“When we first started…we had this idea that if you play The Whiskey A Go Go, and you play in front of how ever many people are there at the time, and you’re good, you are just going to be famous, because that’s where all the best people played. I remember that was the very first show that we did, before Badflower, with Joey and I still together in the last band. We were terrible. We were absolutely atrocious.”
With those words comes a sense of the refreshing retrospective self-awareness within Badflower’s Josh Katz, but that awareness also extends to the present circumstances. Happiness can be elusive but Josh’s grasp on the notion is simple: music gets him there. “The thought that we get to do what we love [make music] is the most surreal form of it.”
Badflower’s Temper EP comes out tomorrow, November 4th. You may want to pay attention to it because the sound that Badflower creates is something akin to a perfect storm: at the center of its gutsy, visceral and blunt force musicianship are lyrics interwoven with emotional soul that pushes and pulls against its grain. Beautiful. Brutal. Sensual. Sexual. Rock riffs: Josh and the band have a healthy affinity for them. The powerful rawness of those riffs is evocative, the stuff that dynamic rock and roll tends to be made of and Katz (vox/guitar) along with his band mates Joey Morrow (lead guitar), Alex Espiritu (bass) and Anthony Sonetti (drums) make it look effortless in the City of Angels: a city flush with thousands of likeminded artists and musicians vying for the attention of its inhabitants. Vying, also, for the attention of the music industry whose eyes and ears have been keeping tabs on the band since their 2013 formation. For better, for worse, and for familiar plot points in many a band’s story, there were numerous agents and labels who came to see Badflower perform and approved of what they heard and saw yet still saw fit to pass on signing them. “Stuff like that sort of happens a lot,” Josh added with an absence of animosity. It’s all part of the process, part of the grind that musicians slug through in their effort to stand out in and elevate above an incredibly vibrant yet incredibly crowded music scene.
And stand out is exactly what they have done: in July Badflower announced their signing to fashion designer and master rock and roll music fan John Varvatos’ eponymous imprint label on Republic Records. Concerns? Of course there were concerns, as the act of being signed is far from a guarantee of success. “We were nervous.” Josh admitted matter of factly. “We were nervous because Republic was one of those labels that we had showcased for before and passed on us.” But this time around, the music found its way to Varvatos who Josh described as “one of the coolest guys ever.” Varvatos loved what he heard.
So he flew the band out to New York to showcase: for the public, for him, for Republic Records, for the whole team.
“They loved us, we loved them, personally and musically. That was it. We signed.”
Their presence in Los Angeles has always been subtle; the most that you tend to see and hear of them is the thunderous noise made on a stage or local radio play. That noise – while a meticulous combination of music and words worshipping at the alters of hard rock, psych rock, and even metal – presents itself with an unrestrained and cinematic passion. In part due to the fact that Josh takes his lyrical and musical cues from movies and film scores, even folk music. “I actually really like a lot of older and newer folk music, because I like the lyrics in those types of songs.” It’s about the power to move and evoke, how a simple chord change (or as a singer, a shift in vocal tone) can raise the hair on your flesh, trigger a new emotion or paint a robust mental picture. As a songwriter, the lyrics that Josh drafts into Badflower songs that we have heard over the past three years compose characters: shaded personas that he can step into the shoes of the moment he opens his mouth to sing. And those characters can be starkly vivid, if not downright explicit. When Morrow and Sonetti come crashing in after Espiritu’s opening bass lines in “Soap,” you’re dealing with a foul-mouthed Cyrano. The delicate and deceptive beauty of “Mother Mary” gives way to a first person perspective of a truly fucked up situation involving cutlery, while despite a spotlight-fed ego, “The Jester” is alone and self-consciously aware of it. As for the Temper EP, there’s the lead off single, “Animal,” which is an example of Josh reducing an antagonist and their cruelty down to an inhuman and inhumane level, all while the band plays the blues. Other songs on the EP like “Heroin” make you feel its heavy and oppressive crush of a relationship, a drug or when the two are one in the same while the carnal “Let The Band Play” disintegrates into a magnificent R-rated tirade of vengeance. It’s that kind of storytelling, role-playing, and intuitive projection within the narrative (reminiscent of folk rock and it’s ability to extract pure emotion from the listeners) that morphs into the visual sound of Badlfower’s songs.
In order to survive – let alone thrive – in the music business, a sense of self-worth is important if not imperative. Narcissism isn’t necessary but knowing that you are damned good at what you do is. Josh, Alex, Joey and Anthony know they that are a high quality band and relish in their individual and combined abilities, yet there’s plenty of respect and appreciation for their contemporaries.
“I think that’s been our sort of mantra for a while, without being competitive, we look at bands that we really love and we say, these bands are great, but we’re great, too, and we’re different.” Josh explained. “We think people will like us because of this. Not because I’m the better singer…or because he’s a better guitarist, but because these are our unique qualities that make us special.”
While it’s true that there are thousands of bands on the Los Angles landscape, many of whom are good to great to incredible, none of them can do what Badflower does. John Varvatos saw that and we think you will, as well. Because the very last thing that Badflower are is atrocious.
See their Temper EP on November 4th for further.