BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
When Bass Drum of Death was formed around 2008, vocalist John Barrett was styled as “The Garage Rock Guy,” mostly because he was the band, recording his first two efforts solely by himself. But with the latest release, Just Business, Barrett has produced a more sophisticated sound; a new depth of maturity that still retains the razor-sharp edge that has endeared him to fans.
“I’m really proud of this record,” Barrett said. “I feel like it’s pretty varied, pretty versatile. I tried a lot of different stuff, so there’s definitely something there for everyone. I really worked through the songs in as many ways as possible, to get the best. I’m very, very pleased with how it turned out.”
Bass Drum of Death attaches to various labels, ranging anywhere from “Garage Rock Punk” to “Noise Rock.” Barrett released two EP’s, Stain Stick Skin in 2008 and High School Roaches in 2010. Albums GB City followed in 2011, Bass Drum of Death in 2013, and Rip This in 2014. Barrett, like most musicians, would rather not be labeled but let the music do the talking.
With Just Business, Barrett stripped down to the soul with this effort, seemingly from a depth of anger. Is that a fair assumption? Barrett stated in usual fashion, “Kinda, maybe…hmmm, okay.”
“I think it’s a place of anger, but I’m trying to, like, sort it out,” Barrett said. “Lyrically, the way I would describe it, it’s just a dude who doesn’t know what he’s doing, trying to make sense of it all. Musically, I just kind of go what I think sounds cool to me.”
And maybe moving to New York four years ago from his home state of Mississippi had something to do with it. Barrett’s music might have been a tad out of place, home of the blues that produced the likes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, to Rock greats Bo Diddley and Elvis Presley who incorporated the style into their music.
“It’s impossible to escape it in Mississippi and not be influenced by it,” Barrett laughed. “But it was just there, all the time. Everywhere you turned. I found myself pushing away from it. And every time you went to hear a band, it was always kind of a lame version of someone trying to play the blues. I knew I wanted something different. And to do that, I had to get out of Mississippi. I figured, why not go for it? Four years later, I’m still here in New York.”
Barrett is a self-taught musician, seemingly mastering any instrument he laid his hands on.
“When I was a kid, Nirvana was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life,” he said. “I never took any lessons. I just kind of taught myself how to play guitar and drums; I guess the bass, too. Music has been one of those things that I can take solace in, get into my little zone where I can control it, just be myself in a way that I can’t be in other situations.”
But that doesn’t mean Barrett wants to do things only his way. Just Business, in fact, was co-produced by Barrett and noted producers Jason Bell and Jordan Miller, who also co-wrote “Heavy” with the musician.
“That song was pretty tough, just because it was so different from what I normally do,” Barrett shared. “Basically we kind of started from scratch, and it was tough to kind of figure out if we should just leave the song or expand it. And I wasn’t really used to writing with other people. I mean, up until then, I was the only one who touched any of the songwriting.”
Barrett said he had no regrets writing with Bell and Miller.
“We went out, we all talked music, and kind of got drunk,” he said. “And I developed a vibe with them, which is important to me. If you don’t have it, then I’m not going to open up and give my babies to you. It was pretty seamless. It was like a learning class, and it came out well.”
Barrett said he wouldn’t change a thing on Just Business, even if he was allowed the opportunity.
“Well, it’s too late now, you know?” he joked. “But yeah, you wonder…are people going to like it? Because I’m always trying to push myself and make myself better. In the end it comes down to this: that’s really all I can do.”
- Third Coast Dreaming
- Too High
- Diamond in the Rough
- Failing Up
- I Don’t Wanna Know
- Odds Are Good
- Just Business
- I Love You (I Think)
- I Thought I Told You