Lynn-based band Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket is a joyous but combustible celebration of funk, rock, and hip-hop. Usually with a double-digit number of members on the stage, BODB creates a sound that is larger than any venue that it plays. Its live musical nods to artists such as Led Zeppelin, Sly & the Family Stone, and Bell Biv Devoe indicate the members’ wide-ranging influences.
Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket released its eponymous debut in 2012, and is set to release the follow-up in the spring of 2014. Brett Badolato answered some questions via email about the band he founded.
Noise: Where was Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket formed and where are you currently based?
Brett Badolato: BODB started in Central Square, Lynn, same building as our current rehearsal space but different room. It all started as an experiment. I rented a jam space and threw “musician parties” every weekend, inviting any musicians that wanted to jam and see what happened. Over the course of about six months, I worked with about 60 musicians, anywhere from four to fifteen on any given night. Eventually, the four founding members decided we wanted to take this to the next level, and BODB was born.
Noise: When did the first incarnation of BODB first perform live?
BB: Our first show was December 3, 2009, at Tammany Hall in Worcester. Perhaps it is no coincidence, but at the time we had a different lead singer who wasn’t available for our first show, and as fate would have it Sarah [Seminski, lead singer] filled in that night. So although technically she wasn’t, in the eyes of the audience, she was with us from the beginning.
Noise: How many members of the band have been around since the beginning of BODB?
BB: Most, in fact. The four founding members were myself (Brett Badolato) on keyboards and effects, our guitarist Ryan Green, bassist Joe Cesarz, and drummer Dave Share. After that, we started looking for a female vocalist and although Sarah wasn’t our first, she was one of our first, sang our first show, and has been with us since nearly the beginning. Our trumpet player Andy Gerard (also my brother-in-law) came next. Our percussionist, Jim Schunemann, was added shortly into the project, along with sax player Aaron Smith and trombone player Rich Houghton. About a year later, we added rapper Micah Casey.
Noise: How many line-up changes had the band undergone since its formation?
BB: In the first year or two we had a few different female vocalists (Camian Mears, Simone Zamore, Sarah Seminski), but by the end of the first year or so we had stabilized with Sarah. Since then, the only changes we’ve had have been our sax player and trumpet player. Our current sax player, Matt Oliphant, has been on board for I think about a year, and our current trumpet player is a rookie of only a few months.
Both of our original sax and trumpet players occasionally still play with us and have remained close. (Honorable mention to Doug Merrill, a jack of all trades and a mascot of sorts for a while in the early days. He was with us for maybe one-and-a-half to two years, but it didn’t work out.)
Noise: Which songs or albums did you hear growing up that made you think, “I wanna do that!”?
BB: A challenging question! It’s difficult to answer since the band has 470* members and we each have unique influences and experiences. I’d say our greatest influences collectively have included Parliament Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Meters, Sarah Vaughn, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Louie Prima, Louie Armstrong, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, The Ohio Players, Etta James, Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd… there have been so many amazing influences in our lives, how can we focus on just a few? [*Badolato later clarified via email: “Officially, we currently have nine members, ten including our trumpet player, but he’s currently technically not fully committed until further notice. As I mentioned, we occasionally play with our former trumpet and sax player, which would bring the total up to twelve, and our manager makes thirteen. We’re currently trying out an additional trumpet player just in case our current one’s plans take him elsewhere, so that would be fourteen… and we have some honorary members that sit in with us from time to time: Eric Reardon on guitar and Matt Natti on didgeridoo most notably. Among others: percussionists, fiddle, flute, etc. So officially you can say ten, I suppose, but 470 seemed like a nice round number.”]
Noise: How many instruments are played on the Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket album?
BB: On our self-titled 2012 album, there’s guitar, bass, four keyboards, drums, auxiliary percussion, flute, trombone, trumpet, baritone sax, alto sax, tenor sax, effects, turntables, and many layers of vocals.
Our next album to be released in the spring will feature similar combinations, and also include some featured artists—Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton of Parliament Funkadelic, Norwood Fisher of Fishbone, and Ben Ellman and Rob Mercurio of Galactic.
Noise: How many takes did “I Don’t Want to Ride Your Emotional Rollercoaster” require? Was it ever awkward?
BB: Ha! That’s a funny question! It was a series of awkward and hilarious circumstances when we were first writing and learning the song, and it’s also the song that Sarah tried out with us on! But in the recording process, we had it pretty polished by that time, so it went much more smoothly.
Noise: How do you feel about the fact that a woman (Lupita Nyong) with the first name that is the title of one of your songs won an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress” this year?
BB: Isn’t that amazing?! That blew my mind, and I’ve been struggling trying to wrap my head around how to use that to our marketing advantage.
Noise: A lyric in “Mic Smoke” is: “I heard Smokey told Michael Jackson: ‘When they give you the mic, don’t give it back, son’.” Did that really happen?
BB: As a matter of fact, yes! Micah (our rapper) says he watched a special on Motown or Michael Jackson or something at one point, and one of the Jackson 5’s first major appearances was on The Diana Ross Show. Backstage, before they went on, Smokey Robinson was there. He told Michael something like: “Once you step on that stage, be strong. Own the mic. Know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,” or something like that. The lyrics are a synopsis of that discussion, and to be fair, in the lyrics he does say: “I heard Smokey told Michael Jackson…”, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be true, but it’s what he heard!
Noise: Who designed your fly cover art?
BB: That was our friend Todd Bricklemyer of Todd Brick Photography. He is a brilliant photographer.
Noise: As great as it must be to play in this band, how tough is the reality of the financial side?
BB: You’re asking the right person—I manage our budget and accounting. I can’t say it’s been easy. I developed my own accounting system and so far it’s working well enough. Thankfully, we’ve been staying afloat. Right now, the entire band is so committed to this project that we all agree to reinvest everything we make back into the band. We hope one day that each of us will be able to turn a profit, and ideally make a career out of this. But for the time being, we’re happy to be able to support ourselves without investing out of our pockets.
Noise: Fill in the blank: “I wish that I were half the musician/songwriter that ______ is.”
BB: Yanni. Sorry, couldn’t resist. There are some really incredible musicians out there, and they have been huge influences on us. But I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’re pretty happy being who we are, as long as we have each other and our amazing fans, friends and family.