If you’ve been to a show at The Independent recently, you’ve likely seen owner Heath Truitt beaming the video for How I Became The Bomb’s synth-driven pop masterpiece “Mothership” onto the bar’s projector screen in between sets to entice people to see the Nashville-based perpetual buzz-band play Friday night.
If an internet-era video has better captured the groping, kid-in-a-candy-shop wonder of early 80s multimedia – of a time when synthesizers weren’t instruments of irony, but tools of the future – I haven’t seen it.
Imagine the aesthetic randomness of the video for Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” combined with the uniform dystopia on the set of Styx’s “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” and the special effects of Tron and you’ll have an idea of it’s power.
“Really, we were just trying to make a cheap sci-fi video,” says 1982-born frontman Jon Burr, which is exactly why it works; the entire decade was a cheap sci-fi video, and after experiencing a video – and it’s fantastically catchy soundtrack – made by guys who tracked down an actual cosmonaut helmet worn in vintage Cold War space, watching hipsters flash chillwave gang signs with eBay-purchased Power Gloves will no longer achieve the 88 miles per hour I need to get back there.
“The 80s were a bizarre pastiche of bygone eras,” Burr says. “You had the cocaine-fueled recklessness of the 20s, the Reagan/Thatcher-era paranoia of WWII, and some really strange notions regarding fashion. Television was growing as a medium, and some of the best and worst comics and films were coming out, resulting in a sort of pop-culture explosion, whether you look at it ironically or not.”
How I Became The Bomb doesn’t look at it ironically, but with an unrepentant nostalgia (“We all got together in our attic and started making the music we wanted to hear”) and modern sensibility that has earned them press in Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Guardian, and even an invite to record at Maida Vale Studios at the BBC.
Burr is an incurable Tennessee fan and his great-grandfather quarterbacked for the Tide. He’s never been to Auburn.
“I’m actually somewhat terrified that I’ll burst into flames upon entering the city limits,” he says.
Have a Flip Vid handy, and that’d actually make a pretty killer video, too, but here’s hoping he doesn’t. At least until they finish playing.
It worked, Heath – I’ll be there.
Here are some other questions Burr was kind enough to answer:
Is there a sense that the band should be bigger than it is? When is it going to happen? How is it going to happen?
Well, of course, we certainly aspire to greater things, but we’ve only been around for five years, so we know we still have some work ahead of us. We plan to continue to develop our touring base and secure some more licensing deals, which appear to be essential to bands’ success these days. Either that, or perhaps we’re better off starting a secret society or some other nefarious plot.
Long shot… Man or Astro Man? is from Auburn. We’re pretty proud of that. They wore space helmets, too. Or space-ish stuff. Does HIBTB draw any conceptual inspiration from MOAM?
I’ve heard of them, but that’s about it. We’ve drawn most of our visual inspiration from genre cinema, literature, and comics. Oh, and video games.
What’s your favorite 80s movie? Where were you when John Hughes died? What about Michael Jackson?
Manhunter, hands down. Michael Mann’s finest hour. The 80s definitely had a plethora of great sci-fi flicks. The Thing, Terminator, Aliens, Outland…..I could go on and on. I’m not a huge John Hughes fan, although I have a soft spot for Bill Paxton as Chet in Weird Science. I can hardly keep track of anything these days, let alone where I was on those events.
What’s the worst show you’ve ever played?
We’ve actually had some desperately bad shows in Birmingham, Atlanta, actually. That place has been a hard luck spot for us, it seems. I don’t think anything can touch the time we played an enormous club in Liverpool on Guy Fawkes’ Day. For those who don’t know, trying to play on Guy Fawkes’ Day in Britain is a bit like trying to play a show on Christmas morning here. Oh, the misery.
Give me a quick history — started in… ’06?
2005, actually. Richardson, our keyboard player, and I have been friends since high school. The rest of the guys I met at Middle Tennessee State University’s Recording Program. We all got together in our attic and started making the music we wanted to hear. We’ve put out a few records and toured Europe a few times and are still chopping away at it.
What’s been, to date, HIBTB’s biggest professional compliment? Have you ever looked out to see Mark Mothersbaugh nodding along in the crowd? Been name-dropped by… someone?
Well, we’ve been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, and The Guardian, but maybe the neatest thing was being invited to record at Maida Vale Studios at the BBC. If only John Peel had still been alive!
What do you think about The Cars “Candy-O”? It’s great, isn’t it?
I’m partial to “Moving In Stereo”, truth be told.
What’s changed in the music industry / music scene since you started?
Well, I’m sure it’s a boring answer, but the industry has pretty much been in flux since the advent of free downloading. No one is really sure how to sustain a career, and the labels certainly have no idea what to do with their money any more. It’s actually probably easier to make money now, without label assistance, but you certainly have to bust your ass to do it. A lot of people use the Wild West as an analogy, so I guess it’s apt.
Why play music? What’s your day job?
We just can’t help ourselves. Most of us have some other form of horrific, unmentionable day job.
Are you in this for the long haul?
What’s Nashville like for a band trying to make it?
Most would say “cold” and complain about everyone being a musician and bitch and moan. I actually like it. It means everyone can play and everyone’s a critic. It may not be as fun as some cities, but there’s a lot more music jobs and opportunities here than in most cities.
What’s the secret to rock ‘n’ roll?
A good pair of slacks.
Where: The Independent, 203 Opelika Road.
When: Friday, August 20, 9 p.m.