'We're Contemporary People': BADBADNOTGOOD's Mixed Bag Of Inspiration

Nov 21, 2016
Originally published on March 23, 2017 11:49 am

BADBADNOTGOOD knows its name is a little strange. The jazz group's bassist, Chester Hansen, says it invites jokes from nearly everyone the band meets. "It's probably the most punned name I have ever heard," he says.

BADBADNOTGOOD also knows its songs sometimes sound more like hip-hop than jazz. But Matt Tavares, the group's keyboardist, says it makes sense for a band of young jazz players to interpret contemporary styles of music. "It's just fun," Tavares says. "We all listen to contemporary music – you know, 'cause we're contemporary people."

Formed in Toronto in 2010, BADBADNOTGOOD attracted an early following by taking a loose, free-jazz approach to covers of songs by hip-hop artists like Gucci Mane and Kanye West. "When you're improvising on something or trying to express yourself emotionally, to have any kind of connection with the music is nice," Tavares says.

Tavares says this approach stands in contrast to the time he spent with often-taught jazz standards in the jazz program at Toronto's Humber College. To him, at 19 years old, learning show tunes and American standards from the 1920s and '30s felt strange. "Some of the songs would be about like, not having a telephone or something, you know what I mean?" he says. "So it becomes hard to relate."

What Tavares and his bandmates could relate to was their mutual love of hip-hop, funk and Brazilian music. Tavares says BADBADNOTGOOD's first three albums reflect that mixed bag of inspiration, and it all comes together on the band's latest and most cohesive album, IV.

Hansen notes that even though BADBADNOTGOOD has finally found its sound, the band is still down to experiment. "I think we came about precisely from just goofing around and having fun," Hansen says. "And we're still just goofin'."

Hear more from Tavares and Hansen at the audio link.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "LAVENDER")

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This is BADBADNOTGOOD. And that's not a judgment. That's actually the name of this jazz group - BADBADNOTGOOD. Sometimes their music sounds more like hip hop than it does jazz.

MATT TAVARES: It's just fun to interpret contemporary music, and we all listen to contemporary music, you know, 'cause we're contemporary people.

MCEVERS: That's Matt Tavares. He plays keys. He and bassist Chester Hansen joined us from Toronto where they formed the band with two other friends in 2010. Hansen says he's pretty aware of how funny the group's name can sound to people.

CHESTER HANSEN: It's probably, like, the most commonly punned name I've ever heard.

("SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "FLASHING LIGHTS")

MCEVERS: Tavares says when the band started out, they took the loose, free jazz approach to cover songs by hip hop artists like Gucci Mane and Kanye West. Here's BADBADNOTGOOD's interpretation of West's upbeat 2008 hit "Flashing Lights."

("SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "FLASHING LIGHTS")

MCEVERS: That song blends dark guitar riffs with freeform jazz. It was that kind of improvisation that attracted BADBADNOTGOOD's early fans.

TAVARES: It just seemed kind of, like, the more natural thing. And when you're improvising on something or trying to, like, express yourself emotionally to have, like, any kind of connection with the music, it's nice instead of it just being like, oh, this is what was done, so you're going to improvise over this. We kind of, like, explore the meaning of things, like, as we're making it.

MCEVERS: Tavares says that process is a lot more creative than some of the usual jazz standards he and his bandmates learned to play at Toronto's Humber College of jazz.

TAVARES: In school - I don't know. It was weird being, like, a 19-year-old and kind of learning this repertoire that is, like, American standard songs from, like, the '20s and '30s - right? - and show tunes. And you know, it's - like, some of the songs will be about, like, not having a telephone or something. You know what I mean? So it's - it becomes, like, hard to relate.

MCEVERS: What the guys could relate to was their mutual love of hip hop, funk and Brazilian music. Tavares says the band's first three albums involve all of those influences. And they're coming together on their newest album called "IV."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN YOUR EYES")

CHARLOTTE DAY WILSON: Don't blow me off so I can't help it. When you show off, I can't help it.

MCEVERS: Tavares says the band's more cohesive and inventive sound has a lot to do with the artists featured on the album, like saxophonist Colin Stetson.

TAVARES: Colin came through. He's a total pro. You just have, like, a split-second idea that would be, like, the perfect part and would also be incredibly complex or, like, just something that wasn't, like, very obvious that we were like, OK, this is, like, interesting. Like, we got to work this in, but, like, this is - for him, it's, like, you know, no big deal to just be like, yeah, it's like (imitating saxophone), you know? And then, like, we're like, oh, jeez. Like, what are we going to do (laughter)?

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "CONFESSIONS PT II")

MCEVERS: Hansen says even though BADBADNOTGOOD has finally found their sound, the band is still down to experiment.

HANSEN: I think we came about precisely from just goofing around (laughter) and having fun. And we're still just goofing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "CONFESSIONS PT II")

MCEVERS: BADBADNOTGOOD's new album is "IV." They're currently on tour in the Philippines.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD SONG, "CONFESSIONS PT II") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.