Matt Carmichael
Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Texas. Dallas to be specific. Dicky Barrett, lead growler of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, speaks into a telephone. "Yee haw, we're in Dallas," he says, "where they killed my president."

The eight-piece band out of Boston is on yet another tour. Doing a few dates here, a few there and a few with Fishbone. The Dallas show is one such date and the roar of Fishbone's sound check can be heard as far as Evanston, thanks to the magic of AT&T.

These guys are never off the road. The Bosstones were on tour for about 11 months last year, according to Dicky and they will be on the road until sometime in spring when they break sometime to go into the studio. "I couldn't give you specifics. If I think about it, I'll start crying," he said.

The Bosstones will be recording the second album for their new label, Mercury. This is a big change for the Bosstones. "We had to do something. The independent label we were on, they were dishonest and crooked people and didn't feel the need to pay us and we were starving and living in the streets. And worst of all the Bosstones almost broke up," said Dicky. They were apprehensive about signing but Mercury convinced them that their sound would remain their sound. So they signed on and will stay as long as they like it, "But we don't need any business-suited weasels telling us how to make the music we have been making for five or six years," said Dicky.

No one can really describe their sound. It's been called ska, it's been called grunge [Grunge! Show me the man who called us Grunge, interjects Dicky] they have been called a mixture of a little bit of everything. Dicky calls their music plaid and that makes as much sense as any other description. Generally, they like to let the music do the talking but they are a ska-influenced, rock-influenced band with a strong horn section for a twist.

Quick break to interview clips. Roll sound:

A+P Why the horns?

"We had to somehow cover up my vocals. Go a little easy on the listener's ears," explains Dicky who then gives a sample reaction from a Bosstones fan: "Oh, those are nice horn sounds, now what the **congress* is that gargling noise."

A+P Do you do much to your voice for singing?

"Nope. I was born with it. It never hurts and it never goes on me but it also never sounds good so I don't know where we're at."

[minor call-waiting pause, ah the magic of AT&T]

A+P I've heard stories about your audiences, tearing up the stage in Detroit, that you kept playing even though the roof fell in in Rochester.

"I think the people who come see our shows are the most important thing about it. We consider it more important than even ourselves. If there weren't people at our shows we would be screamin' at a wall. It would be nonsense in a vacuum. We treat 'em like that... We're on their side.

Back to the narrative... Dicky pulls some physics out of nowhere and explains that the Bosstones thrive off the crowd energy. "It's been scientifically proven that energy can be drawn from energy. If you see a kid losin' his mind a jumpin' from a fuckin PA stack, you can't help but gettin' excited."

Two more points to cover. First, the Seattle Effect. Now that the Bosstones have become the first American "Ska" band to sign with a major label, some of that attention is rubbing off on other Boston bands. Dicky thinks this is cool. "It's proven that anytime a band gets some attention, other bands from that area get some attention as well. There are a lot of great ska bands out there. We're not one of them," Dicky clarifies this statement, "I think we're a great band, I just don't think we're a great ska band. I'm not braggin'. I'm just proud."

And no, the Bosstones are basically just a band, with the same ideals as any other. "We all grew up together. We weren't interested in real work. And we loved music. So we formed the Bosstones. Things just kinda snowballed and the snowball continued to get bigger that's exactly the way we like it. No lookin' back... We're an extremely lucky band. I think a lot of people would say that. 'They're lucky'," relates Dicky.

Last issue, that of selling out, brought up by Dicky himself--uncoerced. "So you want to ask the big question? The Converse commercial? The Plaid?"

"What about it?"

"Ahhhh, It's all nonsense. The Converse commercial was fun and we didn't feel like we were prostituting ourselves. And the plaid means a lot more to us than it ever did. "

This is not a band who have sold themselves to the Mercury Man. This is a band who's sound is always changing and too many people have equated that change to weakness and attributed it to the effect of joining with a major label. Dicky: "All it has to be to be a Bosstones album is to have the eight of us on it... The first album is not like the second and the second is not like the third."

This is a band slated to do a kick-ass, all-ages show Tonight at the Vic at 7:30 p.m. Look for me, I'll be jumpin' off the PA.

c1995 art&performance