While barbershop promo photos and tongue-in-cheek song titles like “Diagnostic Front” might paint a lighthearted picture, bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis of Los Angeles two-piece Big Business have returned with a follow-up to their 2013 scorcher, Battlefields Forever, that’ll likely keep everyone on their toes. The new album, Command Your Weather (out July 8 via Joyful Noise Recordings), is perhaps the band’s darkest recording to date. These are two men who are beloved in the heavy music world for their impish grins so ubiquitously plastered on their faces, so when there’s even a hint of darkness in their sound, it’s sure to get people to sit up and notice.
While it certainly carries their signature upbeat heaviness, Command Your Weather features a recurring theme throughout, created with eerie percussion (moody, church bell-esque carnival sounds, which, according to the band, are created with an instrument called “blossom bells”) and lyrics that nod to perhaps deeper subject matters than they’ve delved into in the past, the band set out to create a “wiser, more atmospheric” record.
“We kind of had a rough year parting ways with our guitar player,” Coady admits, when asked about the darker elements of the album. He is sitting across from me at a bar table in Portland, Oregon where they have just finished playing a set at a mini-festival at B-Side, a beloved East Burnside rock ‘n’ roll dive bar, celebrating its 10-year-anniversary. “It was kind of a bummer process. It didn’t end well. That might have had something to do with it.” But that doesn’t mean their signature humor—and even hopefulness—doesn’t seep into the songs. “Going back to a two-piece again, it felt like we really pulled together and did something good. We felt hopeful at the same time. We were really excited about it, and it felt like a new beginning.”
After decades of playing in professional bands (to name a few: the two moonlight as the rhythm section of the Melvins; Coady used to play drums for Murder City Devils, and Jared started out playing bass for Pacific Northwest weirdo punk bands Karp, The Whip, and Tight Bros From Way Back When), they are no strangers to poking fun at the album-promotion process, either: “It’s funny—the label wanted us to write something about [Command Your Weather] and what it’s about for the press release,” Coady says. “I seriously made up this bullshit in five seconds about how it was a struggle for humanity asserting their will about the unpredictability and power of nature. And just rambled on about that for about two paragraphs. It degenerated into, ‘Can we just drink a beer while we’re all waiting to die?’ I thought it was obvious that it was just a bunch of crap. So we’ve been talking about that in a bunch of interviews, because people are like, ‘Is that what the lyrics are really about?’ I love it.”
With a press release that pokes fun at the persisting idea of having to talk about a record’s meaning, and a gaggle of questions thrown at them during this album’s promotional cycle based on silly, made-up facts, how does Big Business feel about, and react to, music journalism in 2016? Hit play on the world premiere of Command Your Weather, and read on to find out.
Noisey: All I've got planned is a quick, silly, lighthearted interview. No deep questions or anything.
Coady Willis: Okay good. I hate wading in past my knees!
I don’t often see a lot of written interviews with you guys, but everything else you guys have consistently done throughout your career is hilarious. Your press releases, your promo videos for tours, your photos, everything.
Yeah, it’s easier. We can control the flavor of it a bit more. Sometimes interviews are hard because, depending on who’s doing the interview, it can be super tedious. Our tendency when that happens is just to disengage and start lying about everything. And then it just kind of unravels from there.
There’s this video interview on YouTube where Jared talks about how weird it is that some lazy journalist decided everything should be called “sludge” years ago. And you guys are so hard to pigeonhole. What’s the weirdest way someone has ever described Big Business?
There was a time in the early 2000s where it was always like, “This band fucked this band on acid, and CCR went off a cliff in a dump truck.” Mostly we get, like, “SLUDGE BAND!” and “A dump truck fell off the Empire State Building and landed on Black Sabbath!”
People are always saying, “Sludge, sludge, sludge!” Jared’s bass tone is distorted and heavy, but our songs aren’t slow and sludgy. Most of them are pretty fast. And if you think about the song structure and the way Jared sings, we love pop music. We love metal. We love punk. It’s all part of where we came from and what we like. Every label we’ve ever been on, we’ve always been the odd-duck band that doesn’t quite fit in with everything else. And maybe we’re not doing our job putting across what we’re trying to put across or whatever, but I feel like we don’t fit in with a lot of other bands, and it throws a lot of people off.
I think, if people can’t quite put their finger on what type of music you play, that’s a good thing.
We want to do a good job, and we want people to like our band, but it’s our lives, too. We have to have fun. Every day. It has to be that way. It can’t be pure drudgery—we can’t live our lives like that every single day. And suddenly five years of our lives are gone, and we’re five years older, and we had a miserable time. That’s not going to happen. That’s not why we’re here.
What are some of the laziest, worst interview questions you’ve ever gotten throughout your career? With Big Business, The Melvins, Murder City Devils—any bands you’ve been in.
[Without missing a beat] What are your influences? What do your lyrics mean? Super lazy fact-checking, where they could have spent 30 seconds on Google. How did you guys meet? How many albums do you guys have? What album is this for you?
Alright, let’s do a fun activity. I’m going to ask you these terrible questions, and I want you to tell me the comeback you wish you had said instead of the answer you initially gave.
What is the new record, Command Your Weather, about?
What does it mean to you?
How many albums do you have?
Most of them.
What do your lyrics mean?
If you buy four or more of our albums and play them simultaneously, the message will become crystal clear.
How did you get your band name?
We went on a month long drug-fueled spirit quest in Peru. Our minds stretched across the infinite sea of space-time, and we came back with absolutely nothing. So we just looked at the first billboard we saw and the rest is history.
How did you and Jared meet?
We met at a prison rodeo. I was scouting for talented riders and saw this young butt get up there and ride it to the bell.
Did he win the rodeo?
He did. He got the biggest belt buckle they had there. It was awesome.
Cat Jones is staying silly on Twitter.