Oxford, Mississippi rock band Bass Drum of Death are set to embark on a Canadian tour with Dearly Beloved and Basement Revolver in support of their latest album, “Say I Won’t.” Frontman John Barrett spoke with 519 Magazine about the making of the record, his experience working with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, and the upcoming tour.
Barrett explained that “Say I Won’t” is the first Bass Drum of Death album that was written and recorded with the touring band, saying he found a freedom in working with collaborators that weren’t available to him before. “It was a process of live recording, layering on different parts and overdubs, and then stripping it all back to the bones of the song, keeping the raw wild heart of the music intact,” he said.
Barrett and his brother worked on the album’s lead single, “I Won’t,” together, even though John was in Mississippi and his brother was in New York. Once the band’s drummer, Ian, was added to the mix, they were able to flesh it out for live performances. “Most of the songs were demoed by myself and then brought to the band, but three or four of them were more collaborative and figured out in the studio,” Barrett said.
The band recorded “Say I Won’t” with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys at Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville. Barrett said that working with Carney was a great experience. “Pat was awesome, very no-nonsense, and if something was working, he didn’t fiddle with it too much,” he said. “His studio was amazing, and he had a bunch of cool gear. It was like being in Disneyland for us every day we were there.”
Barrett discussed the process of writing “Everybody’s Gonna Be There,” the album’s anthemic title track. “I had a demo of it on electric guitar. We went back and forth on whether to keep it as is or turn it into a master song,” he said. “When I wrote it, I was trying to get into the headspace of songwriters like Billy Bragg or Billy Childish, who play electric guitar.”
He also spoke about the opening track, “Find It,” and how the band nearly gave up on it after several failed attempts to get it right. “We almost gave up on it, but we kept trying, and eventually, we figured out where things needed to be and how to arrange it. I’m glad we stuck with it,” he added.
The album has a groove-oriented, 1970s-indebted sound, with scuzzy guitars and tempos set for cruising. Barrett said that the album finds a reinvigorated Bass Drum of Death firing on all cylinders, backed by their best band yet. “It’s Bass Drum of Death at their loosest and scuzziest and most tuneful, a true rock record in all the right ways – a throwback by way of moving forward, sporting a maturity and swagger that comes from a decade of playing music on the road and surviving to tell about it,” he said.
When asked about the inspiration behind the album’s lead single “Say Your Prayers”, Barrett shared that he had originally written the song with Mike Kerr from Royal Blood. “When I was demoing it with my brother, I realized it could be a Bass Drum song. I texted Mike, and he gave us the go-ahead. We added guitars but kept it mostly untouched from what Mike and I had done,” he said. The result is a hard-hitting track that’s a perfect fit for the band’s sound.
Over the years, Bass Drum of Death’s sound has evolved, and Barrett explained that their recent work in proper studios has contributed to this evolution. “We’ve tried to keep the idea of it being dirty and nasty in parts, but make sure that you can hear everything and things stick out where they need to. That’s hard to do when you’re just recording on a computer mic, with not a whole lot of options,” he said. Despite this evolution, the band’s core sound remains the same, and Barrett believes that the band’s versatility and consistency are what sets them apart from other bands in the garage rock genre.
When it comes to the overall theme and musical style of the album, Barrett said that they’ve tried to include a mix of all the things they do well. “There’s something for everybody. We tried to be versatile but also commit to and keep our corner sound pretty consistent,” he said. The album features tracks that are sure to get fans moving, with its fast-paced beats and catchy hooks.
As for the upcoming Canadian tour, Barrett said that the band is excited to return to the country after being away for a while. “We’re currently taking some time to rest and recharge, but we’ll be ready to go soon,” he said.
The tour will kick off at Capital Ballroom in Victoria, BC, on May 26th, and will run through June 19th, with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Kitchener and Toronto, among other cities. For more on Bass Drum of Death, visit bassdrumofdeath.com.