With the establishment of their own record label last year, Gold Medal Records, and the release of their new 7”, Big Business seem to be rocking just as hard as they did in the beginning. The band that started out as a duo before joining the infamous Melvins in 2006 have been creating music for a very long time now. Recently, I was able to share a few words with drummer Coady Willis about the band’s current tour, their experiences with natural disasters, and more. The conversation is as follows:
Big Business began as a two-piece. Why did you and bassist Jared Warren choose to start out with so few members?
Both of our old bands had come to an end. We were both living in Seattle at the time. We were both working at local bars and stuff. Jared had just had the loss of his drummer in the band Karp. Also, a band he was in called The Whip, with Joe Preston and Scott Jernigan, came to an end because Scott got into a boat accident and passed away. My previous band, Murder City Devils, had come to an end a year prior. We were really just kind of sticking around Seattle working at bars, and I really wanted to play music again.
I didn’t really know Jared too well aside from our bands playing together here and there. I’d see him at parties once in a while and eventually grew the courage to ask him if he wanted to make some noise. That’s basically how it started. We just kinda got together to have some fun. We wanted to try something new, and didn’t really have a specific goal in mind to what we were doing. We didn’t plan on purposely being a two-piece, it just ended up that way, and we got a practice space and started writing our first batch of songs.
Was it rough playing as a duo in the beginning?
We definitely had to figure out ways to fill in the space. I had to step up the drumming a little bit. The way Jared plays, he has a wall of sound going on around him with all kinds of different amps and cabinets, so it was pretty full on that end, between him and his vocals. I had to spice up the drums to make up for the lack of everything else. For me, it was a really refreshing change of pace. I came from a band that had six people in it, where everything had to be decided as a committee. With two people, everything just happened so much faster, even with the songwriting. It was really stripped down and a refreshing way to do things instead of everybody having to chime in and put their thumbprint on every decision we made. It was a little harder going on tour with equipment and merch, but it was kinda made up for in being able to do what we wanted, because there was a lot of pressure off. It was fun.
What were some of the crowd reactions like?
We started out just playing in Seattle. I felt like it was very positive. I feel like most of our friends came to the first show. It was a high pressure situation for me because of both of our previous bands. I have a very high regard for the bands Jared has been in and I definitely didn’t want to put a black mark on his records. It was really fun to play in front of our friends, and there was a very positive response. I think that people were happy to see Jared in a band again.
Our first huge U.S. tour was with our friends The Blood Brothers. They took us on tour and were doing very well at the time, so they took us places and that was our first time playing 1,000-seater places. We figured that even if we were getting paid hardly anything at all, we were two guys in a band playing huge shows, so we could sell out all of our merchandise. In the first week we found out that we were horribly, horribly wrong about that. Those crowds didn’t know what to do with us at all. It was a seven-week tour and we knew within the first week that we had made a pretty huge mistake counting on any money coming in, or counting on making new fans, because those kids had absolutely no interest in what we were doing at all. In the end, those guys were really nice. They coattailed us pretty hard, so we had a good time.
The current tour you guys are on is The Wild Kingdom Tour. It’s always interesting to see tours that carry names to them. Was there any sort of process that made you guys choose that name?
Well not anymore! We had to change the name of the tour. We received a call from Mutual Omaha and they told us that we were not welcome to use the name Wild Kingdom because it was a show on their television program. Since then, we have changed the name of the tour to be called The Battlefield Tour. I think that subconsciously the name Wild Kingdom may have come from the tv show, but it was never done on purpose. I don’t think that the fact that those two words together could be trademarked had ever occurred to us. We were kind of just flying by the seat of our pants.
The tour was kind of centered around the 7” that we had just made. Scott [Martin, bassist], who also does our graphic design stuff, had made an image of us floating down a river being chased by these weird metalheads. We’re surfing down the L.A. River on corpses with Scott holding a guitar in his hands as a paddle. There were animals all around us, so we felt that it just kind of fit perfectly at the time. Our band is mainly a series of inside jokes. Jokes about a lot of things that are out of control and things that you shouldn’t understand, basically. It’s pretty organic how we decide to do stuff. We spend a lot of time in the band together.
How has the tour been?
It’s been awesome so far. We just played San Francisco on our own, like without The Melvins. I was a little bit nervous to see how it went. It was on a Tuesday night and we just went down to the West Coast and did it. It was with this band called Federation X, and they haven’t been a band for a long time. It wasn’t sold out, but it was damn near sold out. I was really grateful, and it felt really good. We also had a great show in Seattle, and Portland was last night. The first week has just been really great. I hope that it continues like this.
Was there any worry about playing in California around the same time that the earthquakes were happening not too far from you?
There were a couple before we left but if you live in L.A., then you know—they happen. It’s something you kinda just live with. There was actually an earthquake last night [when] we were in Portland. The power blinked out for a minute, but I didn’t feel anything. Apparently it was like 60 miles away. We’ve actually been in some pretty major earthquakes before when we went on tour with The Melvins.
We did the Soundwave Festival in Australia and New Zealand. There was a major quake in New Zealand while we were at the airport and we were unable to fly. We missed the quake by half an hour and the whole town was leveled. We had one more show left to play before Australia, so being that there were no planes flying out, we had to drive all the way to the other end of the island and take a ferry to another island. Then again, when we were at our third or fourth show in Japan, the tsunami and earthquake hit, and that was like a nine-point earthquake. It lasted for like, four minutes, and was really, really scary. All we were able to do was duck under a doorway and hope for the best. After that, anytime I hear of a three-point quake, it’s not something I really worry about.
After releasing Quadruple Single last year, and then your 7”, Battlefield, what are the next plans for Big Business?
Last year we created our own label called Gold Medal Records, and Quadruple Single was our first release on that label. The plan is that after this tour, we get back home and record some of the songs that we’ve been playing on this tour, that have never been recorded. Sometime early next year, like January or February, we’ll record a new record. That should be out in the summer or fall of next year. That’s the game plan as of right now.
Big Business will be at Maxwell’s on Sept. 25, Webster Hall on Sept. 29, Death By Audio on Sept. 30 and Johnny Brenda’s on Oct. 1. For more information, go to bigbigbusiness.com.