I recently had a chance to sit down with the Badflower (Josh Katz, Joey Morrow, Alex Espiritu, and Anthony Sonetti) when they were in the Twin Cities for a show at The Garage. Their single “Ghost” recently hit #1 on the Active Rock Radio Chart and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. We discussed everything from anxiety, touring, swear words, dealing with success, and their upcoming album, OK, I’M SICK, which is due out February 22nd. The band is currently touring with The Wrecks and will be back in the Twin Cities on March 2nd at the Skyway Theatre as support for Nothing More’s “The Truth” Tour.
You guys were just here in the Twin Cities eight days ago, opening for A Perfect Circle at the Armory, a larger venue in Minneapolis. What was that like?
Josh: It was surreal. But honestly we prefer shows like this. The smaller shows where we are closer to the audience.
What is the largest audience you have ever performed for?
Josh: I would have to say that festival where we had water behind us. Rock Allegiance Festival in Camden, New Jersey. I couldn’t give you a number but many, many thousands of people.
Do you feel different when you are playing in front of that many people?
Josh: You feel nauseous! I do, anyway.
Anthony: You can’t really see them, so it’s not as personal. Faces kind of blur.
Josh: There’s a lot of adrenaline going. Especially when it’s daytime. Because it’s not that blurry when its daytime. You do a big nighttime show, with the lights, you only see the first couple rows. But that festival, during the day, there was a hill and the people kept going up and up, further back. And you could see all of it. It made me sick! Like the depth of how many people made me sick. I tried not to look.
Josh, you said “Ghost” was written after suffering panic attacks on tour. My daughter has severe anxiety. I found I was perhaps not being the best parent. By dragging her out the door for school it often made her panic attacks worse.
Josh: That’s not necessarily bad parenting. It’s not really the worst technique to just push somebody right into it as they learn to… I don’t know, different schools of thought. I found for me, I have panic attacks on stage and I’m going on stage every single night. I’m facing it.
How do you face it?
Josh: I’ve been progressively taking things less and less seriously. I’m taking my career less seriously and just trying to have fun. Enjoying the fact that I’m still “youngish” and that this is a dream come true and not stressing about it. Stress when it’s important to stress. When it’s show time, just have a blast. And if I have a panic attack on stage, who cares? Who cares? I’ll handle it however I feel like handling it in that moment and that’s it.
Has it ever affected you so much that you couldn’t sing?
Josh: Yes, it used to a lot.
Anthony: There were times where Josh would have to walk off the stage during a song. And we are good enough we were able to just keep going. It would make it interesting until he could return.
Josh: It hasn’t been that bad lately.
Your new album OK, I’M SICK is coming out soon. The second single you just released, “x ANA x,” is a really different song. It’s amazing. Very complex and I’ve never heard a song like it. Would you agree?
Josh: Thank you. Yeah, I don’t think there are many songs like that. That was the hope at least. It’s about panic attacks. It’s about anxiety. And the song is meant to make you feel what I am feeling when I have a panic attack on stage. Which is absolute chaos.
Is it also about the feeling when you are medicated?
Josh: No, the song is more about running out of Xanax. Not having it before I go on stage and how that feels. Having to go on stage without it. Because I typically take it every night. I think where I say “Ana you make me slow down,” that’s the relief when the drug actually kicks in. I don’t know. The state of mind I was in personally when I was writing lyrics to that song, I don’t remember it. I was gone. Somewhere else entirely.
What does the rest of the album contain?
Josh: Well, it’s interesting. “Ghost” and “x ANA x” are two vastly different songs and the rest of the album does sandwich in between those very nicely. But then we go off the rails in other directions as well. It’s really all over the place. It doesn’t sound…..there’s no repeats on the album. There’s not “Ghost” and then the other one that sounds like “Ghost,” and another like that. No, there’s none of that. It’s all very, very different. (See complete tracklist for OK, I’M SICK below.)
Kids today seem to be less interested in rock music. Do you see your band relating to the youth of today and attracting young listeners?
We want to. We hope that that’s the case. We’re not snobs about genres. We don’t care about rock coming back and trying to make some kind of statement like this is real music and the music you are listening to is trash. We don’t care. Why should anybody care? We’re just trying to do what we think is cool and what we think is important and special and we hope that everybody relates to it. That includes kids. And that includes anybody. I think hip hop these days is edgier and pushing the limits more than rock has in the last ten years. Hip hop and even pop music. I don’t think there are enough rock bands that are edgy anymore. That’s not a thing. And that’s what rock is supposed to be about, and nobody’s doing it. They’re just trying to write radio music and appeal to the small audience of rock listeners left. What’s the point of that. That’s all I’m hearing on rock radio anyway.
Have you thought about whether all of the expletives are really necessary in music? I realize it may be important from an artist’s perspective, but is it limiting your audience when some parents won’t allow kids to listen to your songs or songs can’t be played in a locker room, or on the radio?
Anthony: I think I can speak for all of us in saying that our parents never stopped us from listening to music with “swear words.”
Josh: And they are only “swear words” because we call them “swear words.” Stop calling them that. They are just words. Who cares.
Anthony: I guess it also depends how they are being used.
Josh: I think, if I have kids, I’ll let them use whatever words they want. Because, here’s the thing. If I’m really, really angry. I can’t just say “I’m really, really angry.” That doesn’t quite do it. But if I say, “I’m so f***ing angry!,” that works. This is just the way that we speak in society now. Why are we going to try to (avoid it.) I think swear words are important. And I think we should all be using them at any age.
Anthony: My parents let me listen to all of the music I wanted to. They liked music as well but they also taught me otherwise. I didn’t go around singing lyrics or dropping F-bombs when I shouldn’t. Being aware (of the situation.) It’s more like I know it’s a song, I know who to use it with; like my friends. To not talk that way to adults.
Josh: I think as parents, although I’m not a parent (he smiles), we should put more effort into not hurting people’s feelings, how about. Like say swear words when they’re funny or if they’re used in a way that actually appropriately describes what you are trying to describe. Because it’s a great word for it half of the time. Just don’t hurt people’s feelings. Who cares about the words themselves. Let’s just focus on that, how about.
Have you heard that “mean people suck?”
Josh: They do. They f***ing suck. They’re assholes! That’s a new thing for me to rant about on social media. I’m inspired (he laughs).
Would it be safe to say Badflower is on the verge of becoming HUGE?
Josh: 100%. Absolutely!
Have you changed since “Ghost” became so incredibly popular?
Josh: Yeah, I think so. It’s impossible not to. I’m already a diva. I’m even going to be more of a diva. I think the core of me hasn’t changed. Like our lifestyles are a bit different. We don’t tour the same way that we used to. We have a little bit of money for the first time that we never had before and more people to help us. But also the stakes have gotten higher and the pressure bigger and more intense. When I say and joke that I’ve become more of a diva it’s just that there’s more pressure on my life now. There’s more people involved in this scene. And there’s more families to be fed and more people that really, really care about the music. There’s just more pressure in general to always perform and to always be on. So that it turns people into divas. (Josh laughs) Because it’s harder work than people realize. Emotionally taxing.
How about the music part. Is that the easier part of your job, compared to touring and dealing with the people?
Anthony: You want to say yes to this. You like being in the studio writing music.
Josh: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s the easier part, but it’s the more fun part. For me and for all of us. Touring is hard. Anthony: It’s fun. I love playing shows but it’s the actual getting to shows and the time between. The best part is the 35 minutes we are on stage.
Do all of you participate in writing songs, or is it just you Josh?
Josh: I primarily write the lyrics, but we do (all contribute). Half of the songs on this album came from just jamming. Like as a band in a room together. And then we’ll split up a little bit. Yeah, a lot of times to do lyrics I’ll be alone, where I’m just getting it out. And then we all come into the studio. The music part has always been really easy for us. We don’t really bicker and fight about a sound. Everybody has their thing they contribute to it and nobody really questions that. Because we just work well. We never have like a fight in the studio. I can’t remember that ever happening.
Anthony: If someone thinks something works better a different way we usually just go with it.
Are we going to hear any of the other new songs tonight besides “Ghost” and “x ANA x”?
Josh: You are not even going to hear “x ANA x”. We didn’t know it was going to be released while we were on this tour. We don’t get told this information. The record label decides these things. And we’re on tour, and we didn’t rehearse it, so we can’t play it. We’ve been playing “Die” and “The Jester,” but again not tonight because we are supporting The Wrecks, so it’s a shorter set. We play “Ghost” obviously, and “Die,””The Jester,” and “Cry.” So that’s four that we’ve been playing live for awhile. And “Heroin” which was put on the album. That’s nearly half of the album.
Do you have a headlining tour planned after the album release?
Josh: We have not announced one or even talked about it but there most certainly will be one. There’s a lot coming up. We just booked three European festivals: The Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, and Download festivals. Those three we just announced this morning actually. We are the real deal man! (Josh laughs)
How did you get your big break?
Josh: I worked really hard. We all did. Worked really, really hard. And we found what made us special and focused on that, only. We found what made our band stand out among the rest of the bands, and that’s not just the local bands on the scene, that’s like the biggest giant bands in the world. We decided this is what we do that none of those bands can ever touch. And we made sure that was the forefront of our work. We became the best at that rather than trying to sound like Muse, or any other bands. Find your own sound and do it better than anybody else can.
With that I want to say thank you so much for spending time with me and I’m really looking forward to the show tonight and seeing you again very soon.
Josh: Sure, no problem. It was fun.
OK, I’M SICK (Release Date 2/22/19)
1. “x ANA x”
2. “The Jester”
4. “We’re In Love”
5. “Promise Me”
10. “Murder Games”
12. “Wide Eyes”