Like dozens of groups, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band spent the past summer crisscrossing the country on the Vans Warped Tour. But the band’s appearance on the bill marked something of an anomaly. The Indiana-based trio doesn’t play a form of emo, punk or hardcore – the long-running tour’s primary exports. They’re not hip-hop either, and their connection to rock music is tenuous. Instead, the Big Damn Band produces a feisty, proudly rural brand of country blues. They are committed to their aesthetic, too, donning humble Depression-era clothes and writing songs about homemade potatoes, someone’s cousin being on Cops and Wal-Mart’s eradication of country stores. The Big Damn Band’s Warped stint wasn’t the only time they were out-of-place tourmates: They also have toured with Irish folk-punks Flogging Molly and blues-metal act Clutch. “We’ve always believed that all we’ve had to do [to impress] is get in front of people,” says Josh Peyton, the band’s guitarist, vocalist and namesake. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Warped Tour kids or old record collectors. The Warped Tour was a place where we could get in front of people and be ourselves. We’ve done a lot of shows with Flogging Molly so we’re not complete strangers to those crowds, but it was a chance to do something a bit different.”
The Big Damn Band maintains another prominent tie to punk as part of SideOneDummy Records, a label whose roster includes the Gaslight Anthem, the Casualties and Anti-Flag. Peyton admits he did not listen to much punk growing up, but he still finds some common ground with its ethos.
“A lot of the time, [punk] just means ‘real’ or doing things your own way, regardless of what other people think,” he says. By that criteria, the Big Damn Band are pretty punk, utilizing a stripped, bold approach and unapologetically sticking to their interest in rural imagery. The trio’s most striking element is Peyton’s stout bark, which tiptoes the line between cartoonish and authoritative.
“It’s weird, I know, but it’s what I got. It’s better being like that as opposed to being like everybody else,” says Peyton, whose “Reverend” nickname stems from his one-time interest in ministry. On stage, he cuts a burly, intimidating figure, aided admirably by washboard player/wife Breezy Peyton and drummer Aaron Persinger.
However, when any rural country blues band joins up with something as young and zeitgeist-focused as Warped Tour, the group runs the risk of coming off as a novelty act. Peyton says that he hasn’t really considered how that perception might impact his band’s reputation but is confident that any sense of truth in their work can dispel all skepticism.
That unorthodoxy is ultimately their draw. “What I love is when I get a message from a kid who is 14 years old and they say that their favorite thing on Warped Tour was us. That makes me feel like we’re on the right track because there’s so much music that’s plastic,” says Peyton. “The world’s become increasingly margarine and saccharine, and we want to be butter and sugar and nothing else.”