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Anything Could Happen is probably the most straightforward yet metaphorical album title yet. It’s appropriate for where Bash & Pop’s leader Tommy Stinson is musically in his life right now. He flies by the seat of his pants with everything that he does, he’s full of surprises and is always looking for new musical adventures. After solo projects and time with the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses, Stinson has found himself back with his ’90s alternative group Bash & Pop.
The new album has a very relatable vibe. While there was no specific emotion or sense that he was trying to convey, Stinson knew that he wanted to show people that making music was a rockin’ good time. He went into this project knowing that he wanted to make a rock record and things just worked themselves out.
“I had the ability to play with people that I know and like and had the right material to do it. As it came into focus, we kept it on the upswing,” he says. Stinson wanted to record mostly as a band, so it made more sense for it to be a Bash & Pop record and not a ‘Tommy Stinson’ solo LP. With a general undertone of rocking out, the album definitely has more of a traditional rock and roll backbone and has many commonalities with some of the bands he’s been a part of over the years.
Stinson had been writing sporadically over the years and things finally fell into place. The way things come to him aren’t really thought out in the traditional sense. He tends to put things together on the spot, but he swears that’s the fun of it. Knowing that there are different ways to combine sounds and patterns allows him to create music that has endless possibilities. Traditionally know as a bassist, Stinson plays many different instruments, which makes his writing and creative process easier. He is able to write on one instrument for a different instrument, which makes many of his compositional choices far more interesting than his contemporaries. “I don’t write in any particular way or on any particular instrument,” says Stinson.
Anything Could Happen has all of the elements of a solid rock album. The instrumentals carry the story where the lyrics leave off. The melodies are infectious and all the tracks sound like they are played with ease. It has all the components that make for a good performance, except it’s packaged up in album: enthusiasm, ability to provoke emotion, band cohesion and most importantly, a solid rock vibe.
Perhaps the best song on the album is “Unfuck You.” The story behind the song is that there isn’t one. “I’m surprised no one has written this yet. It’s very tongue in cheek. It’s a fun little romp,” says Stinson. The song is about wishing you could go back and ‘unfuck’ or ‘undo’ something, or someone, that you did. It is a rockin’ good time and is definitely a number that you would blast in your car with the windows down. “Anybody Else” is a close second, as the lyrics are unsuspectingly deep: “you can’t be anybody else for anyone.” When you first listen to the track you pick up on the vibe but when you really give in to the lyrics, you’ll find that it’s pretty deep stuff. The album is a double-whammy- strong, focused lyrics (some of the best of Stinson’s career) and even stronger musical accompaniment. We loved his last solo LP, 2011’s One Man Mutiny – and the new B&P builds upon that foundation in an incredible way.
The creative process for this album was collaborative; Stinson wanted the album to be created in a particular way so he sought out friends and colleagues that could bring the sound he had in his head to the table. The goal was to create a strong, rock vibe so that people could hear that they were having fun. Stinson wrote all of the songs and most of the key melodies. In terms of the band aspect, he presented his demos to his friends and let them take what was there and add their own spin to the tracks. While the songs were written previously, this creative freedom, where anything could happen, allowed songs to reach their full potential during rehearsals and the recording phase. A song could start off sounding one way and then morph into something greater.
When Stinson moved to New York, he created a home studio. The idea was to set up shop so he could record his own music in addition to producing other bands. The idea of working with other bands appeals to Stinson because he likes to get the best out of musicians. Exploring the potential of the music, and the musician himself, is the part of the process that Stinson is drawn to. For this Bash & Pop album, Stinson booked his friends to come to his home studio to record, generally Friday through Sunday. Working at home allowed them to have three-day sessions in a creative space, unencumbered by commercial studio distractions and hassles. While some things were re-recorded, the goal was to record live to generate an authentic feeling. If they didn’t get the sound or feel that they were looking for in a couple of takes, they moved onto a different song.
With Anything Could Happen, Stinson takes pride in the fact that he didn’t have to over think anything or beat songs into the ground. He also wore fewer hats for this album, which allowed him to take a step back and be more in the moment as a performer. Anything Could Happen is an early frontrunner for our favorite rock album of 2017, and we can’t wait to catch the band on tour this month.
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