‘bad vibes’ by Justin Payne & Co. | Interview
Middle America is often overlooked as a hotbed for artists. But that rust-belt realness can’t be mimicked by artists on either coast. Justin Payne & Co’s newest single ‘bad vibes’ showcases the grit and heart of the region.
A transplant from Northwest Ohio to Nashville, Payne’s music blends folk and rock into soul-fueled anthems. Since 2014’s solo debut ‘Interstellar Vagabond,’ Payne has put together a group of talented musicians to help increase the volume on his down-to-earth folk songs. From headlining the Black Swamp Arts Festival in 2019 to recording and releasing a number of records, this band has proven their mettle time and time again.
‘bad vibes’ is a raucous, soulful rock ballad. Part of a recent collection of songs recorded to tape in 1-2 takes, this single shows that all you need is a good tune, loud guitars, and a little bit of heart. Payne’s voice begins with a low snarl and builds into a howling yell, as each chord and crash seems to kick his performance into overdrive. The band is confident and calculated, allowing the song to breathe while remaining steadfast until the song’s end. There’s a swagger to this band that only comes with pouring time and energy into songcraft.
In the accompanying video, we see the visual representation of the band’s passion. Performing in a big room, the band saunters in while Payne plays through a verse solo. When they crash in together, these four musicians create a sound larger than the sum of its parts. Listen to ‘bad vibes’ below, and stick around for an interview with the artist!
You mentioned that you cut your teeth on garage rock. Does “bad vibes” feel like a return to form for you?
Justin Payne: ‘bad vibes’ is definitely that. I suppose, part of the journey towards a more authentic self and the things that first lit my fire of passion for music, live shows, and the indie and punk underground subcultures. 15 year old me would approve, and that’s cool with me.
What made the recording process for underrated/overstimulated so special?
That was truly a phenomenal experience. It was the first time I ever used an entirely analog recording process, with maybe 1-2 overdubs total, and nearly all the tracks pulled from the best live takes in the studio. We nailed the entire record down in two days. I credit that to my amazing team of musician-friends and the most excellent crew at Welcome to 1979 studios in Nashville. I don’t even know if I could replicate that fire if I tried!
When you are writing a new collection of songs, how do you know which songs are going to fit together well?
When I am in the writing phase, I don’t really even think about that. I mean, sometimes it’s obvious that certain ideas will play well together, given their key signatures, lyrical subject matter, et cetera, but I don’t usually start thinking about the bigger picture until I have a big pile of songs laying around. Then, I will start to look at how the lyrical concepts, the vibe, and the overall performance fit with the others. I am really into the idea of the full length LP as a rollercoaster ride journey through ideas and emotions, that takes you from one place when you put the needle down and delivers you to another shore once side B spins into the last groove. I am always trying to tell a story, and connect with folks, in the songs themselves, and in the more meta-textual level of the work as a whole.
What makes living in Nashville work for you and the band?
There isn’t a better town to find the resources you need to make good music. There is no shortage of stellar musicianship, like-minded individuals, and opportunities to grow. Not recommended for the faint of heart, as it is a silly expensive environment, but East Nashville still has some of the grit and grime of a real community, and is mostly where we do our thing. No better spot for dives and rock bars in the city, and a much needed counterpoint to the asinine tourist (i.e. $$$) fueled fakery downtown.
Do you have plans to tour this year? Where can we find you?
We have only been working in Nashville for just under two years, after a big move down from NW Ohio, so we aren’t fully committed to long routes. We do have plans for weekend routes in our old stomping grounds of the Midwest, as well as regional dates in and around the Nashville area and the Southeast, this Summer and Fall 2023.