The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has burned rubber on countless highways. A decade ago, the trio sold everything they owned at a garage sale and bolted from Brown County, Ind., to make a go at the professional music lifestyle. Since then, the band has built a reputation as a stellar live act, averaging 250 shows a year. The musicians were named the Best Band of the 2010 Warped Tour (as voted on by the participating promoters, crews and bands), and placed four songs on the soundtrack for the HBO drama “Shameless.”
Josh “the Reverend” Peyton’s growl and frenetic guitar fingerpicking are steeped in a childhood where he immersed in pre-World War II country blues, and his band reflects that. Rounding out the lineup is Peyton’s wife Breezy—he met her while recovering from a career-threatening injury to his left hand—on washboard and backing vocals, while his cousin Ben "Bird Dog" Bussell mans the skins. Skins, in this case, include a plastic five-gallon bucket.
On the cusp of a lengthy international tour that comes through Missoula this week, the Reverend talked with the Indy about how the Big Damn Band takes pleasure in the little things.
You are touring in Europe as we have this exchange. Are there noticeable differences in how your music is received overseas from how it is in the U.S.?
Reverend Peyton: We have played in 25 or 26 different countries, and it always goes over well. I just think that real, from-the-heart music is universal. So many people around the world speak English, so they can understand the lyrics. However, in places we have played where they don’t speak any English, people will sing along with the guitar parts! It is amazing.
You’ve played Warped Tour and toured with Clutch. What is the oddest pairing or band grouping you’ve found yourself a part of?
RP: One week we played a Canadian folk festival, Sturgis bike rally and Warped Tour all in the same week. The weirdest place we ever played was a tiny club in Nuremburg, Germany. It was a few years ago... This place was the tiniest music venue on Planet Earth, and they sold it out about twice over. We played between the bar and the wall where bartenders usually tend bar. It was crazy.
People are people, but there are certainly regional values and attitudes that we tend to carry with us based on where we come from. What in particular is ingrained in you from southern Indiana that you inflict on the rest of the world?
RP: Once on Warped Tour, one of the catering folks—the people who made food for us every single day, in all weather—said to us, “The Big Damn Band and crew are the only people out here who have ever said ‘thanks’ to us for what we are doing.” My tour manager at the time said, “We are from Indiana, it is just how we were raised.” That was one of my proudest moments.
Your band has a stripped-down approach to music, and Between the Ditches is your fifth record. To make a couple obvious, though possibly irrelevant, comparisons to other minimalist blues-based bands—The White Stripes, The Black Keys—that have gone on to bigger things, aren’t you supposed to be adding instruments and textures to your records beyond what you can faithfully reproduce live? Or even adding band members?
RP: Who knows what the future brings, but I just don’t think I need to right now. I think I can prove to the world that this can be done live, and on record, without a bunch of added people, loop pedals, octave pedals, computer tracks or whatnot. I’m not really against adding things on records if it makes sense to the song, but I really write and arrange the songs for us. I always liked it when you listened to a record and it sounded like the band, too. It always has bothered me when it didn’t.
When can we expect to see a new record from you?
RP: In just a matter of a few months. We are so proud of the songs. I personally can’t wait for you all to hear it.
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band plays Stage 112 Tue., July 22, at 9 PM with openers The Dodgy Mountain Men. $8 at stage112.com.