Badflower on why they set out to create an imperfect sophomore album
The prevailing message Badflower capture in their music is to candidly embrace uncomfortable feelings, and they do so with ease. Discussing topics such as depression, anxiety and difficult familial upbringings is no easy task for most people, but there simply isn’t any other way the band can write without being true to who they are.
After putting out several releases, Badflower—vocalist/guitarist Josh Katz, lead guitarist Joey Morrow, bassist Alex Espiritu and drummer Anthony Sonetti— exploded with their debut album, OK, I’m Sick, and were thrust into the forefront of the modern rock scene. Their authentic delivery of emotional turmoil is something people instantly gravitated toward, and their infectious instrumentals sealed their status. Now, Badflower are primed to be a driving force in today’s pack of fresh rock bands while serving a purpose to promote meaningful messages.
Embarking on the journey of creating THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS began with a gutsy move: relocating from their home base in Los Angeles. Half the band moved to Pittsburgh, while the other half made their way to Nashville to live on a farm while crafting the album.
Along with the move from Los Angeles, Badflower took every aspect of production into their own hands and stripped away their insecurities around perfection. With a more expansive self-recording setup, they often used the first take instead of endlessly poring over demos and making a polished-sounding album. These slight imperfections shine throughout the record and magnificently highlight its overall message—everything and everyone has flaws.
On a lyrical level, Katz took this record as an opportunity to tackle who he is as a person. Instead of viewing his struggles as a moment to wallow in self-pity, he embraced his flaws and admitted that he isn’t trying to be the absolute best version of himself. The singer/guitarist understands that he doesn’t know exactly how to become that. Instead of lying to the world and himself, he puts this notion on full display while acknowledging that he isn’t the victim.
With their sophomore album dropping Sept. 24, Katz reflects on gaining the confidence to record in an unrefined way and the legacy he hopes the band will leave behind. His desire to leave a lasting impression on the world and provide an outlet for positivity through sadness is brought to fruition on THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS, but the journey is just beginning for Katz and the rest of Badflower.
With this being Badflower’s second full-length, you have had a quick rise to success overall. Did you feel any sort of pressure to top what you’ve done previously before heading into this album?
It is definitely hard competing with your former self, but at the same time, you also look at the grand scope of where music is. I pull all the things that I really like, and I tell myself I like what a certain band is doing. I feel like I could do that. That’s what I do, but I could do it in my own way. So there was a lot of this competitive energy in the beginning, competing with our former stuff and competing with things that we saw happening around us in music.
It turned into failure every time, and that became really apparent in the beginning. I think that the very beginning process of making this album, at least writing for it, was songs that went directly into the garbage. They just weren’t working, and it was clear that we were chasing something that wasn’t our current state and our current identity.
The first song we wrote for this album was “Family.” That set the tone for everything because it was a song that was very, very real, but for the first time, it was an accountable message. I wasn’t the victim of anything. I realized I was the villain, and that’s what I sang about. That changed everything, realizing that I could do that and not worry about what people might think of me if I do take this approach where I’m not necessarily likable in every scenario because I’m not always likable in real life. That’s what really inspired this album, and it felt like nothing we had quite done before. It also felt like nothing we can draw from, from pop culture anyway. It was like a lane opened up, and we jumped into that.
You’ve also said that some of the recordings on the album were done without any demoing or planning involved. Do you think that this raw way of recording worked for you differently than if you meticulously planned everything out?
That’s the heart of what this album is. We were very frustrated. We’ve always been pretty frustrated just recording songs, not even making full albums since we’ve been recording songs forever. The demo process is hard because you start to fall in love with your first inclination, your first idea, whatever your first instinct is. Then you get into a room, whether it’s with the producer or without a producer, but you just get into a room to try to top it, try to beat it or do the “real version,” and it’s never as good.
When we finally got down to tracking drums and doing the rest of it, it was all just this first tape kind of magic moment. If something wasn’t perfect but we felt that we were all smiling or crying or excited or whatever, let’s not mess with that. Let’s leave it exactly as it is.
Were there any specific moments that stood out to you from some of those raw takes that you thought was something that normally wouldn’t have been perfect but it worked within the context of what you did?
There’s a song called “Only Love” that I wasn’t finished writing all the lyrics for, and I was recording it in pieces. I was writing a bit and then singing it and mostly leaving the first takes because I was so in the moment and emotional. There was a moment toward the end where I didn’t have the lyrics finished. I just had the start of them, and I thought to myself, “I’m just going to put down this beginning so I can hear that, and maybe I’ll be able to write the rest.”
I ended up pretty much finishing the song on the fly. You can hear me specifically stumbling over certain words because I was just finding the words in the moment. When I hear it back, it makes me chuckle because I wrote it right then and there, and I left it, and I never touched it. That was a moment that I’ll never forget. That’s a moment that you couldn’t plan, and I don’t know if it’ll ever happen again, but it’s very cool.
Why did you name the record THIS IS HOW THE WORLD ENDS, and what does it mean in the context of the topics discussed across the album?
To me, it means the end of empathy, and discourse to me is a much greater threat than people are talking about. We’re in a pandemic right now. We have the threat of disease. We have the threat of war with crazy leadership all across this planet, and nobody trusts anybody. But on top of all of that, I feel like we’re losing a sense of empathy, really, and respect for each other.
We can’t have differing opinions without people at each other’s throats, and I felt that splitting my friendships apart or seeing other people’s friendships split apart. When the pandemic happened, I was like everybody else and just sitting, scrolling through social media and watching this happen.
I don’t know if you’ve observed this, but this is my observation of the situation, and it looks like things on a mental health level feel really, really bad for everyone on top of everything else that’s really bad. That’s a subject that I felt like I really could touch on, and it feels like the end of the world.
With songs such as “Family” or “My Funeral,” they feel very honest in pointing out your own personal problems and struggles instead of taking a vague outsider’s view or trying to paint yourself in a better light than what the reality really is. What drives you to write music this way? Do you think that it’s an important aspect of creating music that feels genuine?
I think that’s the most important aspect. For one, it’s the thing that I think truly sets us apart from other bands. That is right off the bat a huge point to consider. If we can do this, whether it works or not, I think this is something that we can do that really is unique to us. We might as well go for it, even if we fail trying.
The second part is that it is so much more rewarding. On the first record, I had never been more depressed in my life. I’d never been more anxious, depressed and scared, and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue doing this. I felt like that album might be the last album I make, and for a few reasons, many different outcomes could have come out of it. The one where I was pretty successful and got onto the next record and built a fanbase, that wasn’t the one that made sense to me in my head while I was writing.
With this album arriving soon, what are your plans and hopes for what you’re able to do as a band once the record comes out and going into the next few years as a group?
I’m hoping to stay sane. That’s the honest answer. I don’t feel like I’m chasing success in the ways that I once did, and it’s not so far off the topic that I was just talking about, which is that it’s entirely self-serving being a musician. It’s really hard to phrase because it almost makes me sound ungrateful for what I have, which I’m not. I’m very grateful. I just see the reality of it, and I know that with more success and more attention, the more my mental health starts to slip, and I’ve seen that happen to me before.
I never want to come across as not genuine, so the tough question to answer is, “What do you want to get out of this?” Well, I could say to you that I want to be the biggest band in the world, and that’s rock star shit. But do I really? Because I’ve had time to sit and analyze this, and I don’t know if that’s gonna make me happy, and I’ve spent enough time putting my sanity and my happiness in the back seat.
I don’t know how long I’m capable of doing that. I would like to make another record after this, but how will I be able to keep going? How much fucking yoga do I have to do? What do I have to do to make sure that I can enjoy the whole ride? But that’s my job, so I’m still sorting through that.
You can read the full interview in issue 397, available here.