The origins of the Blakes are rooted somewhere in the backwoods of central Maine, where in the latter half of the nineties Garnet Keim and his younger brother Snow acted upon a shared ambition to deviate from their seemingly inevitable fates as lifelong paper mill employees (or something of that nature), and try their hands at music. In fact, they had been raised in a fairly musical environment by a family best categorized as true swamp Yankees, and were taught how to harmonize with the Everlys at sing-a-longs from childhood onwards. At some point during adolescence they taught themselves how to write simple little garage rock songs on guitar and bass, and they eventually gigged around bars in Maine with a drummer. In an early display of the Keims’ notable brotherly symbiosis, Snow - upon graduation from high school - convinced Garnet to drop out of University of Maine Farmington a year from his degree and follow him to Kansas City, where they hoped to expand upon their (grossly naïve) musical ambitions in a larger market. Unfortunately, they never got off the ground in KC, although they did manage to further hone their songwriting skills in between tokes of ditch weed and stints as human guinea pigs for experimental pharmaceuticals. Getting nowhere in the Midwest, the brothers accepted an offer from Phil Collins' son Simon – who was dating their cousin Elvira – to record with him at his home studio in British Columbia. Much partying and a few recordings of a pop-electronic variety ensued, but the Keims were eventually forced to leave Canada when they proved unable to obtain work visas.
So it came to pass that in the spring of 1999, the duo found themselves desperate and destitute in Seattle. Here they immediately met and befriended a directionless young dreamer named Bob Husak, who was toiling away as a barista at a Tully’s Coffee and not accomplishing much else of note. After helping them procure jobs at Tully’s (following a brief period of street busking), Husak quickly became enthralled with the brothers’ irrepressible enthusiasm for making music as a living. He insinuated himself into their lives any way he could despite the fact that he played guitar and the Keims were exclusively searching for a drummer to complete their usual three-piece lineup. He eventually broke into their apartment and recorded three songs on their boombox. Perhaps due more to Husak’s pluck than any potential songwriting talent, the Keims were impressed enough that he was included in their daily rehearsal sessions. The trio soon became disillusioned with the sorry state of Seattle’s all-ages scene at the time and opted to try their fortunes in Los Angeles.
Arriving in LA with one car and practically no money, the nascent act took up residence at the Days Inn in Glendale and set about finding minimum-wage employment. They also began searching for a drummer in earnest, in the meantime playing any open mics available to them and rehearsing nightly at the Days Inn lounge. They eventually went through a succession of drummers over the next couple of years, none of whom proved able to fully commit to a band with no real prospects. The group were, however, able to record a full-length album during the TV off-season at CBS studios in 2001 thanks to a chance meeting between the Keims’ father and the studio president. A drummer was hired for the sessions and friends were coerced into recording the tracks for free. By this time, the name “the Blakes” had finally been decided upon after years of unwillingness to commit to any of the terrible monikers previously put forth by one member or another. The name came to Garnet in a dream after he’d attended a showing of the works of William Blake. The songs on the first album might best be described as a type of amateurish, garage-bound power pop, and displayed more promise than anything else. The band pressed a thousand copies.
After finally becoming fed-up with unstable lineup problems, Husak made the switch to drums in 2002. This prompted a long period of intense daily rehearsals in a stuffy little garage at Garnet’s place of residence in Atwater Village. The newly-energized trio gigged around town frequently and eventually decided to book their own national tours. In order to have something new to sell on the road, they recorded a new album in their garage in the spring of 2003 called Marine Sailor. It was harder-edged and even more lo-fi than their previous effort.
The Blakes’ early touring was marked by some degree of hardship: payouts were minimal, venues were often dismal, and nights spent in the van were frequent. A new EP called The Bottle was recorded in 2004 by a producer the band had met in Muncie, IN. By late 2004, a relocation to Seattle was in order, since payouts in LA weren’t getting any better and rent wasn’t getting any cheaper, and the music scene in the Northwest had improved considerably since their previous residency. At this point, the Blakes made a determined effort to get good, locking themselves up in their rented rehearsal space and hammering out new material every day. They recorded another EP called Little Whispers at London Bridge studios in early 2005 that they released locally. By this time, they had become notable for their chaotic and highly energetic live shows.
From late 2005 through mid-2006, the band worked to complete their third full-length album at the now-demolished Attercop Sound in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. They recorded over forty songs for the project that displayed a wide array of styles, from breezy synth-pop to roaring garage-rock, all shot through with a sort of ramshackle, lo-fi quality that had become a trademark. The best and most representative eleven tracks were chosen for inclusion, and the record was self-released locally as their second eponymous effort. Fortuitously, they personally took several copies to influential local radio station KEXP, which immediately championed the band and album. From this exposure, they received much interest from labels large and small, and eventually signed with the burgeoning Seattle indie imprint Light in the Attic Records. In the summer of 2007, the label issued an EP, Streets, which featured three album tracks and two exclusives. The album itself received an overhaul; two new tracks were added and the remainder were remixed and remastered. It was re-released by Light in the Attic with new artwork in the fall of ’07.
In the meantime, the band played several high profile Northwest shows, including appearances at Sasquatch, Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party. They also picked up management and a booking agent and played a seven week North American tour in the fall/winter. After another national tour in January/February, they made their first of several trips overseas, playing the TV show Album de la Semaine in France to promote the upcoming album release in that country, and doing a few dates in the UK. Since then, they’ve toured France with the Gossip, the Kills and Pete and the Pirates as part of the Musicale en Tournee tour, which was filmed and edited into a TV special for Canal + (they also found time on that run to film a performance for the music variety show Taratata); they toured the UK as support for the Wombats; and they did a three week run with Brian Jonestown Massacre in England, France, and Germany. They also played a couple of festivals in France, including Eurokeenes. In the States they again played Sasquatch and Bumbershoot, and also performed at Lollapalooza, SXSW, MusicFest NorthWest, CMJ and Sunfest in Miami. Additional accomplishments in this general time period include an exclusive iTunes session, a Daytrotter session and a few broadcasts of their video for “Don’t Bother Me” on MTV2. Their songs appeared on Meet Bill, How I Met Your Mother, The Hills, The Cho Show and several other TV programs and features.
In 2009, the band decided on a split from Light in the Attic, preferring to release further material on their own. Garnet and Snow put out a full-length record consisting of more introspective songs as BEADS earlier in the year. The Blakes, meanwhile, have been recording for the new album on-and-off since late 2007, and are preparing to work harder than ever to promote it.