Badflower don’t care if you’re pissed off as long as you’re listening
Categorizing Badflower as just one genre is next to impossible, and that’s pretty much the point. Ditching the guise of poetic metaphors, Josh Katz and co. speak from the heart about important issues, channeling all the mess that comes with being human. Now, the frontman is opening up about how it goes much deeper than just catchy melodies and wanting to be heard ahead of their next album.
With so many artists out there, what is it about Badflower to you that you think stands out?
I think we’re very confronting, and we touch on topics that a lot of people won’t, and I think it’s the approach and the way that we do it. The songwriting style is very direct. For the most part, you can take a song and just read the lyrics, and it sounds like the way that you would describe something when you were talking. It’s not overly poetic. It’s very conversational, and I think we do that really well.
Why is that unfiltered style so great to get your message across?
I’ve never really enjoyed poetry. I like slam poetry—people performing poetry when you can actually hear the inflections in somebody’s voice. It’s a lot more powerful than reading it, but I feel like the most effective way to get your point across is to be direct. If you’re mad at somebody, you’re not going to come up with some grand poetic way of expressing that. You’re going to say, “I’m fucking mad at you. I fucking hate you.” That’s the language that you’re going to use, so I found that using that same kind of language throughout an entire song sometimes is the most effective way to get [that] point across.
Are there any specific artists who stand out to you that you grew up on who have really influenced you and how you approach your music?
The whole pop-punk scene of the early 2000s was huge. Cyndi Lauper from the ’80s. Honestly, all of it. I've never been a purist about music. I like everything, and I really like pop music. But then I really like music that [has] confronting lyrics. I grew up on newer folk stuff like Conor Oberst and Death Cab For Cutie—these types of groups that were making modern folk songs at the time. And I love that. I love the style of writing because a lot of that was also very direct and [good] storytelling. There was a beginning, middle and end to the song, and I love that.
Are there any current artists who you've been around or witnessed their craft who you've taken inspiration from in a way that you may not have expected?
Yeah, lots. Our friend circles now have become a lot of artists—some of them we started as just like competitors in the radio game and others we play festivals together, and you can't help but get some of their ideas and their concepts and their whole vibe to rub off on you. grandson is a friend, and the way that he approaches songwriting has definitely rubbed off. Dead Poet Society are another band that we've toured with a handful of times. I think I was writing a song the other day, and I had to text the singer like, “I think I'm stealing your shit, so please don't get mad. But if our new stuff comes out and you hear some melodies that are yours, they are. And I'm sorry, but I like it.”
I can definitely see that happening with grandson. You have a very similar vibe in standing up for what's right.
Yeah. I've done my own thing as a songwriter, and then other people have compared us to some other artists. When we first started, we got compared to Highly Suspect a lot. And I had never heard of them at the time. But then I looked them up, and I was like, “Man, this is really good.” And it's like so much of what I'm doing and trying to do. And then that rubs off even more. But it started organically.
It's funny you brought up Highly Suspect. When I first heard you a few years ago, that was the first one that came to mind for me.
Yeah, they were like the “it” band right at that time when we first started coming up. We didn't like it at first. I had the same color hair, and it was like the whole thing looks like we were trying to do what they were already doing. But again, I had never heard of them. But then once I did listen, they influenced me in a lot of ways.
Yeah, for sure. Diving a little more into what you speak about lyrically, you’ve been open about mental health, sexual abuse, animal rights and all of these other really head-on topics about the human experience in your lyrics. You can clearly hear the emotion in your voice, but as the artist, what do you get from putting all that into a song?
It helps me sleep at night knowing that I’m not just making a product. I learned that early on because I had so much anxiety as things started to get bigger in the very beginning. The first song that we ran with wasn’t a song that I feel really represents what I do. And I didn’t like how it felt gaining a fanbase from something [that] I didn’t believe was really special. It didn’t really matter how much bigger the shows had gotten [or] how many more fans we got. It didn’t make me happy. So I got really lucky that I was able to write songs that were directly confronting that I felt were really special and that nobody else could do, and that those songs became the most successful songs, because if that didn't happen, I don't think I would be doing this.
On the flip side of what you put into it, what do you want fans to take away from your lyrics and your music?
I hope it's healing, and I hope they buy a T-shirt. I don't write the songs for them to be healing for people, and I've been told that a lot of them are. That's a really great feeling. I just write it because, in my opinion, it needs to be said. And I think that can be healing for people depending on the subject. Just for somebody else to say it. Not to say, “Hey, I have the answers,” or “Hey, you're going to be fine. Everything's going to be OK.” I can say everything's probably not going to be OK because it's not OK for me. And just that alone. People are like, “Thank you. Thank you for at least saying it and acknowledging and validating whatever this thing is.” It's interesting.
Did you have artists like that for you growing up who spoke to your own experience?
I think maybe I did and didn't realize it. Because I was a piano player, and I didn't get into music with lyrics. I used to listen to classical music and shit growing up like really, really young. And then I got into the music style of the other stuff, like the type of stuff that I would listen to now. But I don't think that I realized how much the lyrical content was actually infiltrating my life and affecting me and changing me. It's hard. It's hard to analyze that, so I'm not sure. I'm not sure if I had that.
Has there been one topic in particular that you felt was critical that you had to put in a song?
Yeah, “Murder Games” [on] our last album. It was the vegan anthem, and nobody on our team really understood. Nobody [at] our record label’s vegan, but everybody was very supportive, and they understood that it was really important to me. We all knew that it wasn’t going to be a massive smash No. 1 song, but it didn’t matter. It’s part of the resume of this band. If you're going to invest in this, you have to understand that this is a big part of me. And there's going to be more of those to come. I don't feel like we're done with that. There are going to be more songs that I know are going to make people upset, or there are certain opinions that are very important to me, and they're very strong opinions. I don't mind pissing people off.
Yeah. And there will always be people who agree with you. So for every person who’s pissed off, there's another one who is like, “Thank you for saying it.”
Obviously, music is first and foremost, but what other creative avenues do you use to get your message across?
To get the message across? Not much, not many other avenues. I don’t think there’s a single one. I had a couple of opinions on Twitter, and that blew up, so I don't do that anymore. It's a weird time right now to be an activist because like you said, for every fan that hates something, there’s another fan who loves it. Well, that's the truth. And just in the world of social media right now, too, it’s usually the people who hate whatever you have to say that are the loudest. It really doesn't matter what you're talking about. There's going to be a whole group of people that hate it, and they're really, really loud and obnoxious. So I don't know. I think from now forward, at least until things feel different, I'd rather just put the activism in the music. I think it's an even bolder statement, too, than just writing a social media post about something, if I'm like, “No, I'm putting this on my album that's going to live in the world forever.” So feel free to attack, but you're not attacking some moment that you get to ride.
Yeah, exactly. You do put it in your music videos to an extent as well. I know in “30” you touched on, coincidentally, cancel culture and Twitter and such. So is that important to you to put that message visually?
Very much. Because that's what I'm seeing all the time. I only recently just got a phone. I didn't have a phone, and I was so much happier because I wasn’t just scrolling through Twitter seeing all the people whose careers were getting destroyed, and some of them needed it, and some of them really didn't need it. It’s so in my face all the time. I found myself writing songs about it, not just “30,” but I was writing so many songs about it, and it was getting old for me, so I'm glad that it's preserved in “30.” But then I got rid of the phone for a little bit, and now I'm writing songs about things that feel more important to me than children on Twitter are giving.
As you continue to grow in your career, what has been your greatest fear as an artist?
Well, now it's getting canceled. Being misunderstood, maybe. When we were working on OK, I'M SICK, there were friends who we would send some music to, and the friends would send it to their friends, and people would get a consensus for it. Really, there’s one comment [where] somebody said, “Man, I wish the lyrics were a little bit better. I wish the lyrics were less obvious.” Because there are certain people who maybe hear the obvious nature of it and think that that's a bad job done or something. When in my eyes, that's what makes it so special. It's easier to hide things in metaphors and poetry and try to pretend like you have this grander concept than you really do. What's hard to do is be really direct and still get a message across and get it across even better. Anyway, there was one comment that once came back to me, and I'm glad I never let it affect me. This is before the album came out. So if that person was right and everybody else thought that, that would’ve really sucked.
On the flip side, what has been your high point, your proudest moment through your career so far?
There isn't one. There isn't just one high point. Just recently, we got our first gold record. We won an iHeartRadio award for best [rock] song. We’re gathering the achievements and the accolades now. And it all feels really good, but it really only feels good for a moment. And then it's just normal. I put the gold record on my wall, and I continue to be depressed, so I don't know. I think it's just building this culture that we built, just knowing that it exists, knowing that there's people who love our band and we mean something to them.
So it's more about the connection than the accolades.
Yeah, because those are going to come and go. I think, even the gold record, it feels very, very much like there's a lot of bands who have connected with an even broader fanbase and really attacked culture in a way that's been powerful and great who have never received a gold record. And I'm envious of that. When I look at their career, I’m like, “Man, that's where I want to be.”
So interpret this as you will. What's next?
An album, probably, [and] singles. We’re just building up an arsenal of the next wave of Badflower. We’re building up a catalog of songs that we’re really excited about and proud of.
With all that in mind, how do you see yourself growing as artists over the next year?
I hope to be really big so that I can retire in like three years and then come back in 15 years and do a reunion tour. [Laughs.] I hope to get so big with the next record that I can just not do it anymore, you know what I mean? I'm just kidding. It's stressful. Like, it's a really, really fun job, but it's really stressful. At least for me, I feel a lot of pressure doing it. And it's been really nice having the pressure off for a little bit. But I can feel it coming back, and I'm excited. Sometimes I'll watch videos of us at festivals randomly, and I'll get this [feeling]—it's like I'm on a roller coaster. My whole body will sink or rise or whatever, just that awful feeling. It's exciting, but it's awful. You know what I mean? I don't know how much longer in my life I can do it. I don't imagine myself being like a 60-year-old rocker who's still out there just trying his best. It feels like a young man's game, at least the type of band that we are. And I'm glad that I get to do it. I'm glad that I've done everything I've done. And I'm going to go as long as it's necessary. I’m just being honest. Some of these band guys are like, “I'm going to be playing rock ’n’ roll, and I'll be playing the guitar on my grave.” No, not me. No way.
I appreciate the honesty.
If it's working that much for you, you're doing it wrong. You're doing it for your ego. I was doing that. I thought that in the beginning until we started to have some success, and I realized that this is a really fucking awful business. It's completely ego motivated, and the only time that our band are successful is if I think I'm the shit and I'm going around telling people that I am. And whether I am or not is irrelevant. It's not good for me mentally to be that guy all the time. And so, yeah, I don't think I'm going to do it forever. But who knows? I might say this now at 30 years old, and then I turned 80, and I'm still doing it. That's my goal, though. My goal isn’t to be doing it forever. My goal is to be happy.
You can read more on Badflower in issue 391 featuring 100 Artists You Need To Know.