11-2-10 Originally published on Examiner.com by Tracy Heck
On Friday night American Bang brought their hard gritty southern rock to the Machine Shop in Flint for the first time along with local band The Hangers On and headliners The Gracious Few, who are a super group comprised of Candlebox and Live members.
American Bang is comprised of vocalist Jaren Johnson, guitarist Ben Brown, bassist Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason.
Before the show and after a intense day of driving, radio promos and a lengthy beer tasting event, the band sat down for a interview that was more like a casual give and take conversation:
Q: What time do you guys go on tonight?
Jaren: 8:30 or 9, I think. Where are you from?
Q: Just outside of Detroit. Takes about a hour to get out here.
Jaren: Nice. We drove like 7 hours to get out here. We were in Colombus last night but drove out to Saginaw for this radio thing and then came back for a beer tasting at 3. It's been a long day. We all ended up getting real drunk at the beer thing and now we're going out on stage! Did you want a beer?
Q: Leftovers from the beer tasting?
Ben: We tried but no.
Q: You had the album come out in August. How has that been going?
Jaren: Yes, it came out August 31. It's been great man. We spent a lot of time getting ready to put that out and tour and writing and all that stuff to get to that point. Finally having it out there is pretty exciting and kind of a milestone for this band I would say. It's been good. The response has been great. It's been neat to actually go to places and kids have the record and so they know all the words other than just to "Wild and Young" or whatever the current single is. It's exciting man; very cool.
Q: You did quite a bit of touring before you released the album.
Jaren: Yeah. We've been touring since we pretty much started I think. Our first tour was like in '05 at the beginning of that year and we've been touring ever since pretty strong.
Q: Legendary producer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica, Motley Crue) worked with you on the album. What was that like?
Jaren: It was great. This is actually the third time I've answered this today. He's kind of a magician when it comes to the whole producing thing and the guitar. He's a great guitar player. He helped us do a full record because we spent so much time writing and you know you have four and a half years with the songs and he kind of helped us groove them all together in a group that made sense. A new perspective. We had a blast with him. We spent two months in Nashville recording and then two months in Maui. It was awesome!
Q: Is there a song on the album that sticks out for you?
Jaren: I think "All We Know" is probably my favorite. I don't know, what do you guys think (looks at the rest of the band)?
Ben: That's really fun live. If we're talking live people have really been into "Rewind". They sing along to that one. It's cool live and people seem to enjoy it.
Jaren: They like that one because eveyryone is f*cked up!
Ben: Yeah but they're still singing it!
Jaren: I don't mean that they're drunk. I mean that everybody in their life at one point has f*cked up.
Ben: Right. I f*ck up all the time! I ain't done f*cking up.
Jaren: Both then: they f*cked up and they are f*cked up! The whole record really we're just excited about all of the songs on it. It's finally out there and it's been a long time coming for us.
Q: Have you performed all of the songs live now?
Jaren: Yeah there's only a couple we don't do. We don't do "Other Side of You" and "Wouldn't Want to Be You" and "A Man Change". We haven't learned those or relearned them since we recorded them. Yeah man that's our set. You haven't seen us before?
Q: First time...
Jaren: We're going to f*ck you guys up!
Q: Never seen Gracious Few either.
Jaren: They're good. This is our last night with them actually. Tomorrow night we go and do something else.
Q: You were touring with Cavo before this?
Jaren: Yeah we were with Cavo for a month and before that we were out with Saving Abel. We've been out since May so it's kind of been a long year so far but I think we're just doing pretty much all radio stuff the rest of the year. Then we'll start back up again in January.
Q: Are you working on new music?
Jaren: No, not really. Thought about it maybe but it's like we just put that sh*t out there so it's the last thing we want to do.
Q: So you don't have any official tour plans yet then?
Jaren: Well we're going out next year to tour with The Beatles. They're coming back to life and so we'll be doing that. I was so surprised when Ringo called. I was like listen get Paul on the phone and let's figure out what this money split is gonna be because I don't want to do it if it's not right.
Kelby: I was talking to John Lennon and that was just awkward all together. It's like you're a dead guy, you know?
Jaren: You're a dead guy man!
Ben: Are we really going out with The Beatles? (the rest of the band explodes into laughter)
Jaren: You can tell who's stoned!
Ben: Really. Nobody told me about that!
Jaren: No, we have tons of tour plans but we don't know exactly what, where or when but we'll be out there.
Q: You've gotten to tour with a lot of your idols.
Jaren: Yeah we got to tour with ZZ Top about two months ago and then we did the Pretenders. We did a lot of radio things with a lot of different bands; not necessarily our favorite bands but we made a lot of great friends. The Saving Abel guys are some of the funniest guys you could ever meet. Have you met them?
Q: Yeah I interviewed Blake (Dixon, drummer) over the Summer.
Ben: Great guy.
Jaren: (in a high pitched voice) I'm a grown ass man with braces! That's Blake right there! Nah, it's been cool man. The Pretenders tour was the sh*t. It's been a wild ride. It's pretty cool.
Q: Who were your biggest influences?
Jaren: We were all into Petty and all into the Zeppelin phase I'm sure. Guys like Neil Young and stuff like that. I'm more into anything by Dave Grohl or Jack White but we all kind of like that I guess. We grew up listening to a lot of old Hank Williams and Metallica. All the grunge stuff and then moved into the hippieland like Phish and all that stuff. So we're very out there and (pauses as his cell phone blares)...well hello!
Q: There is that southern feel to your music.
Jaren: Yeah I listened to a lot of country. Modern or I guess not modern but at the time stuff like Garth Brooks and Keith Whitley, a little bit of Waylon but more like Clint Black and that kind of stuff. That's kind of like where we get our southern sound from. I guess we all like Skynyrd a bit too.
Q: There isn't a whole lot of "true" country out there anymore.
Jaren: Yeah, there's just across the board not a whole lot of good sh*t out right now. It's pretty brutal.
Q: A lot of reviewers have called you country and then others rock. How would you describe it?
Jaren: Bad Mother F*cking Ass! We used to call it southern fried rock but I think now the record we made is more modern rock with a southern thing to it. I think we try to separate from everybody else by paying a lot of attention to the songs and spending a lot of time making sure that whether it was our choice or not all of them were really solid. Yeah, I don't know what we'd call it. It's just rock and roll. I like the bad mother f*cking ass. You can do that if you want.
Q: Do you have more singles coming off the album?
Jaren: Yeah. "Whiskey Walk" is on the charts right now. I'm not sure what the next one is going to be. It'll probably either be "Rewind" or "Angels". It'll definitely be one of the songs on the record. I have no idea. I know "Angels" is one of the videos that we've done so we'll see what happens.
Q: You've toured so much. Is there anywhere you like playing the most?
Jaren: Yeah we like the festivals. Lollapalooza in Chicago is a blast. We did Coachella which is b*tching. It's out in Palm Springs. Austin City Limits is a good town to play. You know what's kind of weird is that we all love New York City but we've only gone a few times. We played the Roseland Ballroom with the Pretenders. It was the second show of that tour. It was f*cking rad. It was like 3,000 people and taking it in your face!
Q: Do you prefer playing the larger venues?
Jaren: Yeah but you know I like those little sweaty ass everybody just slammed in there places too. It's just a lot of fun. We like it all man. We're just having a blast out there.
Q: Have you ever played here before?
Jaren: No, I don't think we have.
Ben: No, not Flint.
Jaren: The only thing I know about Flint is the Michael Moore movie. I guess he's from here.
Kelby: We've played in Ann Arbor, in Detroit.
Neil: Detroit a couple of times.
Jaren: Yeah Detroit. The Magic Stick or Bag or whatever. We played with that band J Roddy Walston and The Business. Straight up check that sh*t out! Also bad mother f*cking ass!
Q: Is there anyone you would like to tour with besides The Beatles of course?
Jaren: We'd like to go out with Petty. Definitely the Foo Fighters. That's our, you know, the one we want so bad but that's a hard one to get. I would love doing any one of Jack White's things.
Ben: Pearl Jam.
Jaren: Pearl Jam would be great. Stone Temple Pilots. We tried to get on some of their shows this year but haven't lucked out. I'd like to go out with the Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age; that type of stuff. The Eagles.
Q: You talked about going to Hawaii to record. How was that?
Jaren: How do you think it was? It was pretty rad. We had a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking, a lot of singing. There was this little surf house down by the beach. It was cool man. Bob's got a really cool like Asian style house up on this hill and you can see it from pretty much anywhere on the island. It's really laid back with a great view. Great studio and lots of great guitarists. We had a blast man. Learned how to surf.
Ben: Learned how to try to surf!
Jaren: Hey, I did alright! I rode that sumb*tch all the way in the first try! Didn't I?
Ben: I did not...I did not!
Jaren: Once you get over the shock of like oh I did it, I rode a surfboard. Once you're over that and you get to where it's getting shallower and shallower you're like do I get off now? What do I do?
Kelby: It's like when you're all the way out and then you turn around to try to get a wave and you stand up and you're going and you suddenly realize I'm in the middle of the ocean!
Ben: That's where I freaked out. I didn't freak out when I got closer to the beach. I freaked out the further out. It was like I should not be doing this!
Kelby: It's not like I'm that great of a swimmer.
Ben: I remember the guy who was teaching or whatever we were talking after we'd been out a couple of times that day and he was like "You gotta be careful out there because there are sharks out there." I'm like then why did you have us go out there?
Jaren: Yeah we go don't say that and he said well there are, it's just a part of life and I said it doesn't have to be! It was a rad trip though. It was fun.
Q: Do you have any Halloween plans?
Yeah we're playing tomorrow at Madison's Freak Fest so that'll be fun. We'll probably be driving all the rest of the day on Halloween. We're going home for a few days. Freak Fest we'll be playing with Ok Go and I don't even know who else.
Q: Are you a band who likes to get out and meet and greet the fans?
Jaren: Yeah we usually go out every night and have some drinks and hang out.
Q: This is a great venue for that!
Jaren: Yeah it's kind of funny because when we walked in here I kinda felt we were in a mix between a tattoo shop and a f*cking tire shop!
Kelby: Yeah. Now when you go in from the backstage area to the front they've got like a chain fence gate. Then there's everyone sitting quietly at the tables drinking!
Jaren: Have you seen the opening band The Hangers On?
Q: Yeah I believe they opened before Taddy Porter on one of their many shows here.
Jaren: Did Taddy headline last time they were in here?
Q: They opened for Finger Eleven.
Ben: I heard Taddy on the radio today. "Big Enough".
Jaren: I like that song.
Q: Flint loves Taddy. They're back here next week with Evans Blue. Maybe after you play here you'll start coming back every few weeks to the Machine Shop.
Jaren: Well damn it's pretty far from our house but if it's a good show we'll make it a frequent stop!
Q: What has been your strangest fan encounter?
Jaren: The other night in Cincinnatti we had a guy drive up from Atlanta for the show. He brought us two of these (holding up a couple of bottles of moonshine) and gave us a bunch of weed. He asked us if we wanted anything else and opened his car door and he had all this stuff like Vicodin, anything you could think of. We were like, it's cool man.
Ben: You didn't take any? I took some!
Ben: Yeah man!
Jaren: Want to split it? (the band dissolves into laughter again)
Kelby: We have a lot of great fans though. We had this one girl make us a thousand of these buttons with our band name on them. We've been giving them out ever since!
Q: Well guess it's time for you to get ready for the show.
Jaren: Time for some bad ass mother f*cking rock!
True to their words, American Bang went on to blow everyone's minds at the Machine Shop!