Words by David C. Obenour
For the past fifteen years, Big Business have made a respectable business out of playing the music that they want to play on the terms that they want to play it. Cycling through additional members but ending up back at the core duo that started the band, Coady Willis and Jared Warren radiate a genuine joy uncommon for a group of their longevity. Sure, there have been bumps along the road, but they also got to be half of the Melvins for a decade, and even before all of that they’d been doing this long enough for perspective and patience to get them through most things.
Their latest album, The Beast You Are is their second partnered release for Joyful Noise and embodies the core classics of the band. Pummeling drums, dense yet anthemic guitars, and vocals that were made to be sung and chanted along too, it’s not quite punk, not quite metal, not quite psychedelic, but entirely Big Business.
Off Shelf: This is your second release since going back to playing as a duo, do you think you’ll continue on this way? Is there anything you miss from playing as part of a bigger band?
Coady Willis: No, we pretty much decided this is the lineup for the foreseeable future. We reserve the right to change our minds at any time, of course. The loading and unloading of equipment is a little more intense with the two piece, but other than that we’re ok.
OS: It’s been three years since Command Your Weather came out, what was the inspiration to get back into the studio?
CW: Believe it or not, after 3 years of playing the same songs over and over again your mind starts to wander. Playing new songs while they’re fresh is fun, and I think The Beast You Are is one of the best if not the best we’ve ever done, so I’m excited for it to be out in the world.
OS: These days do you think you reach more new fans by releasing albums or by touring? Do you see an increase in attendance after a new album comes out or is it more your second time through a market in a year?
CW: It depends. We’ve had a couple albums that were sort of slow burners so the audiences caught up with the records a little later on… we haven’t always had the means to get the word out as far and wide as we’d like in terms of PR. Touring has always been our main way of promoting ourselves. There’s been more press coverage for this album than most of our others, so it’d be just fine with me if The Beast You Are is first contact with some new folks.
OS: You guys have put a lot of emphasis on the physical release of your music with packages featuring additional EPs, different colored vinyl and merch. How involved are you in putting together what goes into these?
CW: We all pitch in on the package ideas, then they get whittled down to what’s doable and what fits with our personality and the theme of the album. I like doing that stuff, and people seem to be into the special content. So as long as it makes people happy and they’re into paying more for something collectible and special, it’s a fun thing to do.
OS: Do you think you’d still be wanting to do it if album sales still were what they used to be?
CW: Are you asking if we would still want to do this if we were selling like 5 million hard copies of the record? Sure!
OS: Does it feel harder to build an audience as a band in the middle ground of so many genres? Having to find your own fanbase as opposed to plugging into a specific genre or scene?
CW: Harder than if genres were more defined and separate? I’m not sure if it would make a difference either way. We’ve never really fit in to what most people consider metal or sludge, whatever that means, or doom or what have you. It’s actually great that we’ve been around as long as we have, it seems like folks have stopped trying so hard to label the music and just accept that we’re us.
OS: This is your second album working in partnership with Joyful Noise, an amazing indie label but arguably one that you’re a little of an outsider on. Can you talk about your relationship?
CW: One of the reasons we wanted to work with Joyful Noise is that they are eclectic and we wouldn’t be lumped into a label aesthetic. So it’s nice to be able to be ourselves and have that flexibility. By and large they let us do whatever we want in terms of how everything is presented.
OS: You’ve shared the stage with a number of incredible bands, to say nothing of being half of the Melvins for a decade, can you think of the last time you felt anxious before a show or festival?
CW: The only time I feel real anxiety is when there’s some crazy time crunch or if the stage crew is having a hard time and things feel rushed and tense. But if everything is running smooth on that end, we’re usually ready to have a good time. I might be nervous if I knew Pee Wee Herman or Nick Cave was watching but I’ll deal with that when it happens.
OS: Humor and not taking yourselves too seriously seems to be a big part of the way you come across as a band, is that something you’re purposeful about trying to convey or more just who you naturally are?
CW: It’s not something we think too much about. A lot of what we do is for our own amusement and maybe we pay a price for that, I don’t know. We are playing a long game here and we try to have as much fun as we can. Soon as we get moved into our Malibu beach houses we’ll be getting a lot more serious, you’ll see!
OS: In the past you talked about when Big Business formed it was out of a need to do something fun. Fifteen years later, what do you find most fun about the band?
CW: I still like playing shows! It’s really fun and special to have long term chemistry built up with someone. You can take musical liberties in a live setting and know that the other guy is right there with you. It’s fun to see the set evolve over the course of a tour. Experiencing music live and having a collective consciousness moment with a group of people is something I haven’t gotten over yet.