Oxford, Mississippi-based musicians John Barrett (guitar, vocals) and Colin Sneed (drums) make up Bass Drum of Death, a lo-fi garage rock duo. With a USB microphone and computer, John Barrett wrote, played and recorded all of Bass Drum of Death's earliest material in 2007. The group's sound features heavy overdriven drums, fuzzy grunge guitars, copious reverb, doo wop background vocals and garage hooks. Bass Drum Of Death released their debut 7'' record Stain Stick Skin in 2008 on Fat Possum Records. Their first full length GB City, also on Fat Possum Records, was released in 2011 and is noted as being an encapsulation of the current new-garage scene. The group is currently touring heavily in support of GB City.
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Bass Drum Of Death isn't the type of band that will slip away into the background without putting up a fight. Their name alone demands almost as much attention as their blown-out garage rock songs. Based out of Oxford, Mississippi, the duo includes John Barrett (vocals, guitar, and bass) and Colin Sneed (drums). Their debut album GB City was released earlier this year, recorded solely by Barrett with just a USB microphone, guitar, drum set, and a computer. We spoke with Barrett after their show at Popscene in San Francisco, to find out his earliest music memories, perks of the lo-fi recording process, and which era of Elvis he would take advice from.
Band of the Day:
Band of the Day: What is your earliest music memory?
John Barrett: Probably sitting in the backseat of my mom's Ford Taurus while playing air drums to Huey Lewis & the News.
Band of the Day: By recording in a basement on USB mics, did you feel like you were held back at all in the type of album you set out to create?
John: Maybe a little bit, but I didn't really think about that. I just tried to get it to sound as good as I could. I think for the type of songs that I made, and the type of vibe I was going for, I think that this was the best way to do it. I actually went into the studio and did a few of the songs on this record, but it just kinda lost some of the grit that I had. I listened back to the songs and thought, “Nah, this isn't gonna work.”
Band of the Day: What's the music process like now that you've evolved from a one-man band to a duo?
John: We're now actually a three piece when we play live. I like surprising people when we show up, because they think we're a two piece, and now we can play a lot of the parts that are on the record that we've never been able to play live. It brings a different dynamic to the live show that might've been missing. I dunno, I'm just kind of excited to have multiple people involved and I'd at least like to have some sort of collaborative effort done before I bust my ass to write another record, all the parts and lyrics and everything by myself!
Band of the Day: You have the line, “I talk to Elvis in my sleep” in the song “Velvet Itch.” So which era of Elvis would you take advice from?
John: Probably like fat druggie Elvis. Well, not when he was really fat. But you know when he was, like, gearing up for all those comeback shows in Las Vegas. It was insane—when he was rehearsing he was literally conducting like a 70 person band! He knew where everything was, and would stop the horn player and tell him to do this, tell one backup singer to do that, tell a joke and they'd all laugh, but then he'd kick them right back into it! It was pretty incredible. I mean, he was coked out of his mind the whole time, but he was still so on top of it and knew his sh*t so well, so that's why I think I'd probably take advice from him.
Band of the Day: Do you guys still have day jobs?
John: Colin works in a restaurant in Oxford, and I actually do some catering and furniture moving. But it's kind of nice being in a band now because we're not having to get splattered by grease and pick up dressers and stuff!
Band of the Day: Is your family supportive of the whole being in a band thing?
John: My parents love it! They're always super supportive, and coming to shows. I talk to them every few days and let them know what's going on, and they think it's great...for now (laughs)! I dunno if in a few years they'll be like, “Alright, time to get on with it!” But yeah, they've always been great about it. My friends, too. A lot of my friends in Oxford are doing the same kinda thing and so it's cool being part of a group of friends who are all kinda doing different stuff, musically, but working on it at the same time.
Band of the Day: And finally, the world is ending—which is the last Bass Drum Of Death song you'd want to play, and where would you perform it?
John: I think it'd be cool to have all of our sh*t like strapped to a big piece of metal or whatever, and then we're shoved out of a plane, and then we're playing a full set while we're free falling! Then we'd have to time it so that we hit the ground right when the world ends. So basically skydive without parachutes, and play our full set!