Badflower’s Josh Katz Looks Into the Darkness on ‘Ghost’
Badflower could be one of rock's next biggest bands... but only if they want to be. We spoke to frontman Josh Katz about the band's past, present, and future. Katz is not afraid to break down genre walls, and while he spoke about his appreciation for guitar-based music, he also explained that he is no rock purist: his focus is centered in lyricism and emotions, not guitars.
Take me back to the beginning of Badflower. How did it all start?
Our guitarist, Joey [Morrow], and I met first when we were 18. We were living in the same apartment building, going to school for music. Neither of us were very good at school so we both dropped out and just started making music together. And then Alex [Espiritu], the bass player, and I went high school together, but we weren’t friends. We actually barely knew each other. We met up later, became friends and he joined our band. And Anthony [Sonetti], the drummer, was in another band that we liked a lot and we heard that band had split. So we got him on board and everyone was living in LA at the time so it just happened to work out.
It’s funny because when we started, we were not very heavy [sounding] at all. Joey and I were huge Beatles fans. We were kids, we had no idea what we were doing. And then we wrote “Animal,” which ended up being our first kinda-big single. It was the heaviest thing we had done and we realized that we enjoyed it and people liked listening to it. So we were like, "Cool, let’s do the rock and roll thing. This works."
In Badflower's bio on Spotify, it says that you guys recorded your Temper EP inside of a garage in California and had to keep putting a MacBook computer in a freezer because it kept overheating.
Yes, and I still have that MacBook. We had been on a record label prior to that and made an EP that was done with a producer that we didn’t really like.
And we felt like the direction of our band was going in a direction that we didn't feel like we had control of. So we got off that label and onto Republic and they wanted to release that EP, and we were just not having it. So we decided to go in the garage and buy a bunch of gear that we couldn't afford, go into debt, basically making a new EP in hopes that they would release that instead and they did. We didn't actually have permission to do it that way, we just did it. The fact that our first EP and big, radio-Billboard-charting song was done in a garage is pretty cool. I don't think that happens that often anymore.
When it comes to the [rock] genre not being as popular as it was, I don't really care, to be honest. It doesn't bother me. I feel like there are amazing songs out there in every genre. It kinda doesn't matter what's playing on the radio, just go on Spotify, go find it. It's easy to find and access any kind of music you want and there's really great music being made, so who cares? Honestly, I don't even like to consider us a rock band, because by the next record if I want to make a folk album then I'm going to.
So you don't feel beholden to a certain genre?
Not at all. And I hope I never do. There are two different ways of looking at it. There are a lot of bands who stick to sounding the same forever because they know their fans are always gonna like it, and they're afraid to go outside of their comfort bubble or box because they know what they've done thus far has worked. And then there are bands who radically shift, and their fans don't embrace it. And that sucks too, but I'm definitely not gonna be in the band that keeps churning out the same style of music just because it makes us money. That might make us money, but it's gonna make us depressed and unfulfilled creatively.
Do you have any direction in mind the future of the band's sound?
I know that sonically I don't really care. We could lose the guitars and it wouldn't bother me. We could go all electronic. I enjoy playing the guitar and I like the sound of it so that probably won't change, but I'm [also] not precious about that stuff. What I am precious about are the lyrics, and that's where I feel like I've progressed the most in the last few years. That is actually getting our band the recognition that I want us to have, not that we're sort of an angsty rock band that just writes awesome riffs and we're loud. It's the fact that we have the ability to make people feel something with what we say and that's the most satisfying part. So that's the part that I hope progresses and gets better. As a lyricist, I can dive even deeper into the human mind and get emotions out of people.
So your approach to songwriting is based around storytelling.
Yes, storytelling and [being] conversational. I don't like to bury things in metaphors just because they sound pretty. I don't really consider myself much of a poet when it comes to songwriting. I wanna be able to read my lyrics back and have them make the same amount of sense as if they were a conversation. Those are just the types of songs that I like, personally.
Talk a little about Badflower's current single, "Ghost."
We actually didn't choose it as the single, the label did. I was terrified for that song to come out as the first single, just because the content is so heavy. It could've gone so many different ways. Even though for me I was writing from a place of truth, When it was written I had just gotten off tour, and I spent the entire tour having panic attacks on stage every night. It was just something that came out of nowhere for reasons that only my therapist can tell you. When that happened, I got home and it was a traumatic experience having to deal with that every single night and I was in a really low place. I was depressed and thinking about self-harm. So I just wrote it. I played out the whole scenario and put it into a song because that's what writers do, I suppose. I didn't even know if it was gonna go on the album. I was sorta hesitant to even show it to the rest of my band, But everyone heard it and loved it, and said it might actually be a positive thing to put out in the world. So we did, and it turned out that I was wrong in my skepticism because it was a positive thing.
It sounds like the creation of that song served as a form of therapy for you.
It was exclusively therapeutic. I didn't write it for anybody else. Now it belongs to everybody else and it's beautiful, but that wasn't the reason for it.
What does Badflower have planned for the future?
We have an album. It's finished. It's been finished for a little while. We will have another single coming out. Things are getting rearranged because that's how it always happens with label people and the rest of it. There's always a plan and then it changes. Everything has sorta changed because "Ghost" is doing so well. We all wanted it to do really well, but I don't think anyone anticipated that it would do this well. So that has changed the trajectory of what we do next. But we will be putting out another single, we will be putting out an album and we will be touring probably until we're dead.
Tonight (September 20), Badflower will make their network television debut performing 'Ghost' on The Late Late Show with James Corden
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