Interview: Busey Talk Pedals, ‘Power Slop’ and Prodigious EP

 

After catching Minneapolis band Busey at the Aquarium with Pisstory and Holler House this past weekend I knew they were a band I had to interview. With the release of their debut EP “GNAR” March 4th, the timing was right for a chat.

“We were watching ‘Point Break’  and I think Marcus said something like ‘God that Busey, that crazy son-of-a-b—- ‘ and I was like ‘Oh, Busey. That would be a good band name.’ Both drummer Marcus Jones and Berndt admit they may have watched Point Break too many times. As they are self-proclaimed “action movie buffs” however, I am inclined to believe them. If their humorous Facebook page is any indication they also appear to be fans of Keanu Reeves, listing his band Dogstar as one of the “bands we also like.” Jones also was adamant of his love for the movie “Lethal Weapon Two” starring the actor. To be fair, they did list their record label as “Full Frontal Horse Teeth” and Berndt owns up to the fact that they enjoy joking around with song titles and descriptions. It still makes me wonder though, how close they were to naming the band “Keanu” or Reeves.”

Too heavy for a garage band yet different than your run-of-the-mill metal or alternative, they have a unique mix that is all their own. Busey’s sound draws a lot from a shared love for such great bands such as The Melvins, Black Sabbath, Queens Of The Stone Age and Mudhoney. As lead singer/guitarist Dan Berndt puts it ” A lot of late 80’s early 90’s stuff. The classics.”

As with most every band, Busey experienced a few changes in the lineup in its formative stages. Originally starting out with a different guitarist and bassist, the band formed from the corpse of  Dan Berndt and drummer Ryan Keyes’s first band. The departure of both Busey’s original guitarist and bassist when gigs had already been lined up put the band in dire need of suitable replacements. Keyes switched to bass guitar but they were still in need of a drummer. Luckily, Berndt and Keyes ran into drummer Marcus Jones at a show and Berndt offered him the spot. It should come as no big surprise that a band consisting of a majority of drummers would eventually try out having two drummers. Jesse Berndt filled the vacant bassist position and the EP’s lineup was solidified. Keyes has since moved to Indianapolis to play in another band so he doesn’t play shows with Busey often but fellow drummer Jones enjoys the added energy when they both play, “Those are the best shows, though. Two drummers all the way.”

Laura Ellen Brandjord (LEB): I see you also make your own pedals. How did you get into that?

Dan Berndt (DB): Well, I went to school for live sound and recording engineering in St. Paul and recording gear and live show gear is really expensive. A more immediate feeling of satisfaction is like getting a guitar pedal, but even those are kind of expensive. So I was like “Well what if I just learn to make some so I’m not spending SO much money.” But then I end up spending the same amount of money building stuff that breaks or doesn’t work and figuring it out. Through lots and lots of time and trial and error, I started making something that worked and could pass signal.

LEB: If you had to choose only one pedal which would you choose?

DB: Ah, I don’t know. It’s a hard one. Generally, I’m only turning on and off one which is the one that I made called the “El Gato Destructo” which is a big muff style pedal. I mean if I’m only using one pedal I can turn up the settings on my amp to get overdrive. But most of the time I try to be a little nicer and play a little quieter and use other pedals to help bring my volume down.

LEB: Is ‘power slop’ a term you came up with to describe Busey’s sound? 

Marcus Jones (MJ):   Totally original. “Power Slop”  it’s a lifestyle (laughs). Nah, it’s from “Airheads.” But it f—ing kills anyways.

LEB: Why did you choose a St. Paul warehouse as the location for recording ‘GNAR?’

DB: Well, I actually work there and I had keys so…it was a music equipment rental warehouse and with two drummers logistically loading in drum kits and all this other stuff was just gonna be a pain. So instead I already had some amps there because I’ve used the space before to build pedals. We decided to just borrow some drum kits and other stuff and I recorded it there and then we can get a big ambient room sound that we wouldn’t really get recording anywhere else. I think it’s cool to get an organic- like just a microphone capturing the sound of the room we’re playing in.

MJ: It was a really cool sound.

DB: Instead of using plugins to try to recreate something like that it’s cool that, it’s cool that all of the ambience on the EP is real.

LEB: Is there actually an unfortunate soul who’s teeth actually rotted out? I mean you did have to specify that it was ‘Greg’s Friend Lost His Teeth (The Song)?’

MJ: True story.

DB: Like the song isn’t about that specific person, but I save a lot of my ideas for songs on my phone. While I was practicing with another band I was trying to record these weird radio noises that were coming through my amp. And while I was doing that the guitarist was talking about this guy he knows who’s teeth were actually falling out. Like he had implanted teeth like screwed into his jawbone but his jawbone was rotting away. So his implants were falling out. And that recording plus the one after it actually became the riff of the song. So I linked the first memo to the second by calling it “Greg’s Friend Lost His Teeth (the Song).”

LEB: I like to end with some ‘fun questions.’ It is usually pretty interesting to hear everyone’s answers:

First, If you weren’t a musician, what would be the next best career?

MJ: Probably like a nurse or something. You know helping people.

DB: If it isn’t with music, I don’t know, I guess Paleontology would probably be pretty sweet.   

LEB: Band you are currently obsessing over? One album or song? 

MJ: Queens Of The Stone Age “Rated R” for me. It’s the s—.

DB: I’ve been listening to a lot of Hot Snakes “Suicide Invoice” they have a new album coming out soon and they’re coming to town so I got to brush up.

LEB: One album you would want with you on a desert island?

MJ: Oh, super easy. The Replacements “Sorry Ma I Forgot to Take the Trash Out.” Hands down.

Jesse Berndt (JB): You know that would just be so hard because it would make me hate whatever album it was. I guess I’ll kind of follow up with your last question; I’ve been listening to this band a lot lately, the BSS, so I think if anything it would be that.

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