Contrary to their name, the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band are actually fairly damn small. They're a trio, in fact, consisting of guitarist and vocalist Josh Peyton — he's the Rev — his wife, washboard player Breezy Peyton, and drummer Ben Bussell. The group's diminutive size only makes its explosive live show all the more impressive.
The Big Damn Band have long had a reputation as an exceptional live act. And with the recent release of their new album, So Delicious, they finally have a fitting, fiery studio complement to their incendiary shows. Produced by the Rev himself, it's easily the best-sounding record of the band's career. Yet, despite the improved fidelity, the album still boasts the same ragged blues-punk energy that's become the band's calling card.
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band play Stowe's Spring Shakedown on Saturday, April 30, at the Rusty Nail. In advance of that show, Seven Days spoke with the Rev by phone from the road.
SEVEN DAYS: I hate to start on such a down note. But we learned that Prince died, like, an hour ago.
JOSH PEYTON: Yeah, we just found that out at lunch. I was a fan. He was an underrated guitar player. When people talk about great guitar players, a lot of times they mention people that aren't half the guitar player Prince was. He was fantastic.
SD: He really was. Also, he was apparently a legitimately good basketball player.
JP: [Laughs.] That's what they say.
SD: So your press rep sent along some talking points for this interview. I usually ignore that stuff, but these actually seemed kinda fun. The first is that your last three albums have debuted in the top five on the Billboard blues chart.
JP: They've all debuted at No. 2, I think. Ain't that a bummer? We keep getting beat out by really big names and can't quite get to No. 1. Although, on iTunes our last few records have debuted at No. 1, so that's kinda cool. We beat 'em in the digital world.
SD: The next one is, "Is the Rev. really a reverend?" And the answer is yes.
JP: Legally speaking. That's a weird one they put there. What's the next one?
SD: "Are they really a big band?" And the answer, obviously, is no.
JP: Well, we sound big. That's a weird one, too. But you know, I couldn't believe no one had ever named their band the Big Damn Band. So there is only one. Accept no imitations.
SD: Speaking of the name, I understand it has something to do with hog testicles and a county fair.
JP: Actually, it does, in a way. Kudos to you for doing some serious research, my friend. That was Breezy's and my first date. We went to the Indiana State Fair. And whenever I go to the Indiana State Fair, they have the world's largest hog there. It's a massive thing. And I like to rub the world's largest hog's testicles for luck every year. That's a thing I do.
JP: That just happened on that date. But it wasn't exactly how I named the band. It's a long story, but I won a giant bear at one of those carnival games. Like, bigger than a person. And we called it the Big Damn Bear. And at the time, I was calling everything the big damn whatever. The big damn truck. It was a habit, and I said it about everything. So that's why we called it the Big Damn Band, after that giant-ass bear that I won at the Indiana State Fair, right after I did my annual blood ritual with the world's largest hog.
SD: Well, the ritual seems to have worked.
JP: The secret to my success is that hog. It's magic.
SD: You guys are on the road a lot and seem to genuinely enjoy touring. Aside from playing shows, what's your favorite thing about touring?
JP: I love being home, back in Brown County, and I look forward to it at the end of a tour. But if I was stuck there, I think I'd be incredibly bored after a while. For us, every day is something new, and we're always making stuff happen. Every day is an adventure. And at this point, I've got friends all over the world, and I really enjoy seeing them in different states, different countries.
But the No. 1 most important thing is still playing music, playing shows. It's my favorite thing in the world.
SD: And your least favorite part of touring?
JP: The tight schedule. Sometimes it's 12 hours between shows and you have to drive all night, so you never recover from the next day. If there was a day off between every show, it would be a lot easier. But it doesn't work that way.
SD: What's your best road story?
JP: Oh, man, I've got a million stories from the road. I should really just pick one. But we run into famous people, and people who are not famous but should be. We'll be being served in a castle in southern France by butlers one day and then hanging out with bums the next, and everything in between. It's wild.
We try to do stuff on the road. A lot of bands don't. Just live the kind of lives where you want to do adventurous things. For me, it's all about that. If there's not adventure, I get bored.
SD: So you get to be tourists a little?
JP: We try to see the real stuff. See the landmarks, but also get into the streets with people, find out what's really happening. I also do tons of fishing on the road.
SD: You're gonna love Vermont, then.
JP: Vermont is a beautiful place. It's an underrated state.
SD: Well, Bernie Sanders has raised our profile a bit. So you said a couple years ago that you hadn't made your best record yet. Do you feel So Delicious is that?
JP: Nope. I still haven't made it. I hope to make it someday.
SD: But what happens if you do?
JP: I guess when that happens, you've gotta hang it up. So Delicious is the best so far. Our early records were kind of like field recordings, for better or worse. And it's kind of amazing they've done so well, literally being field recordings. No technology on some of them at all. But as we've gotten older, I've learned that maybe we can make records like they made them in the '50s and '60s and not the '30s. So the meat of everything is still live, but we think about it more. The first records, I didn't care. I thought we were just a live band. But now I want to make good records, too. They don't all have to be Alan Lomax field recordings.