Rock band Badflower began creating a stir in their hometown of L.A. a decade ago playing iconic venues such as the Key Club and The Troubadour. In early 2016 they were flown to New York to showcase for record executive John Varvartos and were immediately signed to a deal. Their debut album Ok, I’m Sick had two number one singles on the U.S. Billboard mainstream rock chart and a gold certified hit in the song Ghost. Their current album is titled This is How The World Ends.
The band is currently midway through its Canadian tour and hits the stage at London Music Hall on Sunday, May 8. Josh Katz took some time out ahead of the show to chat up a storm.
You’re well into a tour right now. What have the crowds have been like?
For the US part of this they started small and we weren’t sure what the tour was going to be like, but by the end of it, it’s just been chaos. We’re playing a mixture of cities that for the most part we haven’t played before so that was kind of like the name of the game with this tour, hit a bunch of spots that we’ve never had, and we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to turn out and it’s been really great.
You haven’t really played Canada very much in the past, have you?
We played one day, one show in Toronto with Shinedown, that’s it.
Wow, so you guys are way overdue. What can we look forward to in Canada?
I mean, we’re definitely playing some Badflower songs, a handful those. Honestly I don’t know. We have our set. It’s going to be the same that we’ve been doing over here but because it’s in a brand new territory and we have no idea what to expect from the audience I think I would say the same about us. I don’t think anyone including ourselves knows what to expect from us for these shows.
You just released your sophomore album last September. The album before was really huge. Do you find the sophomore jinx as being a nagging thing with you guys or is that something that doesn’t really concern?
It concerns me, but here’s the thing though. It’s so hard to tell because the pandemic happened and everything changed and the way that people consume art changed, right? It feels like the first album being released on this new planet that we’re all living in or something like that. That’s kind of how it feels. It’s hard to gauge but the shows are going great and people are loving the new songs and the only way that we can gauge it is audience reactions when we play the songs live and they’ve been amazing.
How did all this disruption affect the writing? You write most of the music yourself and it’s very direct, you don’t write songs about frivolous things like love songs and that sort of thing, they generally tend to be things that you’re really passionate about, or social issues that are kind of dear to yourself, right?
Oh, yeah, I mean, yes to the second part of that but in real life if I fall in love, and that’s what’s going on in my life, probably only going to write love songs. I don’t really choose to write specific topics that are more hard hitting than others, it’s just whatever it feels like that’s around me, and during the pandemic, aside from just the fact that we are all living this brand new life where we’re stuck at home, we’re all on the internet and social issues are being shot at us. It’s all we’re dealing with, what we’re seeing, we’re scrolling through stuff so there’s a lot of that on this album for that reason. It’s not because it’s something that I’m necessarily passionate about, it’s just because this is what I’m observing from the world.
The title of the album, This is How the World Ends, is a pretty gloomy title for an album, but it doesn’t really tell you the whole feel of the entire album necessarily, though, right?
No, not at all. This is How the World Ends is a lyric from a song that actually doesn’t really apply to any of that stuff. It just felt like a really fitting title considering the times and everything else happening. I wish there was like a super deep meaning and reason behind it, it was just a lyric. The lyric means a lot to the song but it doesn’t as an album title, but it feels right for this album.
One of the new songs from the album, Don’t Hate Me, I really enjoyed the video for that. Tell me about that song and its meaning. It seems like it’s about accepting or finding your own identity rather than being what everyone else wants you to be, Am I close with that?
It’s kind of the opposite. It’s not meant to be inspiring, like, be yourself. It’s that concept I think most people have experienced where if you want someone to like you, whether a romantic sense or non romantic sense, doesn’t matter, when you want someone to like you, a lot of people tend to change and shift their personalities slightly to suit more what they think that person might like and some people do that in a more extreme way. That song is kind of just a reflection of that behavior in the most extreme version.
We thought it was a fun concept to literally change the sound of our band, like that bridge section when it breaks down, we don’t typically sound like that or do things like that. But then writing this whole rant bit over it, explaining that the singer, myself as the character in the song, is changing everything including the sound of the band to make this person like them. We just loved that concept so that’s what that is.
You’ve been open about your struggles with anxiety and depression. You’ve said your anxiety started when you were in your late teens, early 20s and then it went away and kind of came back. Does that affect your live performances? That has to be difficult to struggle with anxiety and be a performer.
It used to, right before Ghost came out from our first album. That’s what I’m sick was about, was performing and the band was starting to do well and the crowds were getting bigger and we’re getting all these opportunities and every dream that I had as a kid was coming true and yet I hated playing shows. I felt like I was suffering on stage and I felt like I didn’t deserve it so really the whole thing was really strange and scary for me because I didn’t understand being so miserable having everything that I always wanted and I didn’t know what to do from there. What do I do now? There’s nothing else like this. All of my eggs have been in this basket since I was a kid. What do I do? I it was terrible I mean, I started getting panic attacks again after my teens because of performing. So it only happened on stage and I’d have to medicate myself before getting on stage and I did that for years, up until the last like year and a half? And for no reason at all I’m good now. I’ll probably be bad again and I don’t know when, but for right now, it’s great.
What’s the most satisfying aspect of your career?
There’s so many. I mean, because we’re on tour now, I’m going to say playing the shows. Sometimes I think about where I was when a certain song was being written or conceptualized and it’s just in a room somewhere super lonely by myself, giddy excited about some lyric or some idea. And then to be on stage in front of 1000 people who are screaming that idea back at you, it’s pretty wild. It becomes normalized pretty quick because every night it happens and you’re like, Okay, this is just what I do. But the first couple times that happens, it’s crazy.
You like to have a lot of control over your music production. You kind of want to have your hands on every little bit of it to the point where you barely sleep.
Yeah, well, that’s one of those things I believe has curbed my anxiety which is weird, but when I add pressure to my life, creative pressure, typically not like, oh, I have to write all these but when I have to do something creative or else something doesn’t work, my mind is busy on that thing and I’m constantly stimulated by it. I also just really enjoy doing so many things other than just performing and writing. And so I get to do all of that and I am a workaholic and I do take on way too much stuff but it kind of keeps me sane so I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.
I do all of our stage lighting. I pre program all of our lighting and I built our fixtures and so when I get to a venue, the first thing I do is I set up and I start working on the venue’s lights. Then I have like a 10 minute sound check and then I go right back to the lights, and then we do our VIP meet and greet and then I’m backstage on the laptop with a visualizer finishing the show, and right before I go on stage, I hand off the laptop and then I play the show.
There’s really no moment for me to just sit around and think about whether or not I’m going to have a panic attack on stage. I used to have so much time to just sit and my mind would start racing and I start getting nervous. And now because I’m so busy, and if I don’t complete this, there might be a moment in the show where our band is playing in pitch black and that’s a problem, so it’s important, I have to complete this job. As much as it drives my label and management team crazy because I’m so busy, they’re like, we just want you to do an interview or do one thing. I’m like, I can’t guys, I can’t, but it keeps me sane and I love it.
That’s amazing that you’re actually involved in the lighting production. Is it just something that you got interested in and you thought, I actually want to do this?
Yeah, it was just fun. I started small, like a lot of other bands who before they can afford an LD, you get floodlights from Home Depot, just basic, and you figure out how to sync it up. It started from stuff like that and then it just progressed and now we’ll you know, we’ll do massive theaters or whatever and all the lights are automated to my show that I programmed earlier in the day.
When you guys signed with Big Machine, I read you guys were kind of impatient with the whole legal process of switching to a different label and you just started recording your EP.
That was before Big Machine and we were on an indie label. We’ve been on a few labels. We were on an indie label and Republic was going to sign us and that took forever, the legal process took months and so yeah, we were just working on our EP in the background. By the time we actually signed and were done, they came to us to have the conversation about where we wanted to record what we wanted to talk about, we just turned it in.
So Big Machine was more involved with your debut album. How has it been working with them? Do they allow you a lot of freedom take your own direction?
I have experience now, we’ve been on a few labels and they give us the most creative control of any label that we’ve certainly ever been on.
You’re actually the first rock band to sign with that label, aren’t you?
I think they had Cheap Trick before us, but I think we were one of the first new up and coming rock bands. Now they’ve signed a few and their roster’s filling up. It’s getting cool.
A lot has been said about the song Promise Me. A lot of people have talked about how they teared up listening to that song. It actually choked me up a little bit watching the video and being somebody who is older and kind of reflecting on my life these days.
Are you afraid of growing old? Is that why you wrote the song?
Yeah, yes I am.
I’ve always been afraid of not growing old if you know what I mean.
I kind of have that fear too, I understand that, but I have both. The overall concept is just that, it’s just my fear of getting older. But it’s not just fear of getting older. It’s like fear of food not tasting as good, things that used to be really fun not feeling as fun anymore because you’ve done it a million times; breakups not hurting as bad.
We start to take things for granted. I especially noticed that because I’m living such a dream life and so many of these amazing experiences that I have don’t feel as amazing as I would like them to because I’m getting used to them and I’m just older and I’m jaded. And so that song is about trying not to be and yeah, I think with a little love story wrapped around it as a neat little bow.
That was really a sweet video with the little kids, I really liked that.
Thanks. It was a blast to make that.
I heard you bought a farm near Nashville. How do you like that? I also read you became vegan a few years ago. Was that part of your decision to buy a farm kind of get back to nature?
Yeah, I want to rescue animals. Since I’ve become vegan that’s something that I’ve wanted to do. So yeah, having the land was just the first step. I also like just being alone and secluded and I don’t like people very much. I grew up in LA so I needed the opposite of that, and now I have it and I love it.
So what sparked your desire to go vegan? I know so many musicians who are vegan. A lot of people in general are vegan but it seems that the majority of my musician friends are vegan or lean that way.
I don’t know why a bunch of artsy types gravitate towards it. I think probably because we’re extra sensitive. Musicians are like super tapped into their emotions, and maybe that helps them tap into the emotions of others, including animals because animals do have emotions let’s not forget.
So I had watched a bunch of documentaries and at some point I watched one by accident or somebody recommended it to me and it stung a little bit in my soul to know what I was doing but I continued eating meat. And then I watched another and another and then I was hooked on watching them and learning everything that I could. It got to a point where I was lying to myself if I continued to eat and live the way that I was. I was being dishonest with what I actually believed because something changed. I haven’t touched it ever since it’s been well, I don’t know how many years a lot of years.
Tell me about the band’s friendship with Johnny Galecki.
It just kind of happened randomly through mutual friends. He showed up to a show at the Viper Room, which apparently is closing down so R.I.P. the Viper Room. He showed up to a show and he was a fan of the music, I guess. Like really early on, like back Temper days, before Ok, I’m sick came out and we hung out. At this point he’s like my brother, we’re family.
He plays as well, doesn’t he?
He does yeah. He’s come up on stage a handful of times.
That’s pretty cool. I have a question about the song Heroin. Because most of your music is very direct, you don’t write poetry or have a lot of mystery to your lyrics. Is the song about heroin or is it about addiction in general?
That’s the one song that has a grand metaphor in it that isn’t straight up direct. Yeah, it’s just about addiction in general and I kind of like the juxtaposition between the drug and the relationship with this girl because it kind of feels like the same thing. You can say the same lyrics and describe both like that.
Have you been doing a lot of writing lately with so much happening, or do you not write when you’re on tour?
I do not write on tour, although it’s something we’ve discussed a lot as a band. Like, maybe I should spend less time doing lighting and instead of putting all of my effort there, we should set up some kind of mobile recording thing. So we’re talking, we’re talking about it. It might be something that we try to do because we’re going to be touring so much in the next year.
What inspires you, what inspires you to write? Do you get inspired when you’re on tour or does it hit you in the middle of the night kind of thing?
Yeah, that’s what it is and the thing is, the reason I don’t think I could tour and write is because my sleep schedule when I’m writing is all over the place. I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t have anything else to wake up on time for. This is all I have to do. It’s like I’m living on another planet when I’m writing. Even if the time is there, I’m the type of writer that if there’s a day I wake up and I’m just not feeling it, I’ll just stop, I won’t force it.
I know some artists who have windows of time where they’re like, Yeah, I wake up and I have various scheduled and at 3pm I start my session and I write from this time to that time and whatever and here’s our record, like all under this perfectly crafted little schedule. I’m like, You’re out of your mind, I could never do that.
So Big Machine has been pretty good with that sort of thing, allowing you a lot of freedom to work at your own pace?
Basically yeah, but they also light the fire under my ass when I need it. And I complain a whole bunch, but I do need it. They’re like, all right. deadlines coming up and I’m like, What do you mean the deadlines coming up? I need that deadline. If I don’t have a deadline I’ll never turn anything in. That’s just the way it is.
Big nine show Canadian tour starting this week in Montreal and ending in Vancouver. We’ll see you on Mothers day, Sunday May 8 at London Music Hall.