5 (or more) questions with The Budos Band

The Budos Band returns to The Grey Eagle for a Halloween show. Photo by Justin Borucki

On its first three records, Brooklyn’s nine-member Budos Band has teased soul, funk and Afrobeat into its sweltering instrumental music, which slotted perfectly with similar-minded bands on the vaunted Daptone Records. But on its fourth and newest record, Burnt Offering, The Budos Band gets heavy, alchemizing ’70s psychedelic rock and proto-metal into its unique, horn-driven sound.

Mountain Xpress: So Burnt Offering is not Budos Band IV, for sure. What changed for the band in the time between Budos Band III and Burnt Offering?

Jared Tankel, saxophone: You know, we finally sort of figured out how to make a record of the music that we actually listen to. As a band, we listen to hard rock and heavy stuff and psychedelic stuff from the ’70s. We listen to that way more, in fact, than Afrobeat, soul [and] funk, and so while those genres continue to be important to us and play a big role in our writing and everything, we really wanted to make a record that incorporated the hard rock and psychedelic rock of the ’70s into our sound more. I think we finally figured out how to do that, in a certain way. I definitely don’t think you could consider us a metal band or a rock band — maybe trending toward a rock band, but certainly not a traditional one. But I think that being said, we’ve learned how to incorporate those genres into the band in our own way.

And I think you can hear the beginnings of that on Budos Band III, especially on a cut like “Black Venom.”
We had that in mind on a few of the tracks on Budos III. But it was really just the beginning of that. And on Burnt Offering, maybe, we’re able to really get a lot closer to it — both in the writing but also in the way that the album sounds, how it’s engineered and how it’s mixed.

So how did it click this time around? How did you turn that corner, creatively?
It was just time, and a lot of work at rehearsals and writing. I mean, it’s been four years since Budos III, so we’ve taken some time to really work on writing. I think it was just a matter of trial and error and time. We probably wrote more than 20 songs in the process of writing Burnt Offering, and the album only has 10 songs on it, but we wrote that many to sort of figure out how we were going to get to where we are. It was just a really great collective project that we all contributed to on some level and were able work together on crafting and figuring out what made sense.

And Budos Band has kind of always been the heavy Daptone band, anyway.
Right, right. [laughs] I think that’s something that we’ve had for a while. But for us, purely for ourselves and not even sort of worrying about some of the other bands on the label, it was important for us to get to this level and even further sort of push the envelope.

Given that shift in sound, was Burnt Offering a more difficult record to write?
Definitely. It was definitely a challenge for us, but we made a really conscious effort to challenge ourselves. We could have cranked out a Budos IV quickly and easily, but we would not have been satisfied with it, and it just would have sounded like more of the same. Which would be fine, but we wouldn’t have been happy with it.

How difficult was it, particularly for you guys in the horn section, to make the move into hard rock? I can see how for guitar, bass and drums that transition’s not that difficult, but for a horn section, playing something that leans toward metal has to be a bit trickier.
Yeah, for sure. It took a different approach to writing horn lines, you know? Whereas in the past it was more of, like, writing Afrobeat lines or funk lines or something like an Ethiopian jazz head or whatever, this time we wanted to match the style that the band was going in. So rather than look to bands that have horn sections and use that as inspiration, we were looking to vocalists. Melodically, that was really where we got inspiration — rock singers. We were thinking, “What would Ozzy Osbourne sing over this track?”

And it still feels like it captures the energy of a live Budos Band set, which I think has been a hallmark for the band. How integral is capturing that live energy to the success of a Budos Band record?
Oh, that’s very central. And we’ve felt in the past that our records — I think there are sort of two competing ideas there. Budos I, II and III, they were cut literally in a weekend. We came in with all these songs just ready to go, and cut them. And you can pick up on that energy and that freshness in those records. But the flip side is that we’ve always thought the records don’t really fully capture the intensity of the energy of the shows, just how they sound, you know? They sound great, but they sound clean. And so something that we wanted to do on this album was to focus more on capturing the rawness of the live show. So the drums are a little heavier on this one, there are more effects on the guitar and things like that. We just wanted to make a little noisier of a record this time around.

Budos IV: Thom Brenneck discovers fuzz pedals!
Yeah! Right! [laughs]

As this show falls on Halloween, will be doing anything special? There’s a wizard on the cover of the record — should we expect wizard costumes?
We’re making our plans. We haven’t finalized our plans, but, yeah, it definitely will not be a normal show. Something special will occur.

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About Patrick Wall
Patrick Wall lives and writes in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is carbon-based.

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