The Balancing Act

Ascendant Seattle rock group The Black Tones perform in Eugene

Twin sibling Seattle musicians Eva and Cedric Walker balance each other out. The pair play together in The Black Tones, performing Oct. 16 at the Hult Center, part of the 10X10 concert series focusing on emerging artists.

Natives of Washington state, the Black duo released their debut full-length album, Cobain & Cornbread, in 2019, landing in the top 20 albums of the year, according to influential Seattle radio station KEXP. The album is a humming and growling mix of rock, blues and soul with a loose-limbed, garage-punk edge. 

“I’m kind of a perfectionist for someone who makes garage punk music,” Eva says over the phone from her home in the Columbia City area of Seattle. “It has to be the most perfect sounding chaos. It’s gotta be clean garbage!” 

Her brother Cedric is also on the line. “I offer a little bit of balance to Eva’s perfection,” he says, and that’s why the two musicians work so well together. “If I’m too lax,” Cedric clarifies, “Eva is there to lift me up. If Eva is a little too over the top, I’m here to calm her down.”

On the album Cobain, there’s “Chubby and Tubby,” a surf-y dance tune that might pass for a novelty hit in 1968, while “Rivers of Jordan” is a spiritual music-infused, stomp-clamp minimal blues song with harmonica. 

Elsewhere, Eva’s guitar lines twine serpent-like around Cedric’s cool confident percussion on what is perhaps the album’s highlight, “The Key of Black (They Want us Dead).” 

Spiritual music influences show up again in the call-and-response refrain that’s central to the song. Eva sings, “We want peace, they want us dead,” echoing the struggle for Black lives that would conflagrate one year after the release of the album. 

This sort of activism is an important part of what The Black Tones do. Fans of video games, the band even made one of their own, also called “They Want Us Dead,” in which digital versions of Eva and Cedric battle classic Nintendo-style elements of the right-wing, like the alt right and the Ku Klux Klan.

On the topic of social causes and the role they play in the music of The Black Tones, Eva quotes Nina Simone: “An artist’s job is to reflect the times,” she says. “That’s pretty much all we’re doing. Are we done talking about race? Of course we are! But as long as injustices are still happening, and there are things that are happening to people that look like us that aren’t right and aren’t fair, we have to talk about it.”

Along with a few 2020 singles — possibly part of a top-secret new recording project, according to Eva — the duo is just now dipping their toes back into live performing at the tail end of the pandemic. They sometimes perform in lineups as large as a four-piece, but in Eugene, they’ll be a trio.

Regardless of the lineup, it’s good to be back on stage with her sibling, Eva says.

“Being a twin and being a sibling and knowing each other is fantastic, she says. “As we’ve played together more, it’s only gotten better. It’s liberating,” she continues, “just me and my twin brother on the stage – like we played with our toys as kids.”

The Black Tones perform 8 pm Saturday, Oct. 16, in the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater as part of the Hult’s 10X10 concert series. $10, all-ages. Proof of vaccination or negative test required.