We fell in love with Black Cab Sessions the moment we first heard of them. How could we not? Taking a drive around the best city in the world (okay, we're biased, yes) in a design classic with some of our favourite bands rockin' out in the back seat: it's exactly how we'd like to spend a lazy afternoon. Since we generally are unable to scrape together enough coins to even steal sideways glances at black cabs, however, we're incredibly grateful to be able to enjoy these tunes from our free sofas.
Once we got over our initial jealousy that we hadn't thought of this brilliant idea first, we contacted the people behind these sessions to learn a bit more about the musical life of taxis.
Tell us about how you first came up with the idea of videoing bands in black cabs.
The Black Cab Sessions team are friends and family. Some of us work in film (Just So Films) and some of us in music promotion (Hidden Fruit). The guys at Just So came up with the idea as a fun and affordable way to help publicise Hidden Fruit gigs and it just sort of snowballed. Black cabs are iconic, surprisingly spacious and are available all around town, and the production values aren’t too bad either. The journey side of things makes every session a bit different and shows off the other attraction: London. It was just a simple idea that seemed to make sense. That and we were all pretty keen to get private gigs with some of our favourite musicians across the globe.
What's the best response you've ever had from a driver?
We’ve been very lucky with the cabbies we’ve had – all of them have been up for it. Emmy the Great’s driver loved her song so much he gave us the cab ride free. But the best response is Freddie Stevenson’s: the cabby just didn’t like music – any music. "Never ‘ad a record in m’life", he told us.
What is the average fare of a session? What has been the single most expensive session to date?
We’re trying to keep the fares to under £10 as we pay for it all ourselves, so any more and it gets pretty expensive. We have spent way over this on more than one occasion though... seem to recall The Kooks was very expensive as Luke was late emerging from his house (it was a early on a Saturday morning – a little ambitious).
Have any notable mishaps occurred during a session? Anyone get smacked in the face with a guitar as a result of a bump in the road?
No, not yet anyway. There is a session coming up with a cellist playing Bach. As he was gripping the cello between his legs – and was perching on edge of seat, he had no balance – so we lost him around several corners. He’s played all over the world and when we finished he said that was the single hardest thing he’d ever done.
Obviously you dig everyone you've featured, but of all the performances, do you have a favourite?
Sounds a cliché, but we like them all for different reasons. Having Daniel Johnston was something special for me personally, but other members of the team have different black cab heroes. I know St Vincent went down well with a few of the boys and our dads. The problem is when we all (four of us) want to be in the cab for the same person – good old-fashioned drawing of straws seems to sort that out though!
What has been the most popular session so far or has a fan favourite emerged?
It depends. On the website it’s the Kooks, and on YouTube I believe St Vincent and Daniel Johnston have raced ahead. We like it how up-and-comings like Fanfarlo are shoulder-to-shoulder with veterans like Bill Callahan and established acts like The National. That’s what it’s about for us: not about the musician’s fame or notoriety, just about how well they can rock the back of a cab.
Do you try to pick a different locale each time? How much of London have you seen since starting the sessions?
Yes, but there are black hole areas for taxis we know now never to return. Kilburn has no taxis. At all. We waited with Will, Okkervil River front man, for over an hour in the rain with no taxis to be found. Also, Shepherd’s Bush is a bitch to get taxis: all one way, always busy.
What's the best bit of London to see from a black cab ride?
There’s a lovely shot in Vincent Vincent and the Villains' session of the sunset over Tower Bridge
Tell us about your dream session. If you could get anyone you wanted to rock the back of a cab, who would it be?
Tom Waits, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Van Morrison, Thom York, Rolling Stones… jeez, there are loads...
Anything else we should know?
Try and watch the vids on the website at www.blackcabsessions.com, which has better quality picture and sound. There you can also sign up to our weekly newsletter, "The Knowledge", which sends out the sessions before they go on general release.
Any suggestions from Londonist readers are most welcome. We read all the emails and are currently following up several genius suggestions from a couple of genius people around the world.
Have you ever been sick on the tube (or in the back of a black cab)?
Of course not, we all drink responsibly and never lose control. Though we can testify that Seasick Steve suffers from cab sickness too.
Above video featuring The New Pornographers appears courtesy of Black Cab Sessions.