Big Business at The Sunset
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Big Business is a band. They play heavy rock. On that, we can all agree. Things get tricky when you try to classify exactly where on the musical spectrum the dynamic duo’s racket falls. “I guess psychedelic heavy metal punk rock? I don’t know. People always say ‘sludge rock,’ which I always found to be lazy and kind of inaccurate," says drummer Coady Willis. "A lot of our songs are fast, and it’s not like we’re playing a half-assed Black Sabbath riff over and over again. That’s been the struggle of the band. We’re a band that doesn’t really fit into what everyone else is doing."
Willis comes from punk rockers The Murder City Devils. His co-conspirator, bassist/vocalist Jared Warren, spent time in noise rock weirdos Karp. Together, they formed Big Business in 2004. The LA-based outfit’s first three albums didn’t quite mesh with Hydra Head’s post-metal aesthetic, but their idiosyncrasies caught the attention of another iconoclastic outfit: The Melvins. They recorded three albums, an EP, and various songs between 2006 and 2016 with that iconic grunge/doom/experimental act, all while maintaining their own identity as Big Business. Along the way, they picked up guitarists Toshi Kasai and Scott Martin, but on 2016’s Command Your Weather, they returned to their core duo format. They remain in that lineup on their sixth full-length, The Beast You Are.
“It’s just better. We work faster, and we know what we’re both going for. It gives us more room to be weirder in certain aspects and try different things. It makes sense because that’s how we established ourselves in the beginning and how we learned to write songs together, it was just the two of us. Coming back to that lineup felt natural,” continues Willis. The two performed everything on the album, which was recorded between the early November and early December of 2018 at El Studio in San Francisco by Phil Becker (Pins of Light, Terry Gross). Willis, Warren, and Becker handled the mixing, with Carl Saff lending his mastering expertise to the final product. Once more, Warren has hacked up some construction paper for one of his unique cover art pieces.
With a new, dynamic demoing process leading to the creation of the most songs they’ve ever written for an album, The Beast You Are delivers 13 doses of uncategorizably heavy rock music. From the ominous death march of “The Moor You Know” to the soaring “Let Them Grind” to the delicate, ethereal “Under Everest,” Big Business continues to defy listener’s expectations. No matter the context of their music, however, one thing remains true: they are definitely still a band.
co compilations — and the music of her teens: Mirah, Elliott Smith, basically anything “emotional, folky and dismal,” she says. (If you’re curious, that combination lands Ward somewhere between Janis Joplin and Courtney Barnett.)
When graduation rolled around and it came time to pick a career, Ward took on hairstyling. By 22 she had a fully booked calendar with cancellation backups at the salon where she worked and was running her own wedding updo business. She was ambitious, successful, and doing work she loved, yet something was missing. “I saw the music then, but I was behind a chair six days a week,” says Ward about coming to terms with pursuing another career. “To be honest, I wanted a band,” she continues, “every time I found someone to play with, they had a day job — they didn’t have the dream. And you really gotta fuckin’ have it to live in a world that’s musical.”
So in 2015, Ward packed up her life and road tripped to her new home of Los Angeles. After a challenging, perfectionistic pursuit, Ward came together with a band: Liv Slingerland (bass), India Pascucci (drums) and guitarist and fellow songwriter Eduardo Rivera. “They all call me ‘Mom,’” she says with a laugh. “It’s like getting three new best friends that you’re giving the most personal part of yourself.” They’ve even got matching jackets.
Together, they created Ward’s debut album, Well, Hell, a nine track sampler of what she calls the band’s “four modes.” There’s the “heaven of the album,” “Did I Offend You?,” a sweet, airy, swiftly cadenced track which crescendos into a powerful chant: “You’re only breaking down/ you’re only breaking down/ you’re only breaking down.” Then there’s the “hell,” “Blue Collar Sex Kitten,” a full-throttle rock song that dives head first into distorted chords, sexuality — “I’m a dyke/ dated guys/ ain’t a crime/ won’t apologize for my tribe,” sings Ward — and a psychedelic breakdown that sounds like lucid dreaming. There’s the band’s acoustic mode, made up by breathy tracks like “Travel Man,” and finally Ward’s poppier side, heard on “Sideways” — a funky, retro take on soul-searching and feeling lost — and “Sheet Stains,” a bluesy ode to her fianceé, indie pop mega-star LP, who sings backup vocals on the track.
The band’s chameleonic moods are punctuated by Ward’s playfulness with her bandmates on stage, dancing with audience and her signature white dotted eyes. Ward’s music has even gained her a dedicated international fanbase — in fact, three fans flew from France to be at the Well, Hell record release show in Los Angeles.
In some ways, Well, Hell is Ward’s second chance at a career doing what she loves most: creating. “I could totally have done a version of this in Baltimore, but not the way I’ve done it here,” Ward says of making music in Los Angeles. In others, Ward hasn’t changed a bit — you can still catch her doing hair, though now it’s under a batch of clementine trees at her house. “I had four clients at my house today,” she says with a laugh as she preps for a show. “I just picked the hair out from underneath my nails.” Either way, one thing’s for sure: there’s no telling what’s in store for Ward and company. “This is definitely a different life for me,” she says. “This is Lauren 2.0.”
The Sunset Tavern
5433 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA, 98107