Part of the rising Fat Possum Records youth movement, BASS DRUM OF DEATH aren’t your typical rock duo. Their sound is familiar, and so is their nonchalant, mellow style, but the Mississippi outfit’s skill on the live stage is exceptional and as far as modern garage rock goes, unmatched. After crossing the border for a gig at The Velvet Underground, vocalist/guitarist John Barrett and drummer Colin Sneed took some time to chat about how they’ve grown into a band that’s now their life.
Has your first major North American tour lived up to your expectations?
JOHN BARRETT: Everything’s been great so far. It’s only been about four shows but it’s been a crazy experience just traveling around, playing shows, doing interviews and meeting new people. Its absolutely lived up to our expectations because its just been awesome.
How have the different cities received your live set?
COLIN SNEED: Its been good, some of the places have been crazy.
BARRETT: Yeah, like people in Chicago were singing the words and shit. That definitely never happens (laughs). It’s good to play here again though. We played The Silver Dollar here last summer and we also played in Ottawa at some place called Dominion Tavern. It was awesome. They gave us a bunch of free pizza and literally made us taste every single beer they had on tap. We we’re treated very, very well.
You must be stoked to play Canada on a day dubbed “4/20” then.
BARRETT: Oh, it’s going to be great. Last time we were here in Canada, people seriously just came up and gave us shit. Like we went back to our hotel with this huge bag of different stuff people had given us and were pretty amazed. We smoked as much of it as we could but we ended up just leaving the rest at the hotel. I didn’t want to f*ck with the border and deal with their shit if they searched all my stuff and found it.
“It obviously has that dirty, kind of nasty sound to it but you can hear the different layers. Instead of just pressing record and bashing out the tunes, I took some time to make sure you could hear everything.”
A lot of individuals are quickly comparing you to duos like Japandroids and The Black Keys; does that irritate you guys seeing your music is different?
BARRETT: It doesn’t really irritate me that they do that. I get the comparison because we are a two-piece but it does irritate me that they just use those comparisons because they’re lazy. I don’t think we sound like either of those bands anyway. Like I read a review the other day where the writer said one of our songs directly rips off The Black Keys. I could maybe see that in other ones but not that one. Even then we don’t really sound anything like The Black Keys.
There is the love for Silverchair; what are some other bands and musicians you guys listen to more than once?
SNEED: Wait, did you just say Silverchair? That’s awesome (laughs). As far as bands go, Black Sabbath for sure.
BARRETT: Kiss, Sonic Youth..
SNEED: We listened to a lot of Beck on this trip.
BARRETT: Yeah, a lot of Midnite Vultures. Nirvana obviously; it kind of got me into wanting to be in a band. Like every Spring, when the weather gets nice, I go to this video store back home and rent 1991: The Year Punk Broke on VHS as it’s about the European tour Nirvana and Sonic Youth did. It’s a documentary with a bunch of footage of them playing in front of these huge European crowds and the opening scene features Kurt Cobain and Thurston Moore who just starts freestyling while stuff’s going on behind him. It’s weird but great. That tape has pretty much started the summer for me since eighth grade.
GB City does have a raw touch to it that’s almost a bit punk; how did Bass Drum Of Death evolve from being The Sleepwalkers?
SNEED: That was more my thing. The Sleepwalkers were my high school band and John sort of fell in and filled in on drums for us. It was a whole different thing than this band right now because it was more punk. The Sleepwalkers were my group and Bass Drum Of Death is kind of John’s thing. Like I’m still in it, because I do play drums, but it was really just us knowing each other before and saying “hey, let’s do something”.
You have noted before your difficulty in finding a drummer for this project; what were others doing wrong that Colin grasped from the start?
BARRETT: It was cool trying out different drummers at first but I just knew where Colin was coming from. I knew he would like to get out and just play shows after shows, whether its four or 400 people. He didn’t know how to play drums before but I knew he would be able to pick it up really fast once we started jamming. Some of the guys before approached the music from a drummer’s perspective and they started getting too flashy and wanted people to notice them as a drummer, not a dude in a group. Colin, he just gets it. He even plays hip hop drums now. He’s the new Questlove (laughs).
Are you two competitive at all since you’re talented in similar ways?
BARRETT: No. Not really because he’s better than me at both drums and guitar now. It might make me more competitive but he’s over there scoffing at me right now because he knows that I know he can play drums and guitar really well.
Going back to your music; you recorded the LP in basements with USB microphones. What was the reason for making that choice?
BARRETT: It’s where I live. I’ve been living in basement apartments for the past three years and I used USB microphones because it’s the cheapest thing to use to record. I really didn’t want to go into a studio and have someone else tell me what my music should sound like.
And Fat Possum was fine with all this?
BARRETT: Well I definitely had to get it mastered. I try to make sure the music sounds a certain way. It obviously has that dirty, kind of nasty sound to it but you can hear everything, like the different layers to the songs. Instead of just pressing record and bashing out the tunes, I took some time to make sure you could hear everything. The label dug that.
With the classic album cover, the lyrics about girls and gravity bongs and the pool obsession, what do you hope to prove to the music world?
BARRETT: Umm.. (pause). Shit, I don’t know if I want to show the music world anything. I don’t know really, that’s a tough one.
SNEED: We can deal with that one a little bit later on. Right now we have to deal with trying to pay bills and shit (laughs).
BARRETT: I have no f*cking clue what I want to show the music world. Is there a music world? Sorry I dropped the bomb on this one man. Usually I’m talking up a f*cking storm but I cannot come up with something for this question. Once we find out the answer, everybody will know.
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