After a three year layoff, Southern California punk rock pioneers Bad Religion are back with their 16th studio album, True North, which comes out today on Epitaph Records. The album has received universal praise for its focused songwriting and is considered the band's strongest material in years. In the midst of rehearsing for their upcoming tour, we caught up with bassist Jay Bentley who filled us on what's happening with the band and what the band will be focusing on this tour.
OC Weekly (Daniel Kohn): How have the tour rehearsals gone so far? Jay Bentley: They started out super rough because we haven't actually been a band for a year. We went down to Australia this time last year and we took the summer off, which we hadn't done in 25 years, then got together and made a record, which left little time to practice. By the time we all got together, we just stared at each other and it sounded as god awful as you think it would be! [Laughs.] But three days in, we're sounding like what we're supposed to sound like and the memory is kicking back in and the fingers are going where they're supposed to go so it's exciting.
You would think after so many years it would be second nature to jump back in.
It's mostly the newer material that's the hardest to remember, which is weird because that's the stuff we've worked on most recently. We haven't even began to play catalog stuff, but if someone said to play "Suffer," I could be eating a salad and play it at the same time without thinking about it. This is still new enough to not be imprinted on my memory bank yet. This is really the first time we've played these songs as a band, since we didn't play them together during the sessions.
Was the recording process different this time around?
It was a little tighter schedule wise. Our drummer has been playing with Tenacious D and had an eight-day window when they were taking a break and that's when we made our record. Greg [singer Greg Graffin], who lives in upstate New York, pumped out 10 songs in two months and sent us his demos, and he was writing as we were recording, so we were writing and recording at the same time. It's not that we haven't done that, but we haven't done it quite to that extreme. The weird thing is that I think the end result of it was that the record sounds exciting and naïve and like it could fall apart at any moment. As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the hallmarks of our band in that it sounds like it's just about to fall apart and that's what makes it exciting.
That's what makes it exciting though.
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The fun part is saying that I have no idea what I'm doing here. We've made 15 studio albums and we still don't know how to play certain songs.
Are you going to dust off any off the songs that you don't know how to play on this tour?
Greg and I had a long talk leading into this cycle about where we are. When we're standing on-stage looking out to the people who are there to watch us play, historically, we'll play songs from Suffer and No Control and Against The Grain and it makes everyone happy. Since we've been back on Epitaph, which has been since 2001, whenever we play songs from the last 12 years, there seems to be more people that knows those songs than something like "Automatic Man." I think there might be a shift in our set list where the majority of the songs will be from 2000 to now, with an occasional song from the '80s that people don't know, but the 30-plus crowd will.