There’s a plethora of indie, alternative music that seems to be everywhere you turn these days. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as what’s popular on any given day is always cyclical.
Meanwhile, the heavy riffs of guitar-laden rock-n-roll is letting you know that it’s still lurking in the shadows, waiting to course through your very soul.
Forgive the pun, but this music to my ears. As someone weaned on the heaviness of Iron Butterfly, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, et. al., the resurgence of crushing riffs brings a smile to my face.
Columbus’ Bava Choco is embracing that heavier sound, not too worried if there are those that don’t particularly like their style.
“If you’re going out to see a pop rock show,” said Eric French (guitar), “we may not be what you’re wanting to see that day.”
Comprised of Patrick Baracus (vocals), French (guitar), Corey Gillen (drums) and Mike Lovins (bass), have taken elements of the stoner rock/Palm Desert scene of the 90’s, sprinkled-in some of the best heavy bands from the 70’s and added a dash of Orange Goblin to the mix.
“Here’s the description I gave on the Comfest application,” French stated, when asked to describe their sound. “It said ‘Describe your band in three words.’ And I said, conceptual stoner rock.”
“The record (Death Ride) is a concept record,” added Baracus. “The Ep’s are going to be in three sections following the same story. So, it’s like a (Quentin) Tarantino movie. We’re writing a trilogy that follows a character and the parallel stories that surround that character.”
They formed in February 2015, with all members having played in other bands previously. With no self-imposed rush to make their mark, they wrote music and honed their sound, not playing their debut show until May 2016.
“I had four or five songs written,” said French. “I met Mike Lovins when he came here (GBS Records) to do some session work. I’ve played with Corey forever. And, I’ve either played or recorded with Patrick for a good long while. So, I had four or five hard rock songs, a little bit heavier than I usually play. I kind of specifically wrote them for these guys to play.
“Some of it was like… I was making up most of the riffs, but I was in new territory, too. Harder rock wasn’t always my thing. But, I really wanted to be in a band where there was only one guitar. So, I got into 70’s hard rock like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath… I mean, I’ve always like those bands. Lovins came over and played some stuff. I was like ‘Man, this dude knows what’s up’,” he finished with a smile.
The debut EP of their trilogy, “Death Ride”, was released in January. Recorded in French’s recording studio, the album was produced/engineered by French and Tom Boyer. Lovins joined French in mixing and mastering the EP.
“I wish you could see a writing session,” French said, pointing at Baracus. “I’ve never seen a lyricist that could write like Patrick. We’ll be like ‘Hey man, we need a third verse’, and he’ll just pull a pen out, and in literally one minute, he’s like ‘Okay, let’s play it.’
“They’re (lyrics) just parts of the song,” Baracus humbly added. “The way they come up with parts is way quicker than when I write lyrics. It’s more important for me that the words that I write fit into the song. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel; I just want the words to sound good with the songs they’re playing.”
“If we’re jamming on something,” continued French, “and Patrick isn’t coming up with anything, we’re like ‘Alright, this song just isn’t going to work’,” eliciting a laugh from the rest of the band.
Tracking for the second installment of the trilogy is slated to begin in late-April. They already have most of the EP written, with some guitar parts still needing to be zeroed-in on, per French.
They are realistic about what they hope to achieve with the band, with the bottom line being that they want to make good music, while not worrying about getting a record deal.
“Conceptually, that was part of the idea behind the group to begin with,” said Gillen. “We’re all older and we work jobs, but we’ve played music all our lives. We’re not living the ‘hard rock’ lifestyle. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t write song within that realm.”
French expanded on this thought. “When I was younger, I had this idea of making my career through the songs I write. After a while, it just kind of hit me. What made it for me, is just playing music in the basement with these guys. We play a show every couple of months, but this is what I look forward to all week.”
They’ve benefitted from playing on bills with some well-established bands, Earwig first and foremost among them.
“We’ve gotten to play some pretty well-attended shows already,” said Baracus. “I mean, we’ve only played five shows.”
“Obviously, I want people to hear it, get into it and enjoy it,” added French. “Nobody has said to me, yet, ‘Yeah, I don’t really like it.'”
Although not saddled with the pressure to secure a big record contract, they readily admit that if a label came calling, they would sit up and listen.
“If opportunities present themselves,” Lovins said, “then that’s awesome. At this stage, where we’re at in our lives, that twenty-something dream of making it big and getting that (record) deal, isn’t the driving force behind what we do.”
“I almost feel that by saying that,” said French, “It’s not that I’m not passionate about it. What I’ve found is that music is what I do. I don’t need, at this point, the validation of a big record contract.”
That freedom comes from the life experiences each member of Bava Choco has gone through. They feel as though they are in a very good place, musically. Really enjoying what they do together is icing on the rock-n-roll cake for these guys.
“Honestly, this is that hardest I’ve ever worked in a band,” said Baracus. “We’ve eliminated the pretense… I mean, we worked for a year and a half on these songs before they were even played out (in front of an audience). It’s the most intense and ‘into’ playing songs that I’ve ever been in the fifteen, twenty years that I’ve been playing music.
“I think this (band) has got the best craftsmanship of any music I’ve ever been a part of.”
They play their next show on April 14 at Rumba Café in Columbus.