The dictionary definition of ‘oneiric’ is “of or relating to dreams or dreaming.” So while it might be a somewhat unusual word, it’s the perfect title for Atlanta four-piece Big Jesus’ debut record and its ten fuzzy, powerful, and ’90s-tinged songs. Yet there’s more to it than that, too – because this record serves as a continuation of the band’s previous EP, One.
“We put out One,” says guitarist CJ Ridings, “and instead of re-releasing everything, the label wanted us to add some more songs. So there are four songs from One and then six brand new one. With that in mind, I thought it was cool that the first three letters of the album are the name of the EP. So if you had One and you knew about it then, you’ll know this isn’t a completely new record but a revamping of that. I felt weird about giving it a whole new title and using a name that wasn’t correlated with it.”
Started in 2009, Big Jesus – completed by bassist/singer Spencer Ussery, guitarist Thomas Gonzalez and drummer Joe Sweat – wasn’t ever meant to be a serious thing, but rather just a fun, and not in any way serious, creative outlet. That’s certainly not the case anymore.
“This was never supposed to be anything,” admits Ridings. “I’ve been trying to be in bands since I was 14 or 15 years old – I’m 29 now – and in my mid-20s I decided that being in a band was hard, especially with the music that I like to play because people aren’t making a ton of money in those sub-genres, so I took up sound engineering. That was taking up all my time but I missed being in a band, so I just wrote demos by myself and put them on the internet for free, for fun. And people found it and dug it and it just kept snowballing until it’s become the number one priority in all our lives now.”
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Partly that’s because now Big Jesus are managed by MDDN – the company set up by Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden – and will soon be touring with the pop-punk band. It’s a bit of a strange fit, admittedly, but it’s opening up opportunities for the band they never even thought they’d be able to dream about.
“We’re going to Europe with them in a couple of weeks,” says Ridings, “and I never would have imagined that would be the case. They started a management company and actually started managing us a few months ago. It’ definitely a big leap, but a few months ago we played a few big festivals, so it’s not too daunting. I feel like our band is accessible enough that I don’t think there will be too many people who are super turned off by us. One of my favourite things about Big Jesus is that I feel we can fit with metal bands and nu-metal bands as well as bands in the pop-punk world. And it’s awesome to me that people on both ends of our spectrum are able to really get into it and enjoy it and not be closed off to it.”
To that extent, Big Jesus are very happy existing in between pigeonholes, and they want that to continue by making only the music they want to make and forging their own sonic path, rather than subscribing to the rigid templates of a specific genre.
“The number one thing,” says Ridings, “is we always want to try to be progressive. No matter what this ends up being. It started out as me not trying too hard – I just wanted to have fun and do this ’90s throwback kind of thing. But I feel like we’ve grown out of that on this record. We’re not just an emulation anymore. We’re taking this somewhere it hasn’t been before. We want to make something unique that actually progresses the rock genre.”