Fascinating things can happen when a hard alternative rock band explores its dreamy side. The result is BIG JESUS' 'Oneiric' (pronounced ō-ˈnī-rik), which means "relating to dreams or dreaming." BIG JESUS contrasts loud and heavy fuzz-laden tones with soft, pop-melodic vocals to create their own unique brand of music. The result is ethereal rock n' roll that's multi-faceted and powerful: Loud and soft; bludgeoning and dreamy; progressive and classic…all at the same time.
BIG JESUS' eclectic sound stems from their surroundings and their upbringing in the Atlanta, GA music scene. "We grew up in the Atlanta punk/hardcore/metal scene, and that has a big influence on us, musically and philosophically," explains guitarist C.J. Ridings. Lead singer/bassist Spencer Ussery continues, "We grew up on the popular rock music of the 90s, and we're greatly impacted by everything from metal, psychedelic pop, shoegaze, hip hop, and even classical piano music." Rounding out the band are guitarist Thomas Gonzalez and drummer Joe Sweat.
On BIG JESUS' upcoming Mascot Label Group debut, Oneiric, the band showcases six brand new songs and four previously self-released tunes, which have been remixed and rerecorded. The result is a trippy group of lush, accessible songs with the surreal feel of a Fellini film.
Oneiric was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Matt Hyde (Deftones, Slayer, Monster Magnet, Sum 41, Alkaline Trio, etc.). Of the recording, Ridings says, "Working with Matt was fun and amazing. It was an experience I never would have dreamed I'd get to do. Matt totally understood our band and what we wanted to create." Ussery continues, "Working with Matt in Los Angeles was incredible. He knew exactly what was needed from us in order to make the best of the songs in the end, and the final product is something that we are all extremely proud of."
BIG JESUS originally formed in 2009 through Atlanta's alternative rock music scene. Ridings explains, "I had the idea to create a band with some friends in my spare time, just for fun. The idea was to just record a few songs and put them online for free. So I made this demo of a song one day where I played all the instruments and then sent it to a few people. I'm a terrible singer, so finding that was my first priority, and Spencer was my immediate thought of who to ask. We ended up getting together with a drummer friend of ours and re-recorded the demo with Spencer singing, got a couple other friends involved, and eventually made a little 4 song EP to put up online in 2011. From there, it just kind of snowballed to taking it more and more seriously. From the EP, people wanted us to play some small local shows, then we got asked to open some bigger shows, then that drove us to make an album of new songs, then that got us a record deal, bigger shows, etc. Now, in 2016, this band has become my absolute top priority and through the process, Spencer has become one of my closest friends and an amazing person to collaborate with." Ussery adds, "CJ and I had met several years prior, playing shows together with our different Atlanta bands. Over the course of writing and recording a few demos for fun, we started to flesh out a solid lineup of talented guys to play with us. Through several lineup changes, and CJ and I switching guitar and bass duty, we landed on our current lineup with Tommy on lead guitar and Joe on the drums."
The band is somewhat cryptic when asked to explain meanings behind their songs, instead preferring their audience to form itsown opinions of what each song is about. Blending yin with yang, heavy with soft, can produce the most alluring results. Such is the music of BIG JESUS.
The first cut on the album, "SP," starts off right away energetically, with big guitars. Its heavy beat with melodic vocals sweeping over it gives it an almost psychedelic feel. "Time bends away/It's such a shame to hear you say/Leave your thoughts at the door/Don't think, put your mind away/Let it all fade."
The next track, "Always," is heavy and anthemic, with crunchy guitars and a strong rhythm section driving the tune throughout. "Some sleight of hand lights up your eyes/Some treaded thought to lay beside/Always sleepless thinking of it/Always."
"Lock & Key" is reminiscent of some of the biggest hits in '90s alternative rock, with its soft beginning, which crescendos into fuzzy guitar tricks and bombastic, harmonious vocals. "Don't leave me loveless/Your lock hangs there looming/Don't leave me loveless."
Anthemic power ballad "Fader" draws us in with trippy, deft guitar and bass work, a steady, rolling drumbeat, and alluring, sweeping vocals that suck you into a dreamscape. "Oneiric undertones to what I know is real/Dream-like, there in the light/It's hard believing still/I don't want to go back/I don't want to go back to knowing what it's like on my own."
BIG JESUS believes this new album shows how their songcraft has matured. "Oneiric sees us as more mature songwriters overall," Ussery reveals. "After years of playing together, we've gotten to be quite effective in communicating our ideas to each other. It takes less time for us to compile the arrangements of our material into something we're proud of. We've also had several years of new experiences to pull influence from both sonically and lyrically and conceptually. We're just smarter musicians than we were in 2013 when we self-released our first record."
The BIG JESUS live show experience is one not to be missed. Ridings promises, "We're four guys on a stage, playing music as loud and as crushing as possible. We want you to feel the riffs in your gut."
BIG JESUS isn't flashy, and they aren't trying to be overnight rock stars. They simply are who they are, and they want you to take a ride with them on their heavy, dreamy musical journey... and maybe lose your hearing at the same time.