Pop Opera boyband Blake have their sights set on the States

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Pop Opera boyband Blake have their sights set on the States Pop Opera boyband Blake have their sights set on the States

As far as operatic pop boybands go, you’d struggle to find one more quintessentially British than Blake. The immaculately suited, plum-voiced four-piece have played at the opening ceremony of Wimbledon, before the Queen at the Royal Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace and beneath Nelson’s statue in Trafalgar Square.

Old friends with Kate Middleton, for the last couple of years Blake have been spreading their red-bus-and-Beefeater-Britishness throughout Europe and Asia, gaining legions of fans wherever they go.

This year they’ve got their sights on the States, with a bid to build a Blake empire across the pond.

“Being English is definitely an angle we’re proud of,“ explains Humphrey Berney, 30-year-old tenor of the chart-topping group. “They love the accent out there, and the history, and that charm they seem to aspire to.“

It’s hoped the vocal-band’s prim, Prom-style will be a hit among Americans, helped along by their fascination with the Royal wedding and the upcoming Queen’s Jubilee.

“It all helps,“ continues Humphrey. “It’s something that has to be done with an element of subtlety, but they latch onto it and they love it. Look at Fergie for goodness sake – they love all things English, good or bad!“

It’s a USP that finds less appeal in Blake’s home nation.

“I do laugh about it sometimes. In the UK, there’s a sort of prejudice – ’you all went to public school’. Sometimes I want to turn round to them and say ’So did all of Coldplay, and Keane, so are 60 per cent of the bands in the charts’. They’re all middle-class public-school boys.“

“We seem to get tarnished with this brush of being four posh boys, but it’s certainly not something we’re going to shy away from in the States.“

Of course, the United States of America cannot be cracked with charm and crumpets alone. Fortunately Humphrey (known as Barney within the band) and his fellow vocalists Stephen Bowman, Jules Knight and Olly Baines have a formidable arsenal of songs aimed at the new market.

Working with Golden Globe and Grammy award-winning songwriter Diane Warren (the author of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, Toni Braxton’s Un-Break My Heart and Cher’s Just Like Jesse James to name a few), Blake also enlisted the help of top American producers and Michael Buble’s band to give them a more mainstream, pop sound.

“It was a really exciting prospect for us,“ says Humphrey, “to work on an album of original material and create something that’s completely our own. It was a bit of a no-brainer really.

“There are certainly people who will be pretty surprised when they hear it. I wouldn’t say it’s a reinvention, it’s more an evolution.“

The tellingly titled single, Start Over, is already out in America and due a UK release in April. Other songs from the upcoming album will be performed when Blake come to The Alban Arena on March 3 on their biggest UK tour to date – Love Lifts Us Up. The tour could also double as something of a farewell to their homeland, if the demand is felt from America.

“It would be a high quality problem if we suddenly become a huge deal in the States,“ says Humphrey. “We could go out there for a few months but we’re so lucky to have a great fanbase here in the UK. This is, and always will be, very much our home.“

Blake come to Harlow Playhouse on March 2 at 7.30pm. Details: 01279 431945

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