Cross-pollinating songs with funk, jazz, hip hop, reggae, rock, bluegrass and pop, as well as fictitious characters, Big Something has created an innovative and eccentric approach to music.
Commonly considered an American alternative rock band, one only has to listen to a few of songs to know there is considerably more to their sound. Big Something was formed in 2009 in Elon, North Carolina, and has been playing Telluride, including the annual Ride Festival, since 2016. Big Something lead vocalist and guitarist Nick MacDaniels noted that Telluride is one of the band’s all-time favorite places to visit and engage with audiences, and other than the Ride shows, they’ve enjoyed playing shows at the Sheridan Opera House the past several winters.
“We are called Big Something because we have this melting pot of influences coming from each of the band members,'” MacDaniels said. “We have a pretty diverse group of personalities in the band, and we all come from different musical backgrounds. We've got some metalheads in the band, and then we've got some more traditional bluegrass, southern rock inspiration, hip hop. Casey (Cranford) the saxophone player loves jazz. Ben (Vinograd), the drummer, and myself grew up as ’90s alternative rock kids, so there's a lot of that in there, too.”
Since their 2010 debut album “Stories From the Middle of Nowhere,” Big Something has evolved into a “completely different beast,” MacDaniels said. By way of Cranford slowly integrating the electronic saxophone into their musical accretion and Ben Vinograd — the band's current drummer who replaced the original drummer with a contrastingly “really loud, rocking” sound” — the band has been exploring new ranges and possibilities.
“Our musical identity has kind of shifted into a heavier, more rocked out sound as we’ve gotten older; our sound has matured a little bit, too,” MacDaniels said. “It's maybe a little more ambient, and we've been focusing a lot more on improvising and trying to create magic with our music in the moment.”
MacDaniels fondly reflects on his childhood best friend Paul’s –– who passed away in 2017 –– influence on the band, explaining that, “a lot of the lyrics from the catalog comes from Paul’s imagination.”
“Megalodon” and “Love Generator” are two of MacDaniels’ favorite songs that he had written and created alongside Paul. “Megalodon,” which was the name of the largest prehistoric shark species ever, has become one of Big Something’s biggest hits, and is a metaphor for “something that holds you down, whether that be an addiction, mental health or an internal struggle,” MacDaniels explained.
Paul also came up with the song “Love Generator,” which envisions a futuristic robot-ridden, heartbeat-less world in which love is neither innate nor familiar. Throughout the song, two robots “learn to love,” which creates a chain reaction of enlightening the world how to love once again.
“We never really wanted to write about personal stuff, it was all about characters and creating, we have this whole world of characters,” MacDaniels said.
Beloved Big Something character Pinky took the spotlight at Saturday night’s Transfer Warehouse show, as the band whimsically relived the character’s 11-year chronicle. The band played four songs about the fictitious character in a row — “Pinky’s Ride,” “Pinky Goes to Jail,” “Pinky’s Woman” and “Jose’s Pistola.”
He added that while most songwriting nowadays falls into the categories of love and sex, death, or drugs, Big Something is always “trying to think of other ways around it.”
The band’s 2020 album “Escape” veered into the realm of improv and organic flair, as it is their first album recorded without having composed any of their songs prior to entering the studio. MacDaniels noted that the album was a “collaborative group effort.” The group would “just jam,” often to the core progressions and intricate melodies saxophone player Cranford comes up with, figure out what they like, and then MacDaniels would devise vocal melodies that blend into the “general groove.”
“Like a painting,” the team spent the two weeks in the studio “stacking and layering” melodies and lyrics, watching the process turn into a groovy album. MacDaniels added that a good friend Josh Phillips engaged in the band’s musical process and helped come up with the title track “Escape.”
As Big Something band members’ musical influences and endowments are ever evolving and robust, their compilation of offerings follows suit. Big Something has a lot of “musical ideas” in the works, including a new album, new songs and music videos, and is looking forward to the rest of their tour, which includes Bonnaroo Sept. 2, MacDaniels said.
“I've never been more happy with how we’ve sounded than right now; every show is our best show. We are mentally clicking,” MacDaniels said. “We have been talking and discussing how we want things to sound and how we want things to gel, and it's really, musically, getting to another level. Before the pandemic, we were kind of just in a routine, same shows, same songs; we weren’t really pushing ourselves. Now that we have gotten back to work, back to touring, we are really pushing ourselves and what we are capable of musically.”