The Absolute. Sounds plain and simple yes? Not so much when it comes to Badass Band 57, they are a far cry from plain and simple. This band has mastered the ability to tell amazing stories through their music and put on a show that will bring you emotionally to your knees. They are truly a diamond in the rough.
I first saw The Absolute a of couple years and minus a couple of members ago. I remember being insanely impressed by them and then they kind of seemed to go into hibernation mode, and I was left wondering if they were still around. After a bit, close to about eight months ago, they popped up on a bill for a show I was already going to see, actually the one where I interviewed Pink Fuzzy Animals. I was so stoked to see them again, and they didn’t disappoint. All I could think at the time was, “HELL YES, they are still around and as awesome as ever!” This is a band that truly, truly puts on a show. No offense to other bands, many bands put on great shows, but these guys, well, maybe I should use another word for it. These guys don’t just put on a show, they create an experience, and not via props or crazy lights or gimmicks, via passion and the unique journey they decide to use to bond with the audience through music each night. I have never seen this band do the same set, they (as you will read in the interview) pride themselves on putting on an entirely new show every night they play, and they succeed.
Now, normally this is where I would discuss maybe a couple songs, their messages, the guitar riffs, rhythms and whatnot. Honestly, with The Absolute, there is no way I could describe their tunes that would do them justice. Melodies and lyrics are all over the map, they are elegant, honest, dramatic, and forceful. If I really had to pick some personal stand outs, it would be ‘Luck Be My Savior’, ‘Mean Machines’ and from their older EP, ‘Carry Me Home’, ‘God Rest My Mind’ and ‘Glass‘em’.
The band is comprised of Philip Ross- Vocals/Guitar, Anthony Lopez- Drums, Ashton Likes- Guitar, Ryan Driscoll- Bass and Michael Pozzi- Guitar. Each of these guys actually plays a handful of instruments, which only adds to their appeal and range. They’ve been actively releasing a single a month so the masses can constantly get their fix of this radical band.
It’s time to let you lovely music fiends read about these gents and get to know them via their own words. So, read on to find out what a kiln has to do with songwriting, the role nudity plays in their shows, and get the abridged version of the band’s odyssey.
*Cool side note– The photos you see above, were taken right after this interview. The guys of The Absolute were kind enough to let your very own Music Fiend throw flour at them in the sake of art. Photos courtesy of Katie Hogan.
When and why did each of you start playing music?
Ryan– It was sixth grade when I started playing guitar, that was like ’97. I didn’t really like it, I was really into bass players, so a couple years later I picked up a bass, in about 2000. I always just had a knack for the rhythm section. Geddy Lee- inspired me, I listened to a lot of punk rock back then, it was the fast, quick, technical bass lines that really drew me in.
Anthony– I remember as a little kid that my brother and I would sit around with my dad and we would play acoustic guitar and sing old Beatles songs, even songs like Old McDonald. We would sit there and play with him. What drew me into drums was really when my brother wanted to join jazz band, and at the time I was playing guitar. So he got a drum set, and I got a guitar. Well, he became better at guitar than I was and I became better at drums. I was listening to Led Zeppelin and one of my friends was showing me ‘Stairway to Heaven’, we were in sixth grade, and we thought it was the most amazing song ever written. Well, there’s this fill at the end, right when JOHN BONHAM goes into….well, there’s this insane drum solo and I dedicated myself to learning that part. Ever since then I knew I needed to play this instrument.
Michael– It sounds so cliché, but I picked up a guitar at eight and it was because of Led Zeppelin also. My dad actually put on the ‘House to the Holy’ vinyl and like the first three songs, ‘The Song Remains the Same’, ‘Rain Song’, and ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, just blew me away. I was eight years old and I was like, “Dad what IS that?” He showed me his whole vinyl collection after that.
Phillip– I was eight or nine and I was away at Jewish summer camp, and one of my bunk mates was this really mood kid who wore flannels under like ripped jeans, even though it was super hot. He was really into Nirvana and I don’t know why but for some reason I thought he was interesting and I got into Nirvana. I really just got into music that told a really big, ridiculous story. Then that moved into my obsession with David Bowie and so on. I went to guitar because it was the quickest and easiest way to play and accompany a melody and lyrics.
Ashton– Pretty much same thing. As a kid growing up, my dad always played records at home. Growing up I was more into listening to music and then I think middle school there was a band, some guys a couple years older than me that played, and they didn’t have a bass player. Well, we lived in a small town, so there were very few musicians, like three. I knew my dad had a bass in the house so I decided to learn bass so I could be in their band. So I learned to play bass, and someone else also decided to learn to play bass and got into their band. But I thought it was fun, I had already been playing drums and stuff. I had been playing drums in another band for a few years with my buddy. I always played guitar too, and did some singer/songwriter type stuff. I had no intention of being in a rock band like I am now, or playing electric guitar in a rock band like I am now but god its fun! It’s so much fun.
How did you all meet?
P– It’s like an odyssey of sorts, collecting characters along the way. I played around in college in different groups. I met Anthony while I was doing some like singer for hire work, and writing for hire work. He was in a band that was in search of a singer. I ended up joining on with that. Then that quickly fell apart because of personalities and maturity levels and stuff. But Anthony is a fantastic drummer and I kind of brought him along. We worked out a couple different scenarios with a couple of different musicians in LA. I brought him down from up North. Well, then we needed a bass player and I have known Ryan since I was really young, we grew up in the same town. It was finally a good opportunity to work with Ryan so we brought him in. I knew Ashton through mutual friends kind of anticipated his arrival. We had done the three-piece thing for a bit and it was like, ‘Eh this is cool.’ But I always wanted to make it bigger and Ashton was the obvious decision. At first we were going to make him play keys, which was a new instrument all together for him. But we knew he played guitar so we just went with that, even though he is playing some keys again now. So we progressed at that level, but I had been wanting to have a little time off from having to play guitar and sing, so we linked up with Mike. I stepped off the guitar a bit and Mike took over. He brings kind of a blues background on lead guitar.
R– That’s the abridged version for sure.
P– You can find it on Craigslist, I’ll be posting the full manuscript for those you want to see. After we are tour seasoned there will be a short epic novel, or epic poem about this odyssey.
Why the name The Absolute? And did you know there is another band called The Absolute from the UK?
Ashton– We will have to kill them.
P– We have Interpol all over that shit. Originally it was Francis and the Absolute. But that became too hard to explain. It was a fictional character, following this concept of an odyssey. The first band, every album was a concept album. It was meant to be an opera of sorts. So it was like Francis’ absolute adventures. But it got way too pretentious and hard to explain. Everyone would ask, ‘Who’s Francis’ and we would say, ‘Oh Francis is a state of mind.’ Pfft. Some people got it, and some didn’t. Most people thought, ‘What douchebags.’ So we dropped Francis and just went with The Absolute. Which is whatever you really want it to be. Feels good going down.
Describe your show visually and musically for those who have never been.
R– There is a lot of nudity up there. A lot of hard bodies. You should come check it out.
P– It’s like a spinning roundhouse kick to the side of the face. We love to play with dynamics, loud, quiet loud, that kind of stuff. Its definitely high intensity.
R– There’s a lot of passion. Personally, the record process is fun but I think we all agree that playing live is our bread and butter. What we like to do a lot.
P– We have been predominately a live band for the duration of this group. We have the ability to release records here with our setup in Little Armenia. We plan to keep releasing monthly to keep The Absolute fresh on people’s mind. Constant content rather than a six or eight song EP. We are constantly writing new stuff and when you do an EP it seems like so long ago, things get backlogged. We are releasing some from earlier sessions that we’ve started.
M– What you do see is a lot of hard bodies, sex; people just start having sex in the audience. It’s when Ryan drops those heavy bass lines.
P– We have this rig that rips his t-shirts off.
Ashton– You see a lot of charisma, more so than I have seen in other bands. We get pretty passionate. When you are on stage playing you’re kind of letting off your steam. I feel like our music, just because its dramatic, has a lot of movement to it naturally. Its easy for us to get lost in that while we are playing.
P– The set list is super important.
Ashton– We get in fist fights over the set list.
P– The story has to connect. It works because the collection of these stories, these groups of songs, you can mix and match to kind of choose your own adventure. There are some that can’t be randomly thrown in there.
M– Our range of music style and even mood of songs, we have very fast aggressive rock songs, and very slow almost subtle songs that build and kind of get crazy, so it is very much a journey. We are not the type of band that will play 10 very fast, this is what we sound like songs.
Ashton– Yeah we are always, ‘What the fuck are they playing now?!’
Anthony– We explore feeling, every aspect of human emotion. It’s always a different show.
How does your creative process typically work?
P– For the most part the songs are out there and it’s a matter of channeling them. They want to be written. It starts with acoustic part and a melody and it tells my hands where the next chord should be. From there, you start molding it and shaping it down and then you’ve got the loose kind of outline of what the songs going to be. Then I take it to the lab, that’s what we are calling this space by the way guys.
R– Its like ceramics class, you throw something on the wheel, you’re shaping it and then you take it off, you glaze it and then you fire that shit in the kiln. Maybe we should call our space the kiln.
P– Scratch that, I like the kiln. So in the kiln it starts getting its features. Sometimes I’ll come in and its already shaped but it will get totally reworked into something entirely different.
Ashton– Sometimes it will come off and sometimes it doesn’t. Like a month later we will think, ‘That was cool.’ And then totally rework it.
P– It’s all parts and movement. We will come up with something that will work for a bit, but eventually it may fall to the wayside. Like clay, its essentially reusable. Sometimes another song will come from that.
Anthony– It’s all already out there, its just a matter of capturing it.
P– Lyrics always come last. That is the details. Lyrics physically or phonically tell the story. The lyrics write themselves, sometimes they take a while to tell their story.
Ashton– That’s what I love most about Phil’s songwriting process. He lets us develop the melodies for a while, then he will come in and say, ‘ Okay, THIS is what the song is about.’
Anthony– Phil is a brilliant lyricist. They are like poetry and the subjects he touches on are immensely human. It’s an amazing talent that somehow we get to work with this being.
What has been the biggest challenge for you guys so far?
P– I would say just organizing schedules. We all love doing this and are passionate about doing it, all money the band makes goes back to the band. That’s all totally fine but I gotta put kibble in my dog’s bowl.
M– Getting five people to agree, which goes along with what Phil was saying. Getting five people to agree on anything is really difficult, especially with time constraints. All of us are all very different people in our every day lives, which takes organization. We all have very different backgrounds which gives us such unique charisma and sound.
Ashton– We all have day jobs and some hours are off or far away. When we actually get together it works, but its difficult. We figure it out and when we do get together it all works out and pays off.
Anthony– We are getting better at it. We are all here right now which is good.
Ashton– We did it guys!!
If your band had a slogan what would it be?
P– Si Se Puede! Next question.
How did you guys meet Scott and Todd from Repro-Ductions?
Anthony– Through 100 Monkeys, and Jay.
P– I met them with Anthony with the original group. I was still kind of lending out my services as a singer/guitar player. That turned into playing with 100 Monkeys at 24k, and we became friends. They invited us out one night and kept us around as a mainstay at 24k until they got booted from the club. Jerad from 100 Monkeys has been trying to start that regular thing up again, so we have been working with him. Anthony– We’re trying to get a regular thing going at the Piano Bar.
P– So yeah, we met Scott through them and then Todd through Scott, those guys are incredible.
Anthony– They’re very talented guys. Two other people we are very fortunate to be in touch with. Those guys are making something out of themselves, its inspiring.
One song you never get tired of.
R– ‘Whipping Post’- Allman Brothers.
Anthony– ‘Reckoner’- Radiohead
M– ‘Dreams’- Roy Orbison
P– ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’- Bob Dylan, or ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’- Sufjan Stevens
Ashton– ‘Crawling Back to You’- Tom Petty
Best live show you have ever gone to?
Anthony– Sigur Ros hands down. It was in Berkeley, outdoors, 90% chance of rain, it didn’t start raining until the last song, at the climax of the song it started pouring and right as it ended it stopped raining. It was beautiful.
R– The first time I saw Andrew WK at The Palace (Now it’s the Avalon). That shit blew my mind, I was a sophomore in HS and it was the craziest show I have ever been to. People were just bum rushing the stage. He was dancing with people and it was just nuts. I couldn’t believe it. There is that, but then there is also like, My Morning Jacket at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Kind of different degrees of life.
P– Lit because that was the first concert I ever crowd surfed at. After I got my first taste I could not stop, that’s all I did. I heard like, one song of theirs that night. I was just focused on riding the wave as much as I could and I did. I was 14, light and easy to toss around. I even lost both my Sketchers that night. The Pixies at The Palladium was pretty fun too, I am a huge Pixies fan.
M– My Morning Jacket. I saw them at a place in Boston probably the size of The Dragonfly. They are the most energetic live band. I have never seen a band so energetic live, I was right in front of the stage and was just blown away. I have seen them 5 or 6 times. Wilco is probably another one. I saw them at a huge field in Vermont and it was like the most perfect way to see them. Oh, and Grizzly Bear opening for Radiohead wasn’t too bad.
Ashton– Mine would have to be just a couple weeks ago, I saw Damien Rice at The Hotel Café. I have loved him for about 10 years. The first time I saw him, when he was touring off ‘O’ was like either years ago and that show was incredible. It was a small show in Colorado, there were about 30 people there and he played for like 3 hours. Nobody knew who he was, I didn’t really know who he was, it was just like, ‘What is this?’. His album is so mellow and moody and live he was so intense and passionate. Seeing him at The Hotel Café acoustic was just great. There is also this marching band in Chicago called Mukka Pazza and they are a 30 piece marching band that plays small clubs and it is just a party! The trumpet section will be on the bar at one point, there’s cheerleaders, just sounds coming from everywhere. Its just the coolest thing.
Favorite things to do not musically related.
Ashton– This is going to get weird.
P– Baseball. I always wanted to play for the Dodgers, but that’s not going to happen so I’ll stick to my backup as a rock n roll singer. I do like to go to the batting cages, play some pitch and catch with my bros.
R– I like to eat food and drink beer. I ride my bike around, play soccer, that’s about it.
Ashton– I don’t think Anthony does anything besides music, I am curious about this…
Anthony– Yeah, that’s pretty tough.
M– I don’t have an answer, honestly. There are things that I like more than other things but, yeah.
If you could be a fictional character who would you be?
Ashton– Holden Caulfield
R– I would be The Dude.
Anthony– Jesus Christ
R– You mean Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ?
P– Jason Mraz
P– I manage a Recycled Clothing store, and Mike works at a recycled clothing store.
R– I sell insurance. I am a greasy salesman.
P– Anthony brews coffee, and damn well when he isn’t covered in third degree burns. Ashton builds things from nothing. He builds life.
Ashton– I am a carpenter, I build shit.
If you ran BBB, what band would you feature?
Famous in Iowa, Jerome Halloway, Ry Douglass and The Echo.
Special thanks to Jordan Robins, our kickass producer, mixer dude, who has helped us on all our recordings.
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