When stoner-rock legend Brant Bjork picks up the phone at his desert home in Joshua Tree, California, it’s just like old times. Eight years ago—when he was recording and touring with his band Brant Bjork and the Bros—Bjork called the Straight from the same location and expounded on the whole stoner craze.
“I definitely don’t run around with a stoner-rock flag,” he said back then, “but at the same time I like rock music and I like to smoke pot.”
Things have changed a little since 2005. Bjork still likes rock ’n’ reef, but while he may not run around with a stoner-rock flag, he’s definitely okay saluting it.
“As the years roll on I start to appreciate stoner rock more and more,” he explains, “because I view it as something that, as a genre, isn’t going away. As flattering as it is to be viewed as someone who helped kind of pioneer the whole movement, I’m just grateful to be part of it.
“To me stoner rock is just non-commercial rock that pulls from every great era,” he adds, “whether it’s ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s—whatever. And as far as the stoner element, I mean, yeah, it’s always cool to smoke pot.”
Last week Bjork’s current band, Vista Chino, took a major step toward further stoner-rock glory with the release of its killer debut album, Peace. The group—which currently includes the drummer’s old Kyuss bandmate John Garcia on vocals, guitarist Bruno Fevery, and tour bassist Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity—had to change its name from Kyuss Lives! last year after ex-Kyuss members Josh Homme and Scott Reeder filed a lawsuit forbidding use of the moniker.
But rifftastic rock by any other name is still rifftastic rock, and on Peace Vista Chino churns out the type of heavy guitar grooves that have kept Black Sabbath eternally cool—even with a doddering singer who can barely cope. Speaking of the metal granddaddies, Bjork was recently asked by the MetalSucks website to compile a stoner-rock playlist, and right there at number two—just below the Stooges’ “1969”—was Sabbath’s 1971 toker ode, “Sweet Leaf”.
My only question is: why wasn’t it number one?
“Uh, I don’t think those were in any particular order,” Bjork points out. “And your best-ofs are always privy to your particular mood in the moment. That could easily be ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ by Bob Marley.”
There he goes with those weed references again, leading me to wonder just how long a guy can be expected to make an honest living combining his two great loves: reefer ’n’ rock. Bjork hit the big 4-O this year, but reaching that milestone left him feeling like the party’s just starting.
“It was nice to get out of the 30s,” he relates. “You know, once you get to the end of a decade you’re kinda like, ‘Right, let’s just get there, man.’ So it was nice to jump right into the 40s. I’m happy to be where I’m at. I’m healthy, feeling good. I think the 40s are gonna be fantastic!”
Vista Chino plays Venue on Monday (September 9), moved from original venue of Commodore Ballroom.