With titles such as "Zombie Girl," "Call Me Frankenstein," "Your Favorite Ghost," and "Drinking With a Robot," it almost seems as if Bad Jacket's songs are more like scripts for Netflix or AMC horror dramas than rock songs.
But the Pacifica, California alternate-rock band does rock-up its quirky, cinematic lyrics, and the complete aural-cerebral-psychedelic experience is showcased on its new album, Back Again [Bad Banquet].
"I like to take the storyteller approach to most of my songs," says guitarist Rod Gilchrist. "That's probably why I always write too many lyrics."
All of the songs on Back Again were written by Gilchrist and guitarist Jon Plutte—typically with each composer bringing music and lyrics and presenting a fleshed-out composition to the band to develop arrangements and musical elements.
"Everyone gets involved with the construction of every tune," explains Gilchrist. "Nothing is off the table or sacrosanct. Every one of our songs has been improved by the band members in some way or another. Each member develops his own parts, and we all help those parts to improve even more. If a song is weak, we try to improve it. If it can't be saved—well, that's life."
Back Again—its grooves powered by the propulsive and versatile rhythm section of bassist Bill Oaks and drummer Jon Christ—was produced by Guitar Player Editor in Chief Michael Molenda and engineered by Sami Perez (of The Shes) at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco. The tracks were recorded old-school style with the band laying down basic tracks live, and everything routed through a vintage mixer to an analog 24-track deck.
"For 'Let's Go!,' I wanted to write a psychedelic song with the edge of the Who to celebrate the Summer of Love," says Plutte. "It's all about trying to regain the innocence of a relationship that got too complicated over time. It ends with a big crescendo that hopefully evokes the Beatles of a more innocent—and probably drug-laden—time."
Plutte's guitar rig for the song included a Reverend Double Agent OG 20 Anniversary model, Fender American Stratocaster, Musicvox electric 12-string, TC Electronic Stereo Chorus+Pitch Modulator & Flanger, TC Electronic Flashback, BOSS TR-2 Tremolo, BOSS SD-1 Overdrive, Electro-Harmonix Neo Mistress, Cry Baby Mini Wah, Ernie Ball VP Jr. volume pedal, Danelectro Reverse Delay, and a Vox AC15. Gilchrist—who says he lives a "simple guitar life"—brought his Fender American Deluxe Telecaster, a California Guitars T-style, Fulltone OCD, and Vox AC15 to the album sessions.
"I dislike a lot of bottom end on guitar tones, because I try not to fill up everything with guitars," says Plutte. "I want guitar parts that fit together, but that also leave space for the vocals, bass, drums, and whatever overdubs we've explored. I think of Rod's Tele as bright and bark-y, and my Strat or Reverend as rich—I typically use the neck pickup—but not huge or too bassy."
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"'Let's Go!' was probably the first song where Rod and I figured out we had very complementary styles," continues Plutte. "He approaches his guitar parts simply, but he is a very strong rhythm player. I like to think I play more like a filmmaker who looks for atmospheres and emotional constructs. It was also interesting how organically our guitar parts worked out. I had the intro riff to 'Let's Go!', and I felt it sounded very Who-like, but I didn't mention that to Rod. When we developed the song further in his living room, he immediately started playing like Pete Townshend. He just went there naturally. Now, I certainly don't think 'Let's Go!' sounds like the Who, but it does sound like how Bad Jacket would interpret the Who."