Before a performance in the United Kingdom in 1984, Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins told the audience to “get into it for yourself” before the band launched into their hit “Nervous Breakdown.” In just a brief introduction to a song, Rollins reminded society that a hallmark of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatness is that it is a catalyst for people to lose themselves – or their minds – within the music. A mantra of this nature fit in perfectly with the music of Black Flag, whose work was so innately tenacious and biting that one could not help but become wholeheartedly enveloped within their sonic blast of anarchy. At its core, this is what rock is: surrendering every aspect of yourself to overwhelming musical domination.
This high level of power and, subsequently, the sound that can create it, is seldom seen within the scope of modern rock. However, Chicago is now home to a band that has been able to encompass this sound and spirit immaculately. The music of The Bombats radiates exorbitant amounts of electricity and kinetic energy to the point where their work yields the power to make listeners surrender themselves in the way Rollins wanted the crowd to decades ago.
The Bombats are restoring a sense of hardcore tenacity in rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s sound radiates a sense of forceful mastery that sends adrenaline shooting through the veins of all who have the pleasure of listening to their work. Through guitar hooks as bold and striking as a bolt of lightning in a dark sky, drum fills one can feel in their bones, and vocals that are strong and snarling, the music of The Bombats is an artistic force that harnesses the most authentic cornerstones of what makes rock music pure excellence.
Josh Boyer, vocalist/guitarist of The Bombats, was kind enough to chat with AMPLIFY about the band and their work. Read on, friends.
AMPLIFY: What’s the origin story of The Bombats?
Boyer: The Bombats are from the future. We come from a time in which rock and roll is in languish. We felt it our duty to travel back in time and reinvigorate the very art form that has been essential to the rebellious nature of youth culture. I recruited two rock and roll disciples and set off to save rock and roll. Upon our arrival, we infiltrated a local Chicago music venue in an attempt to acclimate ourselves to the current climate of the music industry. We’ve since found that we certainly have our work cut out for us.
AMPLIFY: How would you articulate the band’s artistic growth?
Boyer: The Bombats are still very young. We’re still finding our footing in the current Chicago scene and working on honing our sound. Our first record, “We Are The Bombats”, was the culmination of years and years worth of bedroom demos and ideas. It came very quickly but was still very raw. After it’s completion, we started with a clean slate. The music we are currently working on is faster at times, more focused at times but at it’s heart, still very punk rock.
AMPLIFY: If The Bombats could choose anywhere in the world to go on tour, where would you select and why?
Boyer: Evel Knievel Days in Butte, Montana. It’s basically a week long festival comprised of a who’s who of international daredevils that try and break records set by Evel. As the self proclaimed Evel Knievel of Rock and Roll, I can’t believe we haven’t been invited yet. Australia would also be cool. It’s the birthplace of some of the most badass rock and rollers. Radio Birdman, The Birthday Party, and of course AC/DC.
Or Transylvania. Always Transylvania.
AMPLIFY: Which aspect of the creative process brings you the most joy?
Boyer: I get most excited at the beginning and end of an idea. At the beginning, the idea is fresh and I can’t wait to put it down on paper, record me singing into a voice memo on my phone, or take a grainy laptop video of me jumping around my room with a guitar. After that, then the work starts. The process is definitely fun, but can be exhausting. I can’t start a new project until I’ve finished the last one, so if I get stuck on a song or a concept it can really compound and become frustrating. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas so, once I’m finished, I get to move on to something entirely new.
AMPLIFY: In your opinion, what’s the most unique aspect of Chicago’s creative community?
Boyer: Chicago is unique in that it’s a city of transplants. Everybody is kind of from all over the place and ended up here for one reason or another. Whether you’re from just outside the city/east coast/west coast/the future/whatever it’s interesting to see all of these regional influences mashed together. Hardly anybody sings about the ocean when you’re stuck in the middle of a continent.
AMPLIFY: Is there a particular album that’s especially significant to you?
Boyer: Colleen Green’s “Milo Goes to Compton” and Daniel Johnston’s “Yip Jump Music!” for sure. Those records sound very honest. I listened to those and realized that i didn’t have to go out and be the most badass rock and roll band on the face of the earth right away. All i had to do (for now) was start making songs in my bedroom to get me through the day or week. They also kept me in check and made me not overcomplicate things. Songs like “I Wanna Be Degraded” and “Worried Shoes” are brilliant and they’re only a couple of notes.
Touche Amore’s album stage IV also is also especially significant. It came out right after my grandma died and is an album about losing someone you love to cancer. Jeremy Bolm, their singer, was able to articulate a lot of the things i was feeling at the time, and still feel, that i couldn’t. A lot of his lyrics are that way for a lot of people. It’s easily their best album, lyrically and sonically and it couldn’t have lined up with what i was going through any more perfectly. It’s equal parts heavy and beautiful. It definitely humanized some of my “heroes” in the best way possible.
If you play Daniel Johnston or Colleen Green songs at Touche Amore or Motorhead speed, you’ve basically unlocked the secret formula for Bombats music.
AMPLIFY: If you could change one aspect of the contemporary music industry, what would it be and why?
Boyer: People need to have more fun. And be more inclusive. Other than a good book or movie, music is one of the last great escapes we have and it’s designed to be participatory. We just wanna have fun and want everyone to have fun with us regardless of the genre of your band or your gender/race/age/whatever. I don’t want to subscribe to some clique or pander to some made up DIY politics game just to get ahead as a band. It feels like it’s designed that way nowadays and it’s kind of a bummer. Hopefully we can be part of the wave that changes that mindset.
AMPLIFY: Do you have a favorite memory from any of your live performances?
Boyer: We threw a benefit show at Lincoln Hall for the awesome Chicago charity group Cure Violence. We raised money, had a blast playing with our friends in Not For You and Close Kept, and got to play to an awesome light show designed by our drummer, Mikey Bombats. Many Bat-Bombs were drank by all.
AMPLIFY: Which aspect of The Bombats’ creative work are you most proud of?
Boyer: I think the song “Surfin Bat-Man” off of our current record captures pretty accurately what the band is about. High energy/noisy/fun. The lyrics are some of my favorite on the record as well. The song is about a dream i had where i found a ten foot tall black labrador and rode him in a drag race against a bunch of hot-rods. Also, that riff is about as badass as they come.
AMPLIFY: Lastly, what’s coming up next for The Bombats?
Boyer: We’re currently finishing up a three part Future-Punk-Opera called “Future Super Saviors”. Hopefully we’ll see that released sometime in October. We’re also working on putting together a tour to the east coast sometime later this Fall or early next year.
In the meantime, you can come hear “Future Super Saviors” at The Burlington on 08.08.17 and Crown Liquors on 08.20.17.