Bass Drum of Death is more than garage rawk
John Barrett is nothing but appreciative when it’s suggested that Bass Drum of Death’s GB City is aiming for something more ambitious than sludged-out garage rawk.
“Thanks for noticing that,” the singer-guitarist says from a Columbus, Ohio, tour stop. “In the reviews, that kind of gets lost a lot of times. The tone, guitar sound, and drum sound might be similar, but I don’t ever want to write the same song twice, or have anyone think that I’m making the same record over and over but with different lyrics.”
Get past its recorded-on-four-track aesthetic, and GB City makes a pretty good case that Barrett is more than accomplished as a songwriter, the tracks cleverly drawing on bass-bombed blues (“Nerve Jamming”), classic pop (“Young Pros”), gunning-for-nirvana psychedelia (“Leaves”), and swaggering Stones-like country (“Religious Girls”).
That the nuances of GB City have sometimes been lost on casual listeners is perhaps understandable. Barrett operated as a one-man show for the recording, laying down all reverb-drenched vocals, dirty-swamp guitars, and thudding drums by himself in the basement of his Oxford, Mississippi, home. The finished project is lo-fi to the core, which might explain why the genre-jumping isn’t as noticeable as on, say, the last Cage the Elephant album.
Bass Drum of Death operates an actual band for its live shows, with Barrett joined by drummer Colin Sneed and bassist Print Choteau. But when he records, the singer-guitarist is all about going it alone.
“It makes it so I can record the songs exactly the way I want to,” he says. “With the last one [GB City], after I was done, I personally sat there for a month listening to it…to make sure I was satisfied with the track listing. To take that sort of time as a band would mean that we’d have to be off the road for six months. I like being at home, but I also like touring, because live is probably the best way to experience us.”
Barrett has completed eight songs for a GB City follow-up, which hasn’t been easy considering that the band has been, as he hints, on the road constantly both in America and Europe.
“As much as I wish I could be Lil Wayne and record on the bus while I’m on tour, I just can’t,” the singer says with a laugh.
What he promises for that as-yet-untitled sophomore release is more of what fans loved about GB City. Yes, the songs definitely won’t be remaining the same, even if the sound will.
“There will be some bangers, some softer songs, and stuff with some weird structures that I really sort of jam out,” he says. “I guess I’m trying to keep people on their toes…while writing songs that keep me interested. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”
Bass Drum of Death plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Friday (June 29).