Self-described ‘southern-fried guitar rockers’ American Bang are poised to take over the country with their high-energy live shows and hard-stomping beats. You’ve probably already heard their music just channel surfing or caught them at any number of national music festivals.
The Nashville quartet (Jaren Johnston on vocals and guitar, Ben Brown on guitar, Kelby Ray on bass and Neil Mason on drums) just started a 4-week tour with The Pretenders – TWRY staffer Laura caught their first show in Albany, NY after the band drove 30+ hours in a snow storm to get there. Lead singer Jaren Johnston took time out from the tour to answer some questions for TWRY.
Interviewed by: Laura DiBetta | February 2009
For our readers who don’t know you, describe when and how American Bang formed.
Well we all grew up together in Nashville, Tennessee. We were all back in town after each of our other bands had broken up and I started writing all these rock tunes. Neil and I decided to try and get a band going and started playing some shows around town. Brown and I were sort of living together at the time (actually, our girlfriends lived together, and we were crashing with them). Long story short, we ended up asking Kelby if he wanted to join and “Bang” was born.
Your sound has been compared to The Black Crowes, Kings of Leon and Georgia Satellites, but how would *you* describe your sound?
Well, I always say “southern fried garage rock” when asked what we sound like. I honestly didn’t listen to a lot of the Crowes stuff (except for the radio singles) when I was growing up. I always liked his voice and vibe but never got into their records. I was more into bands like the Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth, Dinosour JR. and Jawbreaker when I was younger, then started getting into The Stones, Kinks, Zep, Ramjam, Petty and Skynyrd in high school. I think all those bands together kind of explain where I get my writing vibe from. As far as comparisons go, I’m flattered that people put our name in the same sentence as the ones you mentioned.
We hear you have a new album coming out. Can you give us any hints of what to expect?
Well for one thing, we are a heavy touring band with strong southern roots. There aren’t a lot of those around anymore! Some bands just wanna get to the top as fast they can and don’t realize that that shit don’t get ya very far. We are willing to put in the elbow grease because we all feel as though this is what we were put here for. Hell, we really ain’t good at anything else!!! As far as what to expect from our record, all I can say is, grab your balls head for the hills and hide! Here comes the fuckin’ rock monster!!
What’s a typical writing session like for the band? Is everyone involved?
Usually, I write by myself or with Neil, then we bring it to the band and we glue that shit together with a little whiskey and good times.
Sessions in general for us are more of a party where we drink a bit, fight for a while, hug it out, then do it again. That’s the way it goes when you have been playing and hanging with the same for dudes for most of your life.
You started a 4-week tour with The Pretenders just last week. What’s it like touring with rock legends? What’s been the audience reaction to American Bang so far?
Jaren: Yeah, we just started this tour with The Pretenders and so far it has been killer. They have been really cool to us and we are having the time of our lives. It’s cool to play for their crowd in these historic theaters all across America. We’ve sold more merch on this than I think we ever had, so I guess the audiences are diggin’ us.
You’ve also played with everyone from 3 Doors Down and Switchfoot to ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Do you have a favorite?
We’ve been really lucky on the touring side, getting so many great opportunities to open for some of the biggest bands in the world. I think my favorite tour so far was the ZZ Top summer tour last year. It was just wild to hang with Billy and the guys, we learned a lot on that tour. However, this Pretenders run is really going great, so maybe it will take the top spot. let ya know in 2 months!
The band has found its way into living rooms everywhere with “Move to the Music” selected to be the theme song to WWE’s Great American Bash 2008 and featured in a Verizon commercial, and a live performance on the season finale of ABC Family’s “Greek.” You and Ben can also be found in Guitar Hero – World Tour giving a guitar lesson. How has this kind of exposure helped the band?
“Move to the Music” got a lot more attention then we ever thought it would. It has really opened a lot of doors for us.. When ever I start that song on tour, we always notice people looking around in the audience saying “oh this is them, I love this song”.
You’ve played at some big music festivals like *Bonnaroo*, Lollapalooza and Summerfest. What is the vibe like at shows like that versus at a small club?
The festivals rule!!! Coachella was absolutely crazy, we got hang with so many of the bands we listen to everyday. We even got to talk to Steven Tyler for a bit. The festivals are so fun cause the vibe is like the old hippie mentality, a real “anything goes” type feeling. We always have a blast.
What are you currently listening to that you can’t get enough of?
I’ve been listing to The National as well as our friend Kyle Andrews new record. It’s called “Real Blasty”, and I think it’s brilliant. Neil played drums on it as well.
Also digging the new AC/DC record. We listen it every night before we go on.
Last year you risked bodily harm to defend King’s of Leon lead signer and fellow Tennessean Caleb Followill from an “over-eager-bouncer-at-closing-time.” What was that about?
Ugh… The Kings are drinkin’ buds of ours, and after a show one night we all went to some bar in Nashville. The bouncers were getting pushy with us and our ladies, and were drunk and mad. The owner grabbed Caleb and I hit the guy. That’s about it. They put that shit in the paper and made a big deal about it. My dad was pissed.
After the tour with The Pretenders wraps up, what’s next for the band?
After this tour ends in mid March, we head home and go directly in the studio to finish the record. So if we can get off the road for a second and finish it, that would be good!
Where can our readers get your music? Is there anything you’d like “They Will Rock You” readers to know, any parting words to the fans?
As of now we have our EP on sale at iTunes for 4 bucks. It’s called “Move to the Music.” Thanks for talkin’ with me, Peace, love, soul and ROCK AND ROLL!!