If you’ve never heard of Big Mother Gig, that might be because they’ve been on hiatus since the 90’s, and your parents didn’t listen to good music. (Sorry, kids.) It’s been twenty years since Milwaukee’s alternative/pop-rock/punk collective – now comprised of Richard Jankovich, Riz Rashid, Matt Deede, and Brady Roehl – released a song, but they’ve been working on some new material. And we’re so, so proud to be the ones to exclusively premiere their first brand new track in two decades, a song called “Alvarado”.
We’re hooked from the very first cords, as Big Mother Gig does what they do best and leads us into a song that feels – instrumentally – like the rock soundtrack to an adventure flick with a pop flare. Frantic and yet somehow soothing even before the vocals kick in, we’ve already got “Alvarado” on our frequent playlist. Well-thought-out, highly educated lyrics like “your grit turned to wit / your wit turned to folly / you embraced melancholy” are intricately woven into the melody, and have our ears begging for more.
We were lucky enough to shoot some questions their way, in honor of this energy-packed release.
What’s your origin story?
I (Richard) formed the band with a few fellow Marquette students in 1992. Like most bands, we went through a few iterations and things really started to coalesce when Riz joined in late 1993. It was the Bill Clinton years so we were hopeful but there was also a lot of turmoil – Jeffrey Dahmer lived literally blocks away from campus, the LA riots, etc. I was in college but discovered that playing music and drinking beer was a more enjoyable way to spend my time. By 1994, I had graduated with no career prospects. I worked odd-jobs and focused most of my energy on the band. Brady and Matt both came on-board in 1995 as we became more established but life for Big Mother Gig began in dorm rooms playing along to Ramones records. When Nirvana happened, suddenly it seemed like a dream worth shooting for.
You had a run from ’92 to ’96. Why come back now?
A few things came together at once. 4 years ago, I had a nostalgic desire to document those years of my life so I began writing a book. I reached out to these guys and everyone from the scene and interviewed them, trying to recreate the story. I felt and still feel that the story of our band (and those like it) is one that doesn’t get told often. The story that is most musicians experience – you give it your all but it doesn’t happen so you grow up and move on. I think Matt was the first one who suggested a reunion. At first, I was resistant but then I was driving around LA and observing how some people seem to be trying a little too hard to be different. I wrote “Alvarado” and it just felt like a Big Mother Gig song. A little piss-take on hipster mentality. The book is now on hold as we see how this reunion bares out. It’s all becoming a part of the story, now in our second act.
What are some of the earliest records you remember listening to? Who introduced them to you?
I grew up listening to my parents’ country western records and my brother’s classic rock albums. In 7th or 8th grade, I was exposed to scary weird bands like Sex Pistols and U2 and everything changed. I spent a lot of time in high school listening to albums by The Replacements, The Descendents, Husker Du, The Church, R.E.M. and more. I especially loved the indie sound coming from the midwest. We’d trade cassettes with each other, swapping a Cure single set for a collection of SoCal Hardcore. It was how we all learned about new sounds and found the stuff we liked the best.
What was the recording process like, putting together a new EP, 20 years later?
It was really unique, I have to say. The last time we were in a studio together, it was a shambolic affair. We were young and out of control, often showing up too drunk to play or forgetting to show up at all. This time, we’re 20 years older and a bit more mature. We recorded in 3 different studios since we are all spread out over the globe. First, I made templates of each song in my home studio in LA. Then, Brady and Matt convened in Milwaukee to lay down the bass and drum parts. We took the rhythm tracks and I cut proper vocals and rhythm guitars in LA. We sent it off to Malaysia where Riz lives. He did his thing and sent it back to me in LA where we mixed it. Even though there was never a time when we were all in a room together, we communicated constantly during the process so it felt like we were together.
Having lived separate lives, what sort of creative influences have had an impact on your new work together?
I far away from the Big Mother Gig sound when we broke up. I replaced raucous rock and roll with brainy indie electronica and that was my thing for 10 and 15 years. So coming back was a bit like getting back to your roots. For the influences, I wanted to get us back to that original sound as much as possible because it would have been cliche to record some kind of mature version of us. I started re-listening to a lot of Pegboy, Figdish, Bash N Pop and all the post-Replacements solo work, Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, etc. Basically, the soundtrack from 1992 to 1996 that was in our car stereos and boomboxes back then.
What’s going through your head, inching closer to your EP release?
I am curious as to whether people will be able to understand and appreciate our music. The music business is driven by new and young artists. We’re in our 40s, we have kids and careers. So I hope people give us a shot. I’m sure a lot of people will be wondering “why are they doing this?” But I run a music promotion company so I listen to a lot of new bands and I hear them doing their version of this sound which is exciting. I hope they don’t mind sharing the space with us elders.
Is there a particular frame of mind that best connects with your music?
I would say that angst is where our music came from and it is probably where it belongs. When we started, we were angry at the world. Fiercely political, hating the boomers, proud of Gen X. It’s a bit different now, of course. I’m not as angry as I used to be. That said, this music has energy and grit. Maybe it’s good for exercising. Honestly, I turn it up loud and drive around. It feels exhilarating and I feel young.
You’ll have a single and an EP coming out. Why stop there?
The logistics of keeping this band going are problematic. We all have families and careers. Riz lives in Malaysia. If there are opportunities and reasons to keep it going, who knows? Only time will tell.
Any special memories together that get revived when coming together to collaborate again?
The memories are really what drove this entire process. They are all over this experience. The bar brawl we started in rural Wisconsin. The late night jam sessions with members of the Milwaukee scene. The bonds that we formed overnight which turned into spite when we broke up. The years in between and the eventual reconciliation. I love these guys and I’ve missed them, even when I didn’t realize it.
Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Stay tuned. There’s more new coming 🙂