Every once in a while, you find a hidden gem in your hometown. This hidden gem for me is Black Bottom Lighters. The six piece reggae rock group, hailing from Glendale, Arizona, considers themselves to be “desert reggae”. What that is exactly, I do not know. What I do know is that I’ve had their songs stuck in my head since their set at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival. With their captivating lyricists and wicked drum fills, Black Bottom Lighters are a band that the world needs to look out for.
I was able to sit down after their set and have a chat with three of the members. Ryan “McPhatty” McPhatter (drums), Ryan “Stilly” Stillwell (lead vocals) and Jose Aquino (bass) granted me the pleasure of chatting with them. These boys sure know how to have a good time on the stage, and their energy doesn’t end there. I had such an enjoyable and entertaining interview with them and wish them all the best in the coming year.
Infectious Magazine: You have a lot of influences as a band but as an individual musician, who would you say is your biggest influence?
Stilly: Bradley Nowell from Sublime. I’d say him and like energy wise and as a front man Anthony Kiedis.
Phatty: I have to say, you know I love classic rock. Led Zeppelin, John Bonham, you know Jimmy Page and all those guys and just how, like he was talking about, their stage presence is much bigger than like their CD, and people went to see them as individual musicians and as a band and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Jose: If we want to talk about influences as an individual, there’s just like so much. I think with me, I just love bands that are influential in general, um that could be any genre. My favorite band is a local band in San Diego where I grew up called Counterfeit, and that’s because of what they made me feel at the time of when I listened to them. Its random, but that’s what I love. I love the way music makes you feel
IM: You had an amazing opportunity to go to Florida and play a show with some incredible musicians. Tell me about that experience and how you think it helped your band.
S: It helped us on every aspect as far as becoming of more like a family. The first tour even before the Jacksonville show when we went on tour, we became closer as a family. We helped each other out when we were getting homesick, so that right there is good, and not only that but we got to hangout and meet Pepper and hangout back stage and see how things are really done on the big stage.
P: It was cool and going and not feeling like a local band and walking through airports with all of our stuff and people wanting to know who we were and it was the first experience where we pretty much all of us together to fly to the different part of the country and everyone only knew us for music. It was cool to get the vibe. You play a lot of local shows and its super duper fun but its different when you’re 1000 miles away.
S: not only that but its good to plant a seed. We’ve just done tours through the west side so getting all the way as far east as we can go and planting that seed was great.
J: That was a lot of our first times being on the east coast and like he was saying about us making it feel like home, the little things about our trip was like our manager snoring. Or I remember when we were in the airport and everyone just kind of wanted to go off on their own thing, I remember I was zooming in on McPhatter like zoning in on his own laptop and like eye dogging everybody. It’s just things like that, having fun and being together. Cause you know we’re all friends on a trip, we are a band and we are a business trying to be successful, but we’re in the end just friends trying to have fun.
IM: April 18th is your album release show! What can fans expect from that show and the record?
P: Nothing they’ve ever seen before
S: I was gonna say that!
P: Balls out.
S: Our sets are already super high energy and we’re planning on making a statement with this one and putting another Arizona local band on the map. Authority Zero, Gin Blossoms, we want to be a part of that prestigious lineup. That is our goal and this is where it starts, this foundation here.
P: And I was going to say its super hard for us because we have so much new material that we’re about to release and it’s just keeping it under wraps, so it’s gonna be fun playing a lot of songs we’ve been trying to keep from people and letting them hear it. The sound systems that’s there has been on national tours with like Maroon 5 being one of them.
S: Boys II Men just played there!
P: For us it’s just going to be a great opportunity for us to showcase what we’ve been working so hard on.
J: like what Stillwell said, we want to be one of those bands that represented Arizona well. I remember like six or seven theatres at the marquee and they had, they were the opening band, they had such a massive crowd that had such high energy and all I could hear about was “yeah, they’re local” and all these guys were just so stoked on the vibe they gave. I want to do the same thing to somebody with our show. I just want them to be like “these guys are local.”
IM: Recording processes are different for every band. How do you start a song and take it into the studio?
S: I write all the time. I started as a writer before I was even a musician or a singer.
J: This guy even wrote a book!
S: I just love to write. So I’m always writing and I’m always trying a way to play around with words and new ways to express myself through words. I have a whole phone full of words. And we’ll get together and start jamming. And you’ll know when its just that one little thing and it’ll kind of branch off into that. The words are no problem, I’ve got words for days.
P: You know you’ve got five musicians. So everybody always brings ideas to the table. Kelyn our keyboardist has pretty much written a song, “I’m Still Here”, and that was his idea, he had written it on the keyboard, brought it and we just based it around that keyboard riff. Same for Jose, me and him do a lot of drum and bass riffing and everyone will just like fill in. we’re not big on like sitting down and writing music, we like to jam it out and see what feels right.
S: and after it feels right is when we really pick it apart and make it technical.
J: I think the hardest part about writing music as a band is just to kind of check yourself as a person. You know all of our opinions are part of an equal and I think that’s the hardest concept to understand. We could start a song but that doesn’t mean its our song, we’ve got to let Kelyn add in his two cents, we’ve gotta let Phil dictate the chord progression and we have to let the lyricists be the master at it. Stillwell and T are just incredible when it comes to melodies and lyrics. It sounds cliché but it really is a collaboration.
S: It’s not easy though, but it’s a collaboration.
IM: What does the band have planned for the rest of the year? Any tours or more recording?
S: We were supposed to do a double disc album for this CD release and we had this idea of doing a live acoustic album. We had some technical difficulties and we want to give them a hundred percent, so we’re planning on going back and doing the whole thing the right way. But most of all, first things first, we want to hit the road as soon as possible and get more connections with bigger bands, which we have been already, and just spread the name.
J: like he was saying, we had a high expectation with this cd and it is going to be fulfilled. One of the things we wanted to do was give people more music. It took us two years to release this cd, its going to take us less than a year for us to come out with another CD with 9 brand new songs. And I thought that was the coolest concept. A live CD which you would think is going to be the same songs on the album but a live version. No, these are going to be nine completely new songs. Essentially by the end of 2015, we’re going to have 30 new songs, which is big because we relied on 8 songs for the past two years. We just want to give people music to listen to.
IM: If you could create a sandwich, what would be on it and what would you call it?
S: I have this idea, I want to make this breakfast place called the Awful Waffle, its basically like the Heart Attack Grill only it’s all breakfast stuff. Anyway, so I thought of a sandwich with two waffles and in the middle, a country fried steak with gravy and shit in the middle.
P: Well I’m a sandwich connoisseur.
S: Oh and Tabasco!
P: Mine would be called The Twelve Inches of Phatty and it would be roast beef, ham bacon…
S: Twelve Inches of Phatty?! (laughs)
P: Yeah that’s it right there. That’s the name of the sandwich and it’s like a big ass manwich is what it is.
J: Whatever sandwich I make, I would just love for it to be breakfast, because I’m a breakfast person like when I wake up…
S: Yeah he’s a healthy one
J: Eh, healthy-ish. Breakfast is the most important meal. It doesn’t matter if you eat a damn donut, as long as it’s something. So I would just create a breakfast sandwich.
IM: So like a donut sandwich?
Jose: That’s what it is, I’ll help him with the Awful Waffle.
IM: It’ll be a combined thing!
Jose: Whatever it is, it has to have bacon on it.
Stilly: And Tabasco.
Jose: Bacon, Tabasco and a waffle.