Hometown: Brussels, Belgium
Members: Jan Paternoster (vocals, guitars), Dries Van Dijck (percussion)
Album: My Perception
For fans of: Black Keys, Jack White, Middle Class Rut
Jan Paternoster and Dries Van Dijck aren’t just accomplished musicians at the young ages of 23 and 21. They’re not simply just the biggest band in their native Belgium either. The duo from Brussels is on its way to rock god status.
And by talking to them you wouldn’t even suspect it.
Black Box Revelation may be young, but they’re easily the biggest band on the scene right now from the country best known for its waffles, chocolate and being the headquarters of the European Union. It’s possible that by the time the duo is done that they’ll be the most important rock band in the country’s history.
Their journey started when Paternoster was barely a teenager.
“I didn’t go to a classical music school,” the singer, lyricist and guitarist reveals sitting casually on his bed at one in the morning. It’s late, but he becomes wide-eyed when discussing anything music-related. “I learned playing guitar from a left-handed person. Just maybe like 30 lessons, but everything was upside down.”
He reckons that the fact that he had to translate all of the left-handed—and therefore upside down—blues progressions and chords his instructor taught him is why his sound has always been a little gritty. It wasn’t the perfect scenario, but it taught him you didn’t have to be a perfect musician, just an interesting one. Paternoster wanted someone to play with and turned to his 11-year-old friend, Van Dijck, to jam in his bedroom.
“We weren’t even playing covers or anything. We weren’t really trying to make our own stuff either. Not really. Just sound structures and hours of playing whatever.”
Those hours of playing anything and everything eventually paid off when, in 2006, the teenagers placed second in the Humo’s Rock Rally. Hosted every two years by Belgian rock magazine HUMO, the contest has discovered some of the finest bands from their little country.
Immediately after their runner-up finish, Black Box Revelation dropped an EP, started recording a full-length and were invited by dEUS, a former Rock Rally contestant from Antwerp, to tour continental Europe. The band’s first full-length, Set Your Head on Fire was released in 2007 and they continued building success in Europe while trying to crack onto the American scene.
“We spent all of the past two years over [in America],” Paternoster says. “We had some good support slots for Beady Eye, Jane’s Addiction and the Meat Puppets. They were our first big tour.”
Toss in a few SXSW dates, radio shows and two more European releases and the band was brewing something that was ready to boil over. It finally culminated in a summer to remember.
This past June saw the Belgian duo’s first American release with My Perception. That, however, wasn’t the crowning achievement of 2012. Black Box Revelation’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman was not only a personal milestone, but a moment in Belgian history: June 12 marked the first time a band from Belgium performed on the late-night talk show.
“It was national news over here,” Paternoster says. He laughs, perhaps thinking it’s silly for a late-night talk show performance to get so much press, but he knows the importance of the stepping stone. “I think Belgians, and lots of Europeans, feel America is such a big country filled with mystery. They see all of the Hollywood movies and celebrities and it’s all really big. I think it’s something very mythical or legendary and because of that they hear we’re getting success in the States we start receiving that status of legends. It’s a lot of fantasy. I think the success in America really helps with everything in Europe.”?
Paternoster is humbled by the mere notion that two kids from Brussels are producing blues-rock on par with The Black Keys and Jack White. He doesn’t see himself and Van Dijck as rock stars, but as two friends who set out to do something with their lives and ended up working hard to be in the right places at the right time. It’s not luck. It’s just really smart planning.
Black Box Revelation’s success in Europe is what got them noticed in America. But the duo’s success in America is what’s building them towards rock stardom back across the Atlantic. Their upcoming U.S. tour with Canadian rockers The Sheepdogs will not only introduce more Americans to their scuzzy blues, but will also influence the perception of those over 3,000 miles away as well.