Two-thirds of Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band live in a log cabin off a winding road just a few miles north of Nashville, Indiana. Further up the road is Bean Blossom, home of the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival; a mile or two south, John Mellencamp’s recording studio.
In this home constructed of poplars felled more than 150 years ago, ace guitar picker Josh Peyton and his wife and washboard whiz Breezy Peyton cook up some of the wildest and feistiest country blues in the Hoosier State and beyond. For more than a decade they’ve been touring almost constantly, building up large and loyal fan base while developing a reputation as the only band that can play a bluegrass festival and the Warped Tour in the same week.
Sitting together on a comfy leather sofa — the only modern touch amid the skunk pelts, taxidermied ducks and ancient ski poles hanging on the cabin walls — the couple talked to CMT Edge about their latest album, So Delicious.
CMT Edge: You’ve recorded So Delicious as well as your last few albums at Farm Fresh in Bloomington, Indiana. What do you like about that place?
Rev. Peyton: I produced this one myself, so I was looking for a comfortable place to spread out. Farm Fresh is an old church that they converted into a studio. There’s a graveyard and what I believe is the oldest poplar tree in Indiana. It’s so old it doesn’t look like a poplar anymore. Most people probably pass Farm Fresh and think it’s an old church. It doesn’t have a sign. It has the exact vibe we were looking for. It’s a pretty magical place. When the train goes by, it ends up on the record.
Why did you decide to produce this one yourself?
Rev. Peyton: Sometimes it’s good to have someone outside of the band who can give you another perspective on things but I knew exactly what I wanted from this record. I wanted everything to be live and organic. We’re playing country blues like we’ve always played but I wanted it to have a particular sonic vibe, like we had gone in the same room where they recorded “Louie Louie” or “Gloria.”
What if we just picked up those old instruments and played like we play? I think it worked. A lot of times you go back to something and go, man I wish I’d done this or that differently. But I listened to a few songs recently and I was pleased with it.
Breezy Peyton: We recorded this album before we decided who was going to put it out. That’s really important because I don’t think you want to go into it thinking about how you can cater to this or that label. We’re catering to ourselves and to our fans.
Was it difficult getting these energetic performances in the studio, especially when you don’t have an audience to play off?
Breezy Peyton: It helps that we’re a band that tours so much and plays together so much, so we didn’t have to do everything to track. We’re all very connected and very well-rehearsed.
Rev. Peyton: When I was young, I didn’t like making records. It seemed like a necessary evil but really music should be performed live. I still love playing live but there’s something cool about having a good record that people are going to want to play over and over. We wanted to make a record that was real and organic, that could stand up to anything else. We have a lot more harmonies on this record and a lot more space.
And Ben [Bussell] is a great drummer. That’s key. A lot of the time drums just drive me insane because they sound so robotic. I like drums that sound a little more stuck in the mud — very human, with deep pockets. A song like “Pot Roast and Kisses” needs a drummer who can play that way to give it enough funk to keep it from sounding slick.
The whole band sounds like a rhythm section on these songs, which makes these songs sound like dance music.
Rev. Peyton: At its core, all American music is dance music, whether it’s old-time stuff, bluegrass, blues, jazz. Originally people went out to hear music and dance. That’s why it slays me now when we go to a concert and everybody’s sitting down. They’re just watching a bluegrass band or whatever. It is dance music. It’s not the opera. That’s how I approach it. Everything is dance music.
How does Southern Indiana inform your music?
Rev. Peyton: There is so much music here, even if there’s not a nationally-known scene here. Everybody on this road picks and there are a lot of good players around here. One cool thing about being from here is that I never thought, “We have to sound like this” or “We have to sound like that.” I love finger-style country blues but I’m always trying to let myself be influenced by stuff I think is cool and not get stuck in one place. There’s a lot of roots music around here but I don’t think anybody feels like they are beholden to one particular style. Look at Mellencamp. He was playing stadiums in the ‘80s but he was putting fiddle and accordion on his records.
So Delicious sounds like a celebration of your life here, from the music scene on “Front Porch Trained” to Breezy’s cooking on “Pot Roast and Kisses.”
Rev. Peyton: I think that’s definitely true and I hope it comes across on the record. We’re proud of what we’ve built up from scratch here — little by little, with no major label, no wealthy benefactor. It’s all been grassroots. There are a lot of bands whose records get worse as they get older but I think ours have just gotten better. I think that’s because we’ve stayed here and we’ve stayed to true to ourselves.
Breezy Peyton: We’re the happiest we’ve ever been and we’re the most sure about ourselves as we’ve ever been.