Interview: Americana Soul Rockers Bad Keys Of The Mountain Talk New Single ‘As It Is,’ West Virginia Roots, & More

Combining the catchy and magnetic sounds of 60s and 70s rock music, Bad Keys of the Mountain have been perfecting their acoustic and electric rock blend since their first single in 2018. Now, nearly a year after their first album was unleashed to the world, the band is mere hours into the release of their latest track.

Forming in Charleston, West Virginia, Bad Keys of the Mountain consists of David McGuire (guitar/vocals/songwriting), Joey Lafferty (bass), and Jason Reese (drums). The three piece all share a love of the glittery melodies and raw energy of 60s and 70s rock and pop, sprinkled in with a smattering of country. Their sound is one that blends the music and experiences of different decades to create something truly unique.

In December of 2018, the group would drop their first single “No One Is Home.” The classic late 60s rock feel of this song and their next single, “I Know You,” would lay the groundwork for their debut album, Together and Alone, released in March of last year. This album would see the band focus their songwriting skills to an airtight collection of blissful pop melodies with a rock edge.

Now, the Charleston natives officially released their newest single, “As It Is,” along with a music video.

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We got a chance to talk to McGuire to discuss the origins of the group, the backstory behind the new track, and more.

So can you talk about the roots and origins of Bad Keys of the Mountain?

We started in 2018. Joey Lafferty (bass) and I had played together in another project that ran it’s course. After that, we decided to pick up where that left off. The line up has changed slightly since, but after getting Jason Reese from the band Farnsworth on drums, we’ve hit our stride as a trio.

What’s the music scene like in Charleston, West Virginia, and do you consider taking your talents elsewhere?

The local scene in Charleston is a small but supportive community. There is a lot of talent in our region. As far as taking my talents elsewhere, I don’t think so. When I’m the early 90’s I had plans to move to Austin, but got sidetracked with a crippling drug addiction. I’ve since gotten clean and my priorities have changed. We all have families and other responsibilities. The music business of today isn’t what it was 25 years ago. It’s really difficult to make a living and support a family doing this. For us, there is no record company working behind the scenes on promotion or giving you an advance to make an album. It’s all on the artist to do that. We make music because it’s in us, and it needs to be expressed. If other people like it, that’s great. But, if we feel good about what it, that’s all that matters.

What does a day in the life of the band’s songwriting process look like?

I’m the main songwriter. My process is no process… lol. I’ll sit down with a guitar or at the piano and a chord or chord sequence will start to form a pattern in my head. Then a few words or a melody might start to develop. That’s the part of the process that’s a gift from somewhere else. After that, that’s when the craft of songwriting comes into play. Very rarely do I sit down and finish a song in one sitting. I like to let things marinate for a bit.

I was hoping you could talk about your new single, “As It Is.” Can you walk us through the inspiration and influence behind it?

The song as it started on an acoustic guitar while I was in my back yard. It was the fall of 2020. The pandemic had been going on almost a year. I was so sick of all the disinformation and politicization of it. Couple that with the presidential election that year, I was just tired of all the polarization. I guess it was me voicing my frustration at everything at the time. There is nothing like dropping an F bomb in the 1st verse to get out some angst.

Where was it recorded and who helped bring it to life?

We recorded the album in Athens. OH, at The Oxide Shed. It’s Eddie Ashworth’s studio and he recorded, produced, and mixed it. He’s great to work with. We also had a few outside musicians help out. Namely Johnathan Smith on Keys, and Johnny Shadid on pedal steel. I played piano and steel too, but there some things I wanted a more sophisticated touch on and both of those guys killed it. My friend Aaron Fisher, who’s another Charleston musician, helped out on bs background vocals on a couple of tracks.

How do you know when a song is finished? Do you find yourself wanting to keep tinkering and re-recording tracks etc.?

A song is finished when it says it is. As far as the structure of a song, I have an easy time of letting go of it. I have a minimalist approach. Not every song wants a bridge of endless verses. When recording though, I could spend months in the studio if I had the time and resources. That process is harder for me. But that’s where having a great producer like Eddie Ashworth is valuable. He’s not right on top of the song like we are, so he’s able to step back and give you some perspective.

Can you talk about the vision behind the music video and how it correlates to the song?

There really not much vision in the video other than trying to make something that’s interesting to look at. I had a bunch of old magazines with these really cool images. So I spent a few weeks just cutting out and compiling the ones I thought were interesting. After that I laid them all out and started looking for patterns that were visually interesting and put them together. Stop motion looks cool but is a long and tedious process. I’ve done two, and I’m not sure I want to do anymore… lol.

What does a dream gig look like for the band?

Any gig where people show up and are supportive and enjoying themselves, that’s a dream gig for us now.

What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?

Success as a songwriter looks like going to the mail box and getting a check… lol. Honestly at this point, I think of something I write can make someone wise feel something, that’s a success. There is a song on the album called “While I’m Around”, that one seems to do that.

What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for the rest of 2022?

It’d be nice to just have people listen to the record. I think we did a good piece of work on this one. The main goal musically would be to start on another album later this year or early next year. We already have enough material. I just wanna get the music down while it’s there and I’m around to do it.

Photos by Rafael Barker

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