Interview and Live Photos: Robert Cavuoto
In 2020 Buckcherry released two Acoustic Session series EPs. The first session entitled Volume 1 was released in February and included two acoustic songs, “Sorry” and “Carousel,” and on June 12th they released, Volume 2 with two more acoustic songs; “For the Movies” and “Check Your Head” from their 1999 debut album. All four songs showcase Josh’s voice and the song’s lyrics, which are powerfully depicted in these stripped-down recordings. Songs filled with raw and honest emotions sung with heartfelt passion. Buckcherry consists of vocalist John Todd, guitarists Stevie D and Kevin Roentgen, bassist Kelly LeMieux, and drummer Francis Ruiz. Both EPs are available on all digital download and streaming platforms at this location: https://lnk.to/buckcherry_acoustic_2
I spoke with Josh Todd about the Acoustic Sessions, the status of the follow-up CD to Warpaint, and Josh’s work ethic which drives his passion for the band.
Robert Cavuoto: What impressed me the most about these acoustic performances is the emphasis on your voice and the powerful lyrics. The songs come across as emotional and more impactful when stripped down. Did you intentionally select songs that would showcase the lyrics?
Josh Todd: It was a lot of fun breaking down those songs, and that is how many of our songs start. You know you have a good song when you can break it down to just vocals and guitar. I put a lot into my lyrics and have written all the lyrics for all the bands I have been in. I’m a student of the game and really love writing lyrics. It’s what got me into me into music as I wasn’t a singer when I went to my first punk rock rehearsal at 15 years old. I had a knack for writing and wrote poetry. When I finally put together a song, it’s like short stories that capture emotion. I was really into that. That being said, the songs we chose are very personal to me, and that always comes out when you are doing it in an intimate way, like with an acoustic guitar.
Robert Cavuoto: I was truly taken back by the performance on “Sorry.” I’ve listened to that song 100s of times from your studio CD but never heard or felt the lyrics like on the acoustic version.
Josh Todd: Every time I got home from being on the road, I would play those three chords. I wrote the song, so I could teach my daughter how to sing. She was very young at the time, and it was something nice that we could do together. I then started to think, “This is a really nice song,” and I have to play this for the team. That is when we took it to the next level. On the studio version, it went through a little adjustment as we added a bridge, tweaked the melody and chorus, but it’s essentially those three chords. It’s simple and heartfelt.
Robert Cavuoto: When you write Buckcherry songs, do you tend to do it on an acoustic guitar?
Josh Todd: No, it all happens in different ways. “Sorry” and “Check Your Head” was me starting on an acoustic. Songs come in all different ways, and I would have to go song-by-song to get really specific on how they came about.
Robert Cavuoto: Were there any Buckcherry songs that you tried acoustically that just didn’t work stripped down?
Josh Todd: We picked songs that would translate really well. If we do any more of these, I want to take a swing at something a little more challenging like a rock song just to make it different. If you are going to break down a big rock song, you definitely have to tweak it a bit in a way so it will work acoustically.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you think “Crazy Bitch” and “Cocaine” would work acoustically?
Josh Todd: I think we can, and it would work out great.
Robert Cavuoto: Are there plans to release Volumes 3 and 4, or do you plan to compile a collection of acoustic songs for a CD release?
Josh Todd: We get to do what we want to do, which is really nice. Right now, we are writing new songs for a Buckcherry record because of the whole COVID thing. It shifted us into a completely different gear. We had a lot of different plans for this year, and it certainly wasn’t this [laughing]. So now we are in songwriting mode and super fired up. We have a lot of great songs coming down the pipeline, so it should be out the Spring of next year.
Robert Cavuoto: Can you say how many songs you have written and if there is a working title?
Josh Todd: No, it’s way too premature for that!
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve often wondered about the simplicity of many of Buckcherry’s song titles as most are just one or two words. Can you shed some light on that?
Josh Todd: I like big and bold! Sometimes bands make a song title a complete sentence and I’m like, “What are you thinking?” For me, it needs to make a statement. That’s the way I have always thought about it. I’m really into symbolism and words, and not necessarily a group of words or a phrase. I look at words; like “Red” and try to find what it means to me. An example would be “Black Butterfly,” that’s a great visual for me. I can paint a great lyrical pictures in my head. I like to go with something that kicks off a spark of creativity. I’m sure everyone has their own pattern of writing, and that is my pattern.
Robert Cavuoto: In February, you released Volume 1, and now in June, you released Volume 2. When were they recorded, and were they created because of the pandemic?
Josh Todd: I think the pandemic was starting up when we were doing the first patch, and then it was happening through the second patch. We only recorded that second batch a month or so ago.
Robert Cavuoto: Are there any plans to do a lockdown/Zoom type video for any of these acoustic songs?
Josh Todd: I see those, and it bums me out. It’s just not for me. If that is where it’s going, it’s very sad. We’ve toured so much we can just wait on the sidelines until things get going. We have a show on July 4th in Iowa at the Freedom Rally, which is an outdoor biker event, and tickets are selling well. We have all these rescheduled dates starting in August, and they are all on from what I understand, but that can change.
Robert Cavuoto: What are your thoughts to band selling tickets to shows from their home or virtual happy hours?
Josh Todd: This is our livelihood, and it has been stripped out from underneath us. Any way bands can generate revenue from performing online; I’m all for it provided people want to see it and pay for it. More power to them and I think it’s great. We have to figure out ways to provide for our families.
Robert Cavuoto: The band is quite resilient to deal with so many obstacles like losing Keith, Xavier, Jimmy, and having label changes. I have to believe it was overwhelming at times; how did you cope?
Josh Todd: You just have to continue to have something to look forward to. I thrive on change, adversity, and challenges. It helps get me to the next level and enhances my songwriting and storytelling. If I look at it that way, I can keep moving on. I can’t help it that life changes. I never wanted Buckcherry to have a revolving door of band members, but I also have a strong work ethic. Many people think they can keep up with it, and then they get into the situation and realize it’s a lot of work. It’s funny; you talk with starving musicians and all they want to make a living doing their music. Then you give it to them, and they say, “Wow, there are lots of sacrifices.” You’re like, “Yeah, this is what you worked so hard for,” and then they quit because they can’t handle it. There is nothing I can do about that. I’m going to continue to move forward, and for whatever reason, this is the way my career has gone. When I started out, the thing I want to be as honest with my creativity, and as long as that was happening, then I could weather the storm. Sometimes it has worked for me and sometimes against me. That’s just a way of life for me.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell about that work ethic as you continue to release strong CDs year-after-year regardless of the members or the label.
Josh Todd: Thank you. It all comes down to passion. This is the only thing that makes me consistently happy; that’s the truth. I have a very dysfunctional foundation. Musicians don’t go into this profession because they are well rounded; we do it because we are fucked up! Artists are all fucked up. That is why we dedicate our lives to our art because we are fucked up, and it makes us happy. That being said, I wanted to find one thing, and I won’t let it go.
Robert Cavuoto: Most Buckcherry riffs have a signature sound and style, something that tells you right away its Buckcherry even before we hear your voice. In your opinion, what is that unique sound that Buckcherry has?
Josh Todd: It’s hard for me to critique that. I leave that to people like you to really analyze and watch people’s careers. I can tell you I don’t sound like anyone else, which is part of it. When you hear a Buckcherry song, you know it’s us when my voice kicks in, which is a huge part of it. We are a rock band on an island, our first record came out the end of the 90s, and we were straight-up rock band when there was nothing but rap-rock and show gazing nerd rock. There was nothing like us out there. We had to pave the way on our own. We have a unique flavor in rock. Then it went into this active rock thing, and I don’t want to judge active rock and rock bands, because to me, they sound all the same. There is no diversity between artists. I think the 90s were the last of the rock stars. There are no more rock stars, and there are no super unique singers. Look at all the frontmen in the 90s like Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, and Layne Staley and Zack de la Rocha; great frontman and now nothing in the 2000s. There are bands that have had success in selling tickets, but they are faceless. The average person would not recognize them in a mall! It’s very strange that from band-to-band they are not unique. In the 90s, every band like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, and Nirvana all had a thing when you heard them you knew it was them. Buckcherry had their thing too. I’m not sure why it’s like that now?
Robert Cavuoto: Many of the newer Pop bands/artists/singers us auto-tune.
Josh Todd: Everything is. That is the problem with rock too. Everything is auto-tuned. Every big concert that you go to has perfectly tuned vocals, pre-recorded vocals, and/or pre-recorded guitar. Some singers aren’t event singing the lead vocal tracks! It’s insane what is going on right now in rock music. There are people doing it 100% of the time.
Robert Cavuoto: What are some of the songs from Warpaint that we can expect to hear live?
Josh Todd: It’s such a great record, and we worked so hard on it. We do “Radio Song” and “Warpaint” We are going back to “The Vacuum” as we put that on the side for a while as it was one of the first songs we performed live from the CD. The entire record is stacked, and we have over 100 songs which we can’t do all of them.