Brendan Bayliss: In It to Win It with 30db
People come and go and I am completely seduced by the incredibly casual communal atmosphere he creates around him.
- With Nails: The Film Diaries of Richard E. Grant, R.E.G.
A tale of two different time zones unfolded, almost, literally, as Brendan Bayliss sat in front of the tour bus, and his new collaborator and 30db bandmate Jeff Austin sat in the rear, on the way to their gig in Wisconsin as Jambands.com held court with the Umphrey’s McGee prog/jam king based in Chicago, and Yonder Mountain String Band’s Colorado resident for a look at a collaboration nearly a half decade in the making. Their debut album is the phenomenally confident and spirited One Man Show, which is a testament to formidable musicianship and songwriting for two gentlemen who bonded on the road, but also connected due to divorces, which impacted their psyches, songcraft, and creative process. The band isn’t just a duo, either, as the pair shares duties with North Mississippi Allstars drummer Cody Dickinson, eTown founder and radio host, and ace guitarist Nick Forster, and Boulder bluegrass legend and bassist Eric Thorin. But, in the end, this quintet is centered on two leaders from divergent musical backgrounds. Thus far, 30db has succeeded in shaking both out of their elements, their comfort zones, while appearing to show two men who needed fresh starts a new way of making music.
PART I – THINGS I WISH I COULD HAVE SAID WITH BRENDAN BAYLISS
They went out the driveway, and to this day I don’t know what happened.
- Taj Mahal: Autobiography of a Bluesman, Taj Mahal with Stephen Foehr
RR: We spoke about the possibility of future collaboration with Jeff Austin in January 2009 for an Umphrey’s McGee feature. What happened in the last fifteen months, which produced a band name, 30db, a debut album, and tour dates?
BB: It kind of naturally developed when we started piling up these songs. We were talking about putting an album together. But with our schedules and everything, it was so random when we could get together, that it’s taken a really long time. We got together to record four or five things in Chicago, and then a year past. When we started talking about finishing that, Jeff was talking about songs that he wanted to have drums on, and put a full band on. With that being the case, we had to re-record the first four songs. I flew out to Colorado, and met Nick [Forster, electric guitar] and Eric [Thorin, bassist], and Cody [Dickinson, drums] flew out the next day. The first track we did with everybody was like night and day in difference, so we decided to scrap the first session, and start completely over with the full band. After hearing one song with everybody, it just seemed like it was meant to be that way.
RR: What were the original four songs that you worked on?
BB: “Susanah” was one of them, a song called “Always Up,” a song called “Liar,” and a song called “Grave.” Those were the first four.
RR: Did you write “Susanah” and “Liar?”
RR: Let’s talk about those two songs.
BB: When Jeff and I started talking about writing songs together, “Susanah” was the first song I wrote with this project in mind. He and I were both obviously going through the same thing at the same time. When we talked about writing, I wanted to have at least one song (when we got together to start banging stuff out), I wanted to have something to show him. So there’s something in the lyrics that says we won’t talk about our names here—disregarding his musical background and my background, and starting from scratch and seeing what happens. I kind of had him in mind with that song. “Liar”—once he told me he liked “Susanah,” I knew which direction we were going in, so that was the second song I came up with for this album.
RR: What strikes me is how well your two styles blend together on the album, and how you both, coming from two different backgrounds, emphasized strong songwriting skills. However, just because you two hit it off, and had similar interests, doesn’t mean that you were going to be able to write together. But you did.
BB: Exactly. The first time I flew out to Colorado we tried to write, we didn’t get things done. I got really drunk and threw up in his bathroom, and didn’t get a song finished. We could have tried three or four times and not come up with anything, but somehow, we just kind of met in the middle.