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The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band Heads Between the Ditches

JPG: Seeing Big Damn Band play live it’s like a gale force wind, in-your-face type of thing musically. And then there’s you and Breezy mugging it up to the crowd. It has entertainment value, too, but have there been times where you’re not taken as seriously as you’d like or is it just a matter that if someone doesn’t get it then that’s their problem?

RP: I don’t know, man. I think, especially with this new record, it helps define better who we are. It’s very diverse in sound, especially in terms of the songwriting. A lot of people if they can’t get past the first song they don’t really pay attention to what has happened over the course of the entire show. I think they just see it as one thing.

Some of our other records, some of the big songs off of them…like The Whole Fam Damnily [album], the big one off of that was “Your Cousin’s On Cops.” Everybody wanted to hear that song and the song got played in a bunch of places but there’s a whole record on there. The majority of it was actually dark. Lyrically, it was heavy. For certain people they’re only going to hear that hit song. They’re not going to pay attention to whatever else is going on.

It’s the same for shows. We’ll have an hour of songs where two-thirds of ‘em are really heavy lyrics and dark and about social things that are going on in the world that are terrible. Definitely, the hit songs are fun, too. I just think that some people, they listen to music differently than other people. They hear “Clap Your Hands” and “Two Bottle of Wine” and that’s it. They didn’t hear the rest of the songs that are not that way, that are dark, like “Devils Look Like Angels” and “Something for Nothing” on the new record and from the old records, like “Everything’s Raising” off “The Wages” and “Can’t Pay the Bill” off “Whole Fam Damnily.”

I was talking about this yesterday with some people…some people, they don’t hear music the same as other people. They don’t digest it the same way. Everybody does it in a different way. All you can do is be true to your own self.

Part of it, too, is I believe in puttin’ on a show. In terms of that it’s not about being something you’re not or smoke machines. It’s about playing and giving 150 per cent every night, and being present, not pretending like the crowd isn’t there. That always bothers me when you go to a show and the people onstage are trying to pretend like there’s no crowd there. Sometimes, it’s the same as the crowd. It all begins with the band onstage.

For us live music is about community and sharing that experience. If you don’t acknowledge it then you left out maybe the most important part of the equation in terms of seeing a live band. Otherwise, we can just sit at home and listen to the record.

JPG: Bringing things together – playing live and the new record – some of the songs on “Between the Ditches” sound familiar. Were you playing any of the material in concert prior to recording and releasing it?

RP: Over the last six months we’ve been playing lots of new songs that we recorded in January. “Easy Come Easy Go,” that’s a song we’ve been playing for awhile and never made it on a record. I wrote that song right after we got done recording “The Wages.” I liked it so much I started playing it live. People request that song a lot. So, I knew it was gonna end up on a record one day and I’m glad that it made it on this one. It’s a pretty good song and it seems to fit in well with the rest of the songs on this record.

JPG: What was it about the rest of the songs on this record that you remembered “Easy Come Easy Go” and decided that it would fit here?

RP: I write a lot of songs I keep them organized in a notebook. It comes down to, what I feel personally, is the best stuff at that given time. And I felt like that song held up even after playing it for a year-and-a-half or two.

JPG: In the press release you talk about how your approach this time was to make a “record” not a “recording.” Why the different approach?

RP: Well, in the past, man, most of our records were like field recordings. It’s amazing to be doing this at this level and have records that are like field recordings. It’s crazy. I wanted this one to be a record. So, I took charge first thing and I wanted to make sure I got my way and be how I wanted it to be.

In terms of the sound this record is more ‘up’ than any record we’ve ever done, sonically. We played this at a record store the other day and one of the fellows from behind the counter said, “Man, we’ve had live in-stores with all kinds of bands but we never had a band that sounded this much like the record live.” It’s always never as good as the record or… I wanted to make a record that felt like it was live. We’re just the next level of country blues but you see us live it’s kinda like a rock ‘n’ roll show, and I wanted to get that on a record. It felt good.

There’s something else, too. We’ve always been known for live appearances. “Go get the record.” “Oh, we’ll just catch ‘em live.” I wanted a record that made you say, “Hey, I gotta see them live.” I’m real proud of it.

JPG: The two sides within the band – country blues and rock ‘n’ roll – was that coming together when you were growing up? Practicing fingerpickin’ guitar at home during the day and then going to see rock shows at night?

RP: I never set out to do anything other than make my own music. When I hear Charley Patton, he’s a good example ‘cause I love him so much, if you could imagine Charley Patton playing the drums and I don’t think you’d be that far off from what we do. It’s the same with Furry Lewis or [Mississippi] John Hurt, Fred McDowell. We’re not really like Skip James or even Robert Johnson. We’re more like Charley or Furry or John Hurt. If you take them guys and put ‘em with drums, I don’t think they’d be that far off from what we do. It’s one thing people forget. These guys were making dancing music. That was the whole idea. Fast forward through to the last 80 years of music from Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones, that was kinda the idea.

I never wanted to make music that pretended like the last 80 years didn’t happen. Go back and regurgitate old melodies and the same old songs. I wanted to make music that hadn’t really been done before.

It’s a disservice to people if all you’re doing is the same ol’ stuff. Our music is fresh. If you put it on your ipod and it can sit next to whatever else you’re listening to but it also doesn’t disrespect anything that’s come before it. Hopefully, it sounds timeless as opposed to contrived. I never want to use some of the studio things that are happening right now that are gonna date things that are coming out right now. That’s something that I never want to have happen. Like, if you listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival next to us, it holds up-to-date. It sounds as awesome now as it did then.

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