The devastating guitars and killer vocals of Phoenix Bodies have made them kings of the Indiana hardcore scene for the past few years. That success is also due in large part to the sharp mind of vocalist Derek Black.
Born in Greensburg, Ind., Black moved to Indianapolis while in middle school. “I started going to local punk shows when I was 14,” Black said. “I went to places on the Southside like Smith Valley Community Center and Smedley’s Dream, but the place with the most DIY feel was Middle Man Record. These guys put on shows in the basement of an old church.” After getting inducted into the local punk scene, Black stepped up and became a part of the scene. “My first band was a crappy punk band called The Seamen.”
Almost as soon as Black started wailing away in The Seamen, he got his feet wet as a promoter. “I booked my first show when I was 15 for The Seamen,” Black noted. Humble beginnings for the dude who put the internationally-renowned hardcore festival Dude Fest together. This year’s Dude Fest was three days of sweaty, naked bliss and sold out the Emerson for all three days.
Black’s current band, Phoenix Bodies, rose from the ashes of The Screamo Band Mara’akate. “Our guitarist Colin had started Phoenix Bodies in Muncie,” Black reminisced. “I got one of their demos and said I wanted to do vocals.” Since then, Phoenix Bodies has relocated to Indianapolis and embarked on several ambitious tours, including Europe.
While Black has a lot invested in the scene as both a musician and a promoter, he has some criticism for it as well. “Compared to what’s going on in other cities, Indy’s not that great,” Black said. “People are oblivious to national touring bands. It’s not a population issue, because Indianapolis is pretty big, but in a smaller city like Cincinnati, these bands draw much larger crowds than they would here.”
As a promoter, this must be especially troubling for Black, who depends on large audiences to pay the bands he books. “The Indy scene is driven on a very local level. For the most part, it seems that people don’t pick up on up-and-coming bands until they’re already so huge that they can’t ignore them.”
Despite his criticisms of the scene, Black has no intentions of abandoning the city that he loves. He keeps booking and playing shows, doing his part to bring bands to the city and bring national attention to its scene by stirring up critical acclaim with Phoenix Bodies.