchestra

“The songs tend to write themselves and this happens a lot in my kitchen. I guess cooking doesn’t happen there so something else has to!” chuckles The Blackheart Orchestra vocalist Chrissy Mostyn in a charming Mancunian accent.

Previously known simply as Blackheart, The Blackheart Orchestra are a soft acoustic and synth prog duo, formed by avid instrument collectors Rick Pilkington and Mostyn.

“When we met, I suggested to Chrissy that we do a couple of gigs together, just for fun. Before we knew it, a couple of gigs turned into 140 gigs in our first year!” says Pilkington.

Much like the title and artwork of their newly released second album Diving For Roses, the band’s fresh new sound is delicate and fragrant, like a rose in bloom. “We added more instrumentation on this album, including electronica and beats,” says Mostyn. “We used to be a solely acoustic band.”

“The music has changed from a very narrow world to a multi‑lane freeway,” explains Pilkington, adding, “We have progressed and become more confident to try new things.” Diving For Roses is a truly captivating concoction of acoustic instruments and electronic sounds, allowing an easy glide from pop song to ballad through the tracks. “I play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, omnichord, synth, piano, and I think that’s it…” says Mostyn.

“My instruments are the acoustic guitar, a violin bow, electric guitar, bass, percussion, drums, synths, piano, mandola… oh, and melodica! Basically anything we can get our hands on,” adds Pilkington.

“I think that instruments are instinctual,” concludes Mostyn. “You get an instrument to make a cool sound and then a sound develops around that sound. I wouldn’t say that we are wizards with instruments, we just always have a go.”

Describing their stage as “an explosion in a music shop,” the duo pride themselves in performing all of their songs live, without any prerecorded instruments, and sticking to a very strict routine. “We get to the gig at 3pm every time,” says Pilkington. “We are loaded by 3.30pm, we are set up by 4.30pm and the doors aren’t until 7.30pm. That means we have a full two hours of playtime before the gig. If we manage to write a song in that two-hour period, then we will play it that same night and see how the audience respond.

Preferring an organic creative process as opposed to a theoretical approach, Pilkington is amused by the idea that they wouldn’t have a clue what key their songs are in if asked. “I like the freedom of not being tied to any form of musical theory or knowledge whatsoever,” he says.

The album features some poignant love songs, notably Now That We Are Ghosts, a highly emotive tale of two lost lovers and an ode to companionship and romance.

“The inspiration came at about two o’clock in the morning,” says Mostyn. “I felt very upset, thinking about the suicide of two people who couldn’t be together. It’s about separation and loss… Gosh!” she laughs. “That sounds quite miserable, doesn’t it?”

In their cleverly crafted music video for Sebastian, there is a soldier who is revealed to be a woman, a victim of serial seducer Sebastian, tending to her wounds.

“The wounds she in tending to are in fact actually emotional ones and she is returning from the battlefields of love,” explains Mostyn.

The band’s proficiency and range supports the multi-instrumentalists’ idea that in-depth musical knowledge isn’t essential and their fun-loving, down‑to-earth personalities shine brilliantly through the vibrant allure of their romantic songs. A Prog love story.

The Prog File

Line-up: Chrissy Mostyn (vocals, various instruments), Rick Pilkington (various instruments)

Sounds like: Emotion-drenched electronic and acoustic prog with folk and pop influences

Current release: Diving For Roses is out now on Right Track Records

Website: www.theblackheartorchestra.com

The Blackheart Orchestra - Diving For Roses album review