Interview with drummer Coady Willis | By Thomas Pizzola
Since 2004, the duo of vocalist and bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis have been delivering the quirky rock goods as Big Business. They’ve put out five albums of their unique, multifaceted take on heavy rock, played and recorded with Melvins, and killed it on whatever stage they happen to be playing on.
It’s now 2019, and the Seattle band have released their sixth album, The Beast You Are, through Joyful Noise Recordings on April 12. After the addition of new guitarists in 2008 and 2010 and their subsequent departures in 2012 and 2014, respectively, Warren and Willis returned to their two-piece roots on 2016’s Command Your Weather, and this back-to-basics approach continues on The Beast You Are.
The reason for this move was quite simple. “We had a long, emotionally-draining breakup with our guitar player. It was a bummer,” Willis says, “but we had already committed to a European tour opening for Mastodon, so we had to get it together and make it happen as a two-piece. It was actually galvanizing. We ended up having a really good time after a really long bad time. It felt right, like a new beginning. We just decided it was better this way!”
The benefits of being a two-person band far outweigh the negatives according to Willis. “Obviously, there are more duties to take on with only two people, but it’s nice not to have to make every decision by committee,” he says. “Also, the logistics of moving two people around as opposed to four or five are way easier to navigate. It’s a real timesaver across the board.”
This rebirth and renewed focus show themselves on The Beast You Are. It’s the band’s longest album and also one of their strongest and most diverse. They sound rejuvenated. “It’s just how it turned out. We worked really hard getting all these songs together, and we were fortunate to have a particularly productive writing spree,” Willis says. “We tried to overdo it a little just to be able to have the option of editing if a certain song didn’t make the cut.”
It was all in their approach. “It’s always anything-goes, as long as the idea gets across. We did a lot of recording as we went, demoing the songs,” Willis says. “It’s nice to be able to record an idea while it’s fresh and move on to something else while being able to digest what we did earlier and come back to it rather than obsessing on one thing and choking the life out of it. It’s easy to lose perspective when you fixate on one idea for too long. So, we kept it loose, and it actually turned out to be a faster and more enjoyable way to work.”
Big Business have always been a heavy band, albeit a heavy band with a myriad of influences. There are traces of punk, psychedelic rock, power pop, new wave, and even New Age sprinkled throughout their releases. Though, sometimes writers and members of the music scene brand them with a simpler descriptor: the dreaded letter S, which in this case, stands for sludge. They’re not too fond of it. “I mean, it’s lazy, but I can see why someone would go there,” Willis says. “We’re kind of a weird band. It’s a lot to ask of someone to really actively listen in depth to all of the nuanced splendor while they’re doing the dishes or talking about Jeff’s weird mole.”
That last response showcases another thing Big Business are known for: their sly sense of humor. This manifests in song titles like “Abdominal Snowman” and “The Moor You Know,” the band’s lyrics, and even the way they answer interview questions. They also include a humorous note to go along with the new album. It’s all part of their charm, and none of it is forced. “I don’t think about it that much; we just try to be ourselves,” Willis says. “Maybe it’s all been a huge mistake. Time will tell.”
It must not be a huge mistake, because 15 years and six albums in, Big Business sound as fresh and vital as ever. The Beast You Are will easily be one of the best heavy rock albums this year, with the band sounding like world champs. So, what is the secret to their longevity?
Well, the three P’s.
“Pizazz, Perseverance, and Pizza Pizza Pizza,” Willis concludes.