Drive Down the Pacific Coast in Your Mind, to the Music of BadLands
I’d forgotten how much I loved Blues-y Rock until I listened to Charleston, WV’s BadLands. From the very first set of notes that popped through the song and into my ears, I knew I wanted to hear more.
“Imagine driving down a Pacific Coast highway, and maybe you’re smoking a joint”. That’s what BadLands wants their music to feel like: Laid-back, with undertones of surf pop picking, and grit/heaviness that put me in the mind of some of my favorite Back Keys’ songs.
Unlike the two-piece Black Keys, BadLands has an extra member to form a three-piece band of friends, who’ve been playing together for almost 15 years. In the past, Justin (vocals and bass), Nathan (guitar and vocal) and Matt (drums) have played a gamut of rock genres-from punk rock Jiants, metal core Hands Bleed Hope, hardcore Never Lose Heart and the most recent (and most similar to BadLands’ current style) Blue Ring. The style of Blue Ring felt like the right music for the trio, but with a fourth member for only Blue Ring, something wasn’t quite working. The fourth member, now gone, left them reforming into the now BadLands.
Why so many reboots? Nathan shared it’s because as they’ve gotten older, their influences and interests have just shifted. Rather than feel stuck in music they no longer felt as connected to, they continued to grow and are really happy where they have grown to. Their fan base also seems to approve-along the way, their loyal fans have stuck by their side and continue to support them. To me, this shows a certain strength of character-and when when you honestly convey what you love, people notice.
They also all have the same level of commitment to making their band succeed, which is exciting as a band. They’re all motivated to create a fun 2-part album over the next year (Pink Flamingo, Parts 1&2), releasing the first part with a handful of songs, the second part, several months later.
A sidenote…Pink Flamingo? Yeah, it does make me think of a 50s-style hangout…but the name also was inspired by a room in Nathan’s house. The room where the fellas practice-a spare bedroom covered with flamingo wallpaper, made its way into the collaboration. From the first day Nathan moved in, he said, “The whole house has a good vibe-always loves a crowd, a good party, it’s got a character all on it’s own, so the house was a part of the collaboration” from the get-go.
When I asked where the album was recorded, it seemed only fitting they did some in the pink flamingo room. A live instrument set (all three members, playing at once) with three microphones, and layered vocals is how the album is being done. Justin, Nathan and Matt had wanted to do a live recording for some time, because “When you play together, you’re more cohesive”, Matt shared. You can play off one another, picking up on cues and really blending the sound, as you would in a live performance.
Justin’s brother Jacob actually has been doing the recording and layering for the album, and has played an integral part in a lot of the “behind-the-scenes stuff” for the band. The fellas at BadLands say Jacob can play pretty much any instrument, and has his own electronic music (Idle Earth), which is also pretty freakin’ fantastic.
How do they feel about the talent in WV and Ohio, and what it means to be a local band? Consistently, they all agreed there are some great bands in the area, and knowing this encourages them to bring their A-game when they play. They were quick to mention some of their favorite acts-Qiet, The Horse Traders, and Horseburner, and that the color and flavor of music has always been in the underground and local scenes.
While BadLands might be a relatively new name in the local scene these guys know what they hope their music will be for you:
Justin noted that all three of them love music-playing and experiencing it. If someone else can get lost in what they’re doing, that’s the most satisfying thing for him. “If you got lost while we were up there (performing), we got it right.”
Nathan hopes people will love their music as much as they love to play for their audience. “Even a percentage of how much we love to play for them”, would make his day. He wants everyone to have a good experience, overall-from the lights to the feeling to the notes-like a spiritual connection.
And Matt (half jokingly) added that he hopes you’ll have an emotion from it, period…”even if it’s negative, just feel something”.
You can check them out for yourself, tomorrow night. The Blue Parrot in Charleston is hosting BadLands in their hometown, along with Colorado’s Tigerwine and (also) Charleston, WV’s Emo/Post-Rock Yearling.
And be on the lookout for Pink Flamingo, Part 2, soon. In the meantime, you can tide yourself over with a few videos on BadLands’ Facebook page.