To my ear, the new album sounds like a natural progression from Burnt Offering, with maybe more of a touch of what you guys were doing earlier on. It’s interesting that you had I through III, then changed the pattern with Burnt Offering, which had some more prevalent rock and even metal influences. Did the return to the number-title format follow a conscious return to your earlier sound, while still keeping those new influences?
Andrew: I don’t know—it was like an unconscious decision that everybody just kind of agreed upon, you know? It wasn’t like, “We’ll do I, II, III, then we’ll do some cool record that has a cool-guy name, and then we’re gonna go to V.” It just kind of makes sense. I guess we better digested a lot of the influences that were pulling us in different directions, like more reintegrated sort of Budos sound. I feel like we can only go so far away from what we were doing in I, II and III, and then [beyond that] it’s not the band anymore, right? Jared, was it a conscious decision to say this is V?
Jared: I think we kind of staked new territory with Burnt Offering, and we made a conscious effort to make a different record on some level, but still a Budos record, and I think we accomplished that. Then it was like, “Cool, we did that, and now we’re gonna take that and we’re gonna bring it back.” It’s all an evolution process. We staked our ground on that, and now we’re going dial it back a little bit and bring back certain elements of earlier records. So when it came time to name it, we went back to the number convention. We didn’t really think about it—it was just like, “Yeah, we’re back to the V.” We did “Budos IV” and we called it something else because we were staking this new ground and trying out some different things. Budos V is certainly different from II and III, but it’s a little bit more in that cannon of Budos composition.
Andrew: I don’t know who said it, maybe it was [Henry] Rollins, and he was like lecturing or something—who knows what that guy does—anyway, he was saying, “Bands progress, which means they suck.” Like, do I really want to hear this band go in a different direction when I’ve come to know and love them doing their sort of thing? Like, Budos is gonna put out a rock opera or something like that…no. I don’t really want to hear that. Just like I don’t really want to hear a funk band do a cover of a Black Sabbath record or something like that. I mean I guess some people do; not to knock the people that do want to hear it. But I don’t really want the bands I like to evolve. I mean to a certain extent, yeah, they’re not going to play the same freakin’ riffs, but do I really want a band to put out a Celtic folk record that previously was doing trashy rock or something like that? I guess we’re just playing what we like to play, honestly, and that has a lot to do with it, too. It’s kind of hard not to play what you like to play.
When you guys are in the studio, is there ever any discussion about that kind of thing—about influences or in what direction you want to take a record? Or is it more that someone brings in an idea and you start playing off of that and the record becomes what it becomes?
Mike: I would say it’s kind of a little of both. I think we might have a slight sense of a direction we want to go in, or just something that’s going to set this next record apart from the ones before it. But, when it gets down to the more detailed aspects, like the actual songs, it is more of like somebody comes with something, a riff or an idea, that we start with and then see where it goes. If it’s good, we keep it, and if it’s not—forget it.
Andrew: Right. We’re not shy about telling each other when things are starting to suck, you know? Nobody’s got such an ego—and god bless this band. If the consensus is, “This is not a good sound,” we’re not like, “Oh let’s try to save it from the pyre.” No, that idea gets trashed, and we just move on. I’m thinking a lot of bands are gonna be like, “I’ve invested my soul in this idea and I don’t appreciate people casting it off so quickly.” But there’s definitely been moments, when we were recording V, where we literally had entire songs written and it’s just like, “This song is just not good and we’re not gonna work on it any further.” And then there were songs that actually ended up on the record that, at some point, somebody might’ve said weren’t going to cut it. But then, you know, on second thought, actually this song’s pretty good—let’s leave it on the record. But we all kind of have the same sensibilities when it comes to what the sound of a song should be. Like, on the earlier records it could be that the horns take such a front role that they kind of overshadow some of the other things going on in the rhythm section. So one of the main things I think that’s changed through the records is that the band has become much more democratized, where things are more complementary—without this guitar part, this bass part falls, or without this drum part this keyboard part falls. They all build each other up into a song.
Like Frampton. A Peter Frampton song is a showcase for Peter Frampton, who plays the fucking guitar. It’s not like I’m listening to a Frampton song and I’m like, “Oh wow listen to that drum part there!” No, there’s a fucking 15-minute Frampton solo at the end. So, to not have that happen is one of the goals. We’re not going to say “Oh the saxophone solo saved the song.” The whole song kind of supports itself. And in some ways, they kind of write themselves in that regard—everybody falls into place, and we know where everybody fits within the larger framework. I think we’ve said that in previous interviews, but it really is the case.
[Ed. Note: Greene at first started his Frampton note with a disclaimer to not include in the interview, but Tankel, laughing, convinced him otherwise. Greene then offered further explanation:]
And what I mean [about Frampton]: The guy’s a great musician and the music’s great and he sold fucking billions of records but, again, honestly that’s a vehicle for that person to play. It’s not like I’m saying, “Man, the vocals are so good—let’s get the vocal sound from that Frampton song.” That’s not the point of the tune. Hopefully I didn’t beat that to death…
I’m curious how the harder-rock elements of Burnt Offering came into the band’s music, if it was something you guys were listening to together.
Jared: We’d always been listening to that music, especially during the touring after Budos III. We were like, “We’re not listening to fucking funk and Afrobeat music in the van anymore—that’s out. We’re listening to rock music.” We had all listened to that music for all of our lives, in our own ways. And then it was finally like, “You know what? Let’s’ make a record that puts those influences out there more deliberately. We were all on the same page with that, I think. By the end of III, we were like, “OK, cool, what’s next?” And Burnt Offering offered us the opportunity to change things up. I think we needed to do something [like that] so that we didn’t get bored with ourselves.
Andrew: Exactly. When we were on long tours, longer road trips, it just became the soundtrack in the van. I mean, I listen to that stuff anyway all the time, but then you just want to play like that, you know?
Also, before that, there were all these blogs popping up with a focus on obscure bands that kind of never made it, and people were really digging the psych-rock and heavy, hard-rock bands that came and went. And in that blogosphere, I became obsessed myself with trying to find the rarest, trashiest—I’m going to lovingly call it garbage. Listening to these bands that could barely record themselves. They were barely able to stand up when they recorded these records. That sound—I always found it amazing. There was a point in my life when I was listening to very technical things for a long period of time. I was a music major in school, Then I moved so far away from that, where I just want to hear a band that can barely stay alive. Then I just started making mixes for the van, passing up iPods to whoever was sitting in the front—“Put this on”—and then for hours we’re listening to trashy, obscure psych-rock. And there’s just something exciting about that—these bands are playing with such conviction. They’re playing the best they can play and they’re playing it with the most impetus they can come up with—that part of it I really felt connected to. It’s-not-what-you-play-it’s-how-you-play-it mentality. Anybody could get up there and play like every freaking note and rhythm they know in the first 10 minutes of a show, but to get up there and play two notes and make it sound amazing—that’s something. The kind of gear that everybody was always interested in also lends itself well to that. We’re not using trigger pads or massive squawk boxes or digital manipulation of things, so we can get that sound pretty much right off the bat, because that’s how we’re playing anyway.
Then again, what models are you looking for, anyway? When were there horns in a band with guitars and organs and stuff—where are we looking to in the first place? Our contemporaries, it’s not. Nowadays, it’s very technically oriented and things are produced and it’s more about a show set or a dance routine or something like that—at least for the pop scene. The other part of it is that a few of us are just die-hard metal heads.
The Daptone Records family is known for being a close-knit group. I know that some of the Budos members toured with the late Charles Bradley, and I wanted to ask what it was like to be a part of his final tour, when he returned from cancer treatment but ultimately passed away from it in 2017.
Mike: Aw, man. Charles’ last outings were pretty heavy. I personally was very conflicted, because he wanted to do it—he wanted to go out and play these shows and I wasn’t going to be able to stop him—but at the same time, I wanted to make sure that he was home getting healthy, you know? I didn’t necessarily want him to go out. But he wanted to and I just decided, “Well OK, if you’re going to do this I’ll go with you. I’m not gonna miss this.” But it was pretty heavy, and I would say all of it definitely brought the family a lot closer together. I think it really gave everybody a sense of what we had, or have, going, and I think everybody got that. People caught on that this is a moment—not only a thing that we started, but a moment, and it could pass at any time. Charles and Sharon weren’t so young, but a lot of us are a lot younger and we don’t even think about mortality so much, I would say. Maybe the Budos guys a little bit more now as we’re getting older. I remember having conversations with a lot of guys in Daptone and in other bands in Daptone that I hadn’t spoken with in a while. And it’s not like we’re not that close or anything it’s just—you know, you’re working, you’re doing your own thing, and this was a wake-up call, like, “Jesus, let’s all be happy that we’re together and cherish this.”
Was it a surprise when he finally passed or did the guys around him kind of know that that was happening?
Mike: He was in the hospital for like a week or so. We were there all day, every day, every night, sitting with him. And that was another thing—he had the Daptone family, but he also had a whole other family of people that he played with, too, and so we got to connect with that, with this other side of Charles—the Black Velvet side. [Bradley used Black Velvet as a stage name during this Jame Brown impersonator days.] We got to meet all these other amazing old musicians and hear stories about what they had with Charles, which was incredible. I definitely feel like I made a lot of new friends throughout that experience.
Even before the hospital, we knew. He knew he was making a decision, you know? It was like, “Do you want to really hunker down and fight this, or do you want to do what you love?” I mean, I don’t want to speak for him because obviously I’m not him, but we all sort of knew. I’d say the last few tours with Charles were super emotional. That band, especially since we had been on the road so much in the years before that, we were all in this “too cool for school” mode, where nobody was really hanging out and everybody had their own agenda. We were just working on the road. Not that it was brutal and we hated each other or anything, we all just had our thing. But the last couple tours were not like that. It was all together, all day. Dinners, post-show—we were all taking in what we could.