Interview: Bass Drum of Death

    Down South the living is unhurried, leisurely. Days of sweltering temperatures melt into a haze of butter-coated comfort food and hospitable drawls. The summer spans centuries.

    John Barrett and Colin Sneed of Mississippi’s Bass Drum of Death embody the lifestyle down South. Both are polite, content. Mulling over words before speaking, the young pair speaks slowly, seemingly unfazed by the attention they’ve been receiving. Collaborations with DZ Deathrays, playing with Odd Future’s Mellow Hype on Fuze TV, as well as tour dates with Bleached and Japandroids has propelled them into garage rock standouts. Meshing fuzzy guitars, steady drums, a formidable punk influence and a “don’t give a shit attitude” to form their sound, the Oxford band’s follow-up to their 2011 album GB City is currently in the works. And we’re psyched.

    We sat down at Vice’s The Old Blue Last in London with guitarist John Barrett and drummer Colin Sneed, chatting about hippie dubstep, breast milk records, and what it would be like to shotgun beers with Iggy Pop.


    You just did a split with DZ Deathrays. Do you have any other splits of collaborations currently in the works?

    Barrett: Well, we have a 7-inch of our own that we just got, so we’ll have those for this tour. All of those songs and the split we did with DZ will probably be on the new record. We’re trying to do something different with it, on colored vinyl or something.


    Anything crazy, like Flaming Lips-style psychedelic colored vinyl?

    Barrett: Nah, nothing that crazy. Although I just saw a picture of that blood thing they recently did — they only made ten of them. Did you hear about that?

    Sneed: No?

    Barrett: Yeah, The Flaming Lips did a record and it has like, the blood of all of these famous people.


    Yeah. It features the blood of Nick Cave, Ke$ha.

    Barrett: Yeah. They only have ten of them, but they’re for sale for about $2500 or something like that. I really want to do a record like that and have breast milk in it. 


    Now that’s something else.

    Barrett: For sure. Breast milk records.


    On GB City, the recording process was very DIY. Any plans to switch the recording process for the new record or will it be recorded the same way?

    Barrett: Same way. I guess the difference is we’ve gotten better — or worse, I can’t tell. We’ll see soon enough.


    You guys grew up in Mississippi — how do you think your environment has shaped your sound?

    Barrett: I mean, in one respect there’s not a whole lot of bands that were doing stuff up my alley, so to speak. Good bands, but not a lot where I think, that’s my shit. It was isolating. The only way to find out about things was through word of mouth or the Internet. I was never really influenced by some scene. Which is cool, I can do my own thing and not worry that I sound too much like some other band or something. 


    I bet there’s bluegrass and folk all around, not so much garage rock or punk.

    Barrett: Yeah. Weirdly a lot of jam-tronica, which is like hippie dubstep sort of shit. It’s strange, it’s pretty much like dubstep but they do their light shows like jam band kids. So it’s a weird scene, a college town scene, down in the south. These bands, they’ll have like 18-wheelers full of lights, and kids will go fucking crazy.


    What have you been listening to lately?

    Barrett: The new Spits record, a lot. We haven’t had a record store in our town for seven years, and we just got one a few months ago. So I’ve been picking loads of shit from there, they have a great selection of older stuff. I got this Andre Williams record, and Dictators. Yeah, things like that.

    Sneed: Tough Darts for me. They do power pop type stuff.

    Barrett: Oh, and the new Gentlemen Jesse record is awesome.


    Any dream collaborations?

    Barrett: Ever since we did that TV appearance with them, I’d love to do a punk band backing someone from Odd Future. That would be awesome. Although those dudes are pretty fucking busy. I’d also like to be in a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band with Matt from Smith Westerns playing guitar.


    How do you translate what’s live versus what’s on the record?

    Barrett: Not improvised at all, if anything it’s a lot faster. The leads on the record come out a little bit more when we play in the US since we have a third member, but in Europe we do what we can with only Colin and me. A couple of the songs on the new record a little jammier, though. Not too jammy, though. Never want to do that.


    What’s a record you wish you would have made?

    Sneed: Big Star.

    Barrett: Blood Visions, or maybe Licensed to Ill.


    Nice. Any chance of hearing a Beastie Boys cover tonight?

    Barrett: Maybe Fight For Your Right (To Party). 

    Sneed: (shakes head)

    Barrett: No? You won’t play it? You can just like…do it on the ride, you know?

    Sneed: I’m not a big Beastie Boys fan.

    Barrett: You don’t like the Beastie Boys?

    Sneed: They’re like, in my top three least favorite bands.


    What are the other two?

    Sneed: Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys. I know it’s kind of bad to say, but…

    Barrett: It’s not bad to say, it’s just…you don’t like the Beastie Boys? 


    To each their own?

    Sneed: (shrugs) I mean…

    Barrett: I’m not going to try and convince you. It’s just weird.


    What’s your drink of choice?

    Barrett: Whiskey with a splash of coke. 

    Sneed: Jameson.


    Would you rather shotgun a beer with Lou Reed or Iggy Pop?

    Barrett: Oh, Iggy Pop for sure. I feel like he’d actually be cool to hang out. Lou Reed, he’d be too cool.