Coady Willis and Jared Warren have heard it a hundred thousand times before. Reviewing their debut album Head for the Shallow in 2005, one journalist dropped in a reference to "sludge metal" and a decade's worth of lazy descriptions followed. Even after Willis and Warren were recruited to serve as the rhythm section for heavy rock icons the Melvins. Even after they stretched their legs across five full-lengths, injecting psychedelia, punk, acid pop, thrash and glam into their steel-plated grooves. Even after they've added and deleted guitarists from the Big Business fold, opened for metal heroes Tool and Mastodon, and talked about the constricting classifications of their previous bands, Murder City Devils and Karp.
What Big Business hasn't stopped doing, however, is being unabashedly themselves. Skewering punk purity on songs like "Diagnostic Front" while posing for barbershop photos and scribbling nonsensical mission statements to promote 2016 album Command Your Weather. Writing, as Pitchfork said in its review of CYW, "hooks deserving of Cheap Trick, then deliver[ing] them with the strength of Boris and the playfulness of Ween." And laughing through a hundred inane interviews.
Luckily, Coady Willis did nothing of the sort on the phone with Orlando Weekly, thoughtfully chatting about the band's yesterday, today and tomorrow. "We've always wanted to be our own band," he says. "At the beginning of our career, when we were aligned with Hydra Head Records, we were the odd-duck band. We have some metal allegiances, but we're not metal enough for some metal people while not indie rock enough for garage rock people. Our challenge has always been where we fit in, but our answer has been to not worry about fitting in."
Willis says that will be reflected on new material he and Warren have spent the last few months working on: "We like to record and demo in our practice space, then take as much of that new stuff as we can out on tour to work on. Doing that before we go into the actual studio is a real time and money saver for us, but it also helps us to combat monotony on the road. We like to leave spots in the set open for improvisation."
Asked about whether his and Warren's decade spent recording and touring with the Melvins helped them better define the path of Big Business, Willis is quick to highlight the dexterity of a duo. "Big Business can do whatever we want. The only limitation is the two of us. We make the songs we want to make as a duo," he explains. "We've been around long enough that we've established ourselves and our way."
As proof of this concept, Willis points to Big Business' ability to tear through 30-minute opening sets for arena-ready bands like Tool and Mastodon and then pivot to more experimental small-club shows like the upcoming one at the Abbey. "We like to keep it as spontaneous as possible," Willis says. "There's no safety set when we play a show like that — it's just Jared and I chewing on riffs, putting sections in, taking songs to different places, and communicating on stage. Again, it keeps things from getting boring."
Contrary to popular belief, Big Business believes in that meaning, too. They're planning to play the metal-heavy Psycho Las Vegas festival in August, coupled with other far-flung TBA fests to get the band in front of new audiences. But at this point, Willis says Big Business will never change for anyone's sake other than their own, referencing the famous quote from Lemmy Kilmister of Mötorhead: "Chuck Berry never changed. Little Richard never changed. I'd rather be like that and stick to a formula we're happy with."
"That makes sense to us," Willis says. "While you can't be judgmental about a band going for it, and you can't tell anybody what to do with their talent, we know we're not writing for a certain demographic. We care about making good music and writing good songs, but we write what we want to write. Guessing what people might like is an exercise in futility."