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Interview – Black Tie Dynasty

Interview with Cory Watson, singer and songwriter with Black Tie Dynasty & Mon Julien.

Can I remember exactly when I first heard Black Tie Dynasty (BTD)? One of their early releases, This Stays Between Us – a mini album from 2005 became a kind of soundtrack for my relocation from England to Belgium especially the rousing, climactic ‘On Your Last Night In Town’. Since then I followed the group from afar, picking up rare little releases like Bloody Basin and wondering why nobody else in Europe was paying attention. The full length Movements appeared to position the band at the threshold of something big, its stadium sound seemingly appropriate. Movements made it into my review of the decade (see link) but somehow things didn’t work out quite as BTD hoped. Rocks oldest story in the book, quality has never been as important as hype or fashion. The band struggled on for a little while and then dissolved. Singer Cory Watson re-located to New York and started a career outside of the music business.

You know the saying; ‘You can take the man out of the music but you can’t take the music out of the man’. Now for rocks second oldest story – Watson recorded his Mon Julien album aided by BTD’s Brian McCorquodale & releasing it in 2012. This summer some BTD comeback dates were announced in Fort Worth, the bands hometown. Always an interested party I caught up with Cory on all things Black Tie.

Enjoy the interview:

Let me get this right. You guys are from Fort Worth, Texas originally?

Cory: Yes, we lived in Ft. Worth during our early most formative years.

So how did you all meet and what led to forming a band?

Cory: We met through various circumstances. I first met Eddie Thomas in 2002-03 as I was seeking a solid professional drummer for a college band. I had started a modest pop band called Moxie in 2001 and we really weren’t very serious. We had played a few shows at some bars. When Eddie and I became friends and began playing together I was in awe of his immense talent. I believe that the first time I rehearsed with Eddie was the first time I realized that something special could happen here. Recently after he joined we met Blake who was a guitar player whom we knew through a mutual friend. He was only 16 at the time and had little experience on bass. He agreed to join us for a few shows as a favor, but we didn’t immediately consider him a long term fit. However, he did have an undeniable sense of style and musicianship that quickly began to emerge and we kept him around for several months. I met Brian through his girlfriend at the time who mentioned casually that he was interested in joining a project as he had just moved to town having spent the past few years in the Air Force. He joined as a guitar player, who happened to play keyboards. I still remember the first night we all rehearsed on his “tryout” rehearsal. It was hard to deny. Something special was happening. I get chills thinking about it.

Why BTD? How did the name come about?


Cory: Well, naming a band isn’t easy. Haha. I had a notebook I carried around with me everywhere with song notes, lyrics, song titles and I think I filled up an entire notebook bearing nothing but band names. I would bring to rehearsal a list of several hundred names every rehearsal but nothing would stick. I did like the idea of a name with the word Dynasty. That word was so grand. I remember when it clicked. I was in my car in Denton, TX and driving home after rehearsal. Black Tie Dynasty. That was it. I pulled over onto the side of the road and called Brian and said the words. Black Tie Dynasty. He paused a moment and said, “Yes, that’s it.”
That moment was an out of body experience. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. The name fit our sound perfectly and I felt it had the perfect mix of mystery and grandeur.

You’re known for a love of British post punk and new wave acts. Me I hear influences of Echo And The Bunnymen,, Tears For Fears, A Flock Of Seagulls even – the Brit Invasion bands. How did you get into that? Do you all like the same stuff?

Cory: I think our sound sort of came about naturally. We didn’t set our aim on New Wave per say. I mean, we all loved Depeche Mode and The Cure but we certainly listened to all types of music. Eddie was mainly into Slayer and heavy metal leaning artists. Brian was sort of a Willie Nelson kind of guy and Blake was into emo, indie rock. I remember people started saying we sounded like Echo and the Bunnymen. I’ll be honest, they were a little before my time and I had never heard of them before. I did get the resemblance once I began to dig into their music. Incidentally, from there I did become a big fan of their music.

Is Fort Worth a music city? How easy is it to be an 80s Brit influenced act in Texas?

Cory: Ft. Worth is a great little town. It doesn’t have a big city feel but it’s very charming and sincere and a supportive art community. I think artists there are influenced by a wide range of music from classic rock, to new wave, to country and punk, etc. I think BTD was one of the first revivalist bands out there. When we started to gain media attention with the release of This Stays Between Us people started dooming us to failure because only a few months prior The Killers had released Hot Fuss and I remember people saying that they beat us to the punch and New Wave revivalist was only a passing fad. However, we had written and recorded those songs long before Hot Fuss came out. At the time I wondered if The Killers would be the only group like us to break through. It’s funny now, because since that time listen to indie rock now. New wave is still happening and shows no sign of disappearing. Look at Arcade Fire, MGMT, Phoenix, etc. These bands are heavily leaning on New Wave influences and are some of the biggest indie bands in the business.

How did you get picked up by Idol Records?


Cory: We met Idol Records through the drummer from [DARYL], “Spammy”. He really believed in us from the beginning. I was already a big fan of the Idol Records roster and I think I met him at a [DARYL] show once and invited him to come check us out. He did and really went to bat with us at Idol Records. We’re very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Idol and much of our success is due to the relentless work they put in to help launch BTD.

Movements got some really good reviews. I like it very much too. It reminded me that anthemic needn’t be a bad thing. How successful was Movements for you ? I don’t get the impression that it tanked but suddenly you seemed to be off Idol and releasing your next record by yourselves.

Cory: Movements was a huge success for us and helped us gain fans from all over the world. In no way was it a flop in our minds. In fact once it was released we were courted by every major label in the business and were flown all over the country to meet with record execs, agents, attorneys, producers, etc. At one point we were informed that one of the biggest major record labels were waiting on their CEO’s return from France in the coming weeks and that upon his arrival his signature would be included on a major deal for BTD. As it happens, the label was swallowed up by another and the CEO resigned just weeks later. Needless to say, the timing wasn’t right and we understand that no one is to blame. However, we were bummed that this didn’t happen (or perhaps, it’s a good thing it didn’t as a major label deal can be a bad thing for a band both creatively and financially). We didn’t blame Idol Records for this. However, we were a little “turned off” by the ups and downs of being so close to “blowing up” and having nothing to show for it. That process took a lot out of us. We decided to regroup and with Down Like Anyone our desire was to create something far beyond Movements, creatively. We wanted to show people how far we could take our sound. We knew it wouldn’t be a Movements 2 and we let go of all hopes that a major deal would happen. This mindset was great for us because it gave us latitude to explore and grow our sound without the pressure we knew we would have had with a major label. I guess we kind of rebelled against what might have been and used it to our advantage knowing that freedom might not exist had things evolved differently on a major label.

Speaking as a fan of 80s alternative music myself , bands like The Chameleons, The Sound, I was excited to discover your stuff. Bands like Heavens, Snowden, Killers all seemed to be tapping into a similar vein. Did you ever feel part of a scene?. Or total outsiders?

Cory: I think we always sort of thought about ourselves as outsiders. Yes, we shared many of the same influences but we never consciously decided to join a scene, per say.

You have a great voice Cory. A real, classic alt-rock voice. Did you have training for that? How did you model yourself?


Cory: Thank you for the compliment. No formal training. Believe it or not I really didn’t have much confidence in my voice until sometime during the Movements sessions or later. During the recording of the Bloody Basin EP, I remember I sort of surprised the producer Stuart Sikes and myself when I started to sing the last chorus on “The Letter A”. It was sort of an improv moment where I just sing, “Let it Out”. He stopped tape after the take and started laughing and said, “Damn.”. We both started laughing. It was a cool moment. I think from that point on I really felt I had what it takes.

When I think of other acts that have similar stylistically they all seem to have peaked on album one, and get steadily worse from thereon in. Interpol, Killers, Editors…. I liked them less and less as they went on. But BTD made a nice follow up IMHO. I rated Down Like Anyone but you guys kinda stopped after that. Why?

Cory: It’s complicated why things ended after DLA. There was talk within the group about disbanding after that record simply because we were a little frustrated of always being on the cusp but never quite there. I mean we had day jobs and some of us were married. It became a struggle to tour and be in such an active band. There were also some inner frustrations in the group that I won’t go into. We felt the pressure from many places. I think what it comes down to is that we forgot that what we were doing is supposed to be fun. It was becoming a business for us. In the end, would it have been better to just take a hiatus instead of splitting up altogether. Yes, maybe. It just didn’t go that way.


Texas is a huge state, geographically. I think Belgium would fit in twenty times. Can it be enough to be established there and virtual unknowns outside? Or is that unsustainable?

Cory: Dallas is a massive city in the big state of Texas. There are many great bands from Dallas/Ft. Worth who are only big in that area, others are unknown there but huge in Europe and other countries. As far as sustaining the business of a band in Dallas/Ft. Worth…No you can’t. You need a lot of support nationally or internationally.

If I understand well, you have relocated to New York and now have a full time day job and responsibilities. Was it a tough decision not to pursue music as a career?

Cory: I live in Brooklyn now. I have a day job. I am writing and recording music. No plans to release anything really soon but I’m still creatively involved in the process and would never rule anything out. Brian (Black Tie) and I still work together on Mon Julien and hope to release something again. We’re currently in the process of working out those logistics now.

Was it always in your heart to carry on? Even part time

Cory: Yes, God willing, I’ll never stop writing and performing. It’s in my blood.

Has NYC influenced your writing?

Cory: NYC has greatly influenced my writing. It’s a great place to grow as a person and discover things about yourself. The city itself has such a strong identity. As a result it inspires my self awareness and that it turn brings about struggle which in turn leads to the confidence you gain from overcoming those struggles and self doubt. There is so much to draw from lyrically from that process.

Can you tell us more how Mon Julien started?


Cory: Mon Julien came about when Brian and I decided to do another record together. We invited the guys along, initially thinking it might become another BTD record but that didn’t work out for the rest of the guys. Brian and I are really proud of that record and the process was really quick and easy once we got our creative rhythm back.

What distinguishes Mon Julien from BTD?

Cory: I think Mon Julien is pretty similar to BTD. I think it has less of a dance vibe and more of an acoustic vibe. However, apart from that I think it fits in with the BTD catalog pretty nicely, despite it not being officially a BTD title.

You are about to do some comeback shows. What was the story behind that?

Cory: We love playing together and expect to continue to do shows from time to time just to rekindle that experience and enjoy performing for our fans.

Are you looking forward to those?

Cory: I always look forward to those shows. It’s so much fun and there isn’t any pressure. I can’t explain what it feels like to share the stage with those guys. It just feels right.


What next for you guys? Is BTD back for keeps?

Cory: I don’t foresee BTD coming back. Some of us would be open to it, but not everyone. It’s not something any of us would pursue if not with everyone’s participation. However, stranger things have happened and I never rule anything out. The universe moves in mysterious ways.

Finally – are you still favouring the shaved head look? I kinda liked it myself. A little bit Billy Zane, a little bit Timothy Olyphant. But you seem to favour hats.

Cory: Haha. Yes well I do sport the shaved head. I’ve gotten quite used to it. I’m glad I have a decently shaped head so that I can pull it off.

Guys I’m telling you if you start to get thin, just shave it off already. It’s going to happen eventually, end the drama and embrace it… Lol.

~[sic] Thanks Cory and BTD. Photos reproduced with kind permission from the two band facebook pages. Gig photo (by Bill Ellison) originally appeared in Dallas Observer. Mon Julien band shot by Jill Johnson.~

~Band activity is sporadic so it is probably best to ‘like’ the facebook pages to stay informed. The albums Movements, Down Like Anyone and Mon Julien are all available via iTunes. Physical copies of Movements can also be tracked down.~

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