Interview: Badboxes


Stumbling across Badboxes at the tail end of last year was somewhat of a revelation. As a major pop music fan, I’m a sucker for a good hook, and the band’s (then four track, now eight track) debut EP, JSMN (then called BDBXS), offered plenty of them. From the stellar “North Hills”, with its huge chorus, to the smooth, R&B-leaning “The Mystery”, and back to the full version of “Like A Star” (which has since unfortunately been removed) I was hooked and knew that I had stumbled across something special.

Still, it’s been nearly eight months from that first encountered to when we named them Ones To Watch. When writing Introducing/Ones To Watch posts, we prefer to go a bit further than what’s available online, and with the best intentions I sent an email to the band trying to get some information for it, as there was really nothing anywhere online. It’s taken time, but I was finally able to get some answers from frontman Harrison Wargo, and we had a chat about how the band came to be, his previous musical experiences, the confusion over playing with JMSN, and where he’d like the music industry to go.

Who is Badboxes? What does each person in the band do?

JSMN, our debut EP, was recorded in my basement, by myself, during a year of exile and self learning. I had no plan, at the time, other than making music that reflected what I was feeling and experiencing in my life. Once the I had a collection of songs done that I really felt strongly about, I decided, based upon my love for them and friends reactions, that I would release it as an EP and go full time with it. This is when I got in touch with John, my long time friend and musical collaborator. He came on board for guitar, keyboards, bass, and a slew of other things. Then we started jamming with Cory, who plays drums. And now we are here.

How did you settle on the name Badboxes?

When I was producing for other people pretty much exclusively at my home studio, I began calling it the badbox. A badbox is what you keep your bad things in. A.k.a. marijuana. It was this really cool scene happening at my house at the time, with so many people coming by to jam with me and whatever I was working on for other people. So I began calling whatever song I was working on at the time “badboxes”. The name stuck, and I began to feel comfortable using it. I also did not want to go by Harrison Wargo or anything like that. I knew that I wanted to take this in a direction where more people outside of just myself were involved.

How would you describe the band’s sound in a sentence?

The south has southern rock and southern rap, and we have northern pop.

What does Badboxes bring to the wider musical landscape that was missing before?

I’d like to think we bring the culmination of years of heavy music listening to a single, funnelled sound. We certainly don’t want to fit into any single genre, and I think that’s something not everyone can say… or maybe they can, I have no idea. I love what we do though. It completes my life.

What would you consider some of your musical influences?

Beatles, Dylan, Elliott Smith, Neil Young; stuff like that always somehow sneaks into everything I do. However, I also spend most of my time listening to things like Burial, Kanye West, Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Hudson Mohawke, XXYYXX, TV On The Radio, Lapalux, Air, Salem, Radiohead. I really liked the last Drake album and also the new Kendrick LamarSBTRKT, Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Boom Clap Bachelors… The list is endless, ha ha!

And some non-musical influences?

I love going to Barnes And Noble every now and then and buying up every modern art / street art / &c. magazine I can get my paws on. Whenever I am creating and recording I often need visual stimulation to marry the audio stimulation I am creating. It just makes for a better landscape.

Of course great films fit into this category as well. Anything visually or emotionally stimulating.

Where do you get the inspiration for your songs from?

Almost always from things I have experienced. Sometimes I’ll have a very romantic and idealised situation I like to think would have happened somewhere at some point, and I’ll write about that. Of course, love, frustration, regret, sex, and current events always play into it. These things are part of the human experience; it only makes sense to be inspired by them.

Harrison, you used to be in The Morning Light. Badboxes is clearly a very different style and sound; how was the transition?

Well, there were quite a few years between the end of The Morning Light and the beginning of Badboxes. After I left The Morning Light, I spent quite a few years wandering around… looking for new things to be inspired by… looking for that feeling. I had become quite bored with the style I was listening to at the time, and was constantly searching for new things. When I found electronic music that really spoke to me, it was like finding out something about yourself that had always been there, but you never knew it was.

Daft Punk was the first group I ever discovered on my own (when I was about 8) and so it’s sort of like watching this journey come full circle. This is what I’ve always been meant to do.

You titled your album JSMN, and you’ve just played a show with JMSN. Was this a nice coincidence or was it intentional? Did it lead to any confusion?

Ha ha! Yes, total coincidence! There was a bit of confusion but nothing serious. It was just kind of funny. Whenever we decided to release it under that name, after about a month, one of our friends brought it up. It’s just a funny coincidence.

What would you say your favorite song on the album is and why?

“The Mystery”. It’s the closest capture of the feeling I wanted to convey. I enjoy it the most.

I also really enjoy the instrumental “Morning”. I was extremely hung over when I made it and its almost a joke to me. It’s so peppy sounding. It’s kind of sarcastic.

Tell me about the process behind your Superdrag cover. How did that come about?

“Feeling Like I Do” is a song that speaks to my soul like few songs do. It’s so personal to me, I adore the words and the choice of melodies to carry them. After a few benders of my own, I took a day to create it. It was a very quick, very creative process. Probably the quickest recording I’ve ever made. I just adore that song. [Editor's note: Badboxes' "Feeling Like I Do" has since been removed from the band's Bandcamp.]

You’ve opted to release JSMN as a “pay what you like” release. What’s your stance on “file sharing” and releasing free music?

I truly believe that all recorded music should be pay what you like. With the advent of home recording, and how it becomes easier and easier for an artist, from home, to make a recording that stands with million dollar recording studios, it only makes sense and is fair to the listener. I understand that many people are scared of this, from a monetary point of view. But art is not about how much you can profit from it, it is about how precisely you can capture a certain feeling.

I also understand that not everyone feels that way. But music is undoubtedly going this way. Every day I read about new advances in home recording (I am quite obsessed with it) and to me, it is only fair to release recorded music for free, or pay what you want. Just one guy’s opinion.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the music industry, and if you were able to, how would you fix it?

I believe the greatest challenge is finding new ways for artists to create in an unfiltered pure environment, and be able to not be homeless while doing so. I think this opens the doors, however, to challenging the creative limits of the business side. We are being forced to come up with new ways to make a living at what we do, and are pushing the limits of our brains while doing so. It’s kind of an exciting time, to me. It’s good to be uncomfortable, it breeds great ideas.

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