Despite being together for 25 years-and having almost as many albums behind them-The Melvins’ singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne says it isn’t hard to decide on a set list these days. “We try to play whatever’s fresh,” said Osborne via phone from his home in Los Angeles, adding, “We were never an ‘oldies but goodies’ band.”
The veteran guitarist has seen many changes in his band’s lineup since they released their debut EP, Six Songs, in 1986. However, Osborne asserts that the sound and style of the band has remained relatively consistent because “the guy writing 98.8 percent of the material is still in the band.” The other members of The Melvins contribute on occasion, but Osborne explained that the only reason the rest of his bandmates do not play a larger role in the songwriting process is simply because “those guys aren’t writing anything.” Currently, Osborne, along with drummer and founding member Dale Crover, has been recording and performing with not-so-new additions to The Melvins lineup, drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren, who also perform as a duo under the name Big Business.
The quartet’s newest offering, Nude with Boots (which hits shelves on Tuesday, July 8), is the second Melvins album with the new setup, and Osborne explained that the dynamic with Willis and Warren works not only musically, but personally and professionally as well. Past incidents of band members who liked to party more than they liked to practice have taught Osborne to be very specific in articulating what he looks for in new recruits. “I’ve never kicked anyone out because they couldn’t play the songs,” he explained, but added that the members of Big Business are in the band because they “score homeruns in so many areas.” On The Melvins’ upcoming tour, Big Business will also perform as the show’s opening act.
In regard to the new album, Osborne said Nude with Boots is “kind of a continuation of our last album, but not any more so than any of our other albums were.” Of their extensive back catalog, the singer emphasized that their new album, along with 2006’s (A) Senile Animal, represents “two large steps forward [for the band].”
While The Melvins have never been met with true mainstream commercial success, Osborne believes they were never a band that put much importance into gaining that kind of recognition. “I’m very fortunate to be able to make a living playing music,” he explained. “Anything worth having is worth suffering for :” he went on to say in relation to both his work ethic and the longevity of the band. “You have to kill yourself for it,” he said. When asked about the band’s absence from the currently ubiquitous music festival scene, Osborne responded that The Melvins are rarely asked to play festivals. “We’re somewhere in between a novelty act and yesterday’s news,” he laughed. This distinction seems to be a point of pride for the band’s leading man. He went on to describe his music by paraphrasing an old saying: “If you get it, no explanation is necessary. If you don’t, no explanation is possible.”
While Osborne hopes for a large turnout when The Melvins play Velvet Jones this Wednesday, July 16, he also said he expects only a few hundred people. Hopefully for Osborne, though, the Santa Barbara turnout-as well as the critical and fan support for Nude with Boots-will show him that a lot more people “get” the Melvins than he thinks.
The Melvins will play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Wednesday, July 16, at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit twiinproductions.com or call 845-6658.