By John Parks
Jarod Mankin is the animated and talented bassist for west Virginia hard-rockers Bobaflex, and he’s got a lot to jump around about these days. His band is readying the release of their sixth album, Charlatan’s Web, due out Sept. 10, and preceded by their lead video/single “Bad Man,” which is currently receiving lots of radio and YouTube action.
This is all centered around the band bringing their show to the people, which is precisely what Bobaflex does best. Since their inception, they’ve made a career out of playing as much as humanly possible. Their live show is deadly sharp and supremely fun as a result.
Bobaflex will be headlining Bar 3, 326 E. State St., in downtown Rockford Friday, Aug. 30. I recently phoned Jerod to ask him a little about the album and the latest happenings.
Q: I’ve heard the debut single/video “Bad Man,” and it’s been on the radio a lot here, but I have yet to actually hear the new Bobaflex album, Charlatan’s Web. What can you tell me about the album while everyone either pre-orders (http://bobaflex.ras.bustores.com/) or waits to pick it up?
A: Well, we definitely went about it our own way. We put this record and all of our stuff out on our own label, BFX Records, with different distribution in different areas. With this record, it’s a bit more aggressive, but it still retains a lot of the same melodic stuff that you would expect from Bobaflex. There are a lot of soaring harmonies and vocals, but paired with very, very aggressive drum and guitar work overall. Ten songs overall, including “Bad Man,” “I’m Glad You’re Dead” and “Pretty Little Things,” and no cover songs this time around.
Q: Hell in My Heart was made under kind of difficult circumstances, but ended up breathing a ton of new energy into the band and doing very well for you. How much different was the environment or atmosphere this time around, recording Charlatan’s Web?
A: This one, we were kinda under the gun. We wanted to get it done really quick. Also, we’ve known each other for so long and played with each other for so long that songwriting has moved along nicely. A guy can write a riff or even part of a riff, and the rest of us can come in and move it along fairly quickly. It was definitely an interesting process, I can say that. The guy who runs the studio we use is a very, very, dear friend of ours and has worked on almost every record we have ever put out, so it’s kind of a relaxed, comfortable environment for us … it’s pretty laid back.
Q: I don’t want to give off the impression that you have all grown up and become old fuddy-duddies, but kids, fiancées, marriages and family have become a part of many of your lives, and what you do job-wise is far from normal in terms of the amount of travel and time away from home. It can also be a lot of hard work and stress on the individual band friendships, but have you found little ways of making it easier?
A: We’ve known each other our whole lives to the point where the band itself is family. We came from three towns where there’s one stoplight (laughs). We know each other well enough by this point that we know when to back off a bit or give each other space and stuff like that. As far as the personal stuff goes, I’m a married guy, and you know, it does take a toll on your life here and there. But it tends to work out, as long as your spouse is willing to accept what you do and understand everything that comes with it. You definitely spend a lot of time away from your family, but it works out. It’s all for the best.
Q: As I have become a huge fan of you guys, I would almost compare what you’re doing with building your fanbase to the way bands did things back in the 1970s, pre-MTV era. You are out there building a fanbase by playing live and reputation spreads, largely by word of mouth, sometimes on social medias, or sometimes the old-fashioned way; a friend tells a friend, a brother tells a cousin “You gotta check out Bobaflex live.” To me, that is really refreshing. Do you think that’s really helped the band biz-wise in the last five years??
A: Oh, for sure. Our thing is personal. A lot of the bands on the radio these days, people don’t even know what they look like. If you’ve ever heard the name Bobaflex, you’ve probably seen the band live in your town because we tour like crazy. As far as the live show goes, me, personally, it says on my tax return “Entertainer.” So basically, that’s the way I look at what I do. I wouldn’t want to go to a show and not be entertained, so I’ll put my all out there every single night, just to entertain the crowd and put a smile on their faces.
Q: The band has small-town west Virginia roots, as you spoke about earlier, and you do go over really well here in the Midwest. Is there something about that which just comes effortlessly, or has become second nature to you as a band?
A: There’s no doubt about it. The Midwest, specifically Rockford, Janesville, that whole entire area, rock and roll is still alive there. In fact, it never really died. For a long time in the rest of the country, rock and roll didn’t really exist. The fans that we have in those areas have always been really, really true to us, and we feel that we should be loyal and true back. People really appreciate the band in those areas, and we really appreciate them right back. It’s been that way, and will continue to be that way on our part.
Q: Again, I haven’t had the chance to pore through the lyrics yet on Charlatan’s Web, but I will. Bobaflex is usually a band that tends to speak its mind lyrically on the albums, “Last Song” comes to mind for sure. What kind of things were inspiring lyrically this time around?
A: This time around, there’s a few different things. Maybe a couple more controversial subject matters this time out, but all in all, it’s basically still a Bobaflex record. It is us saying how we feel, and you’re right — we’ve never really held back on that. The cover art, and overall concept of the title, is something Shawn (McCoy, co-lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist) came up with and brought to us. It’s just themed around the charlatan, the rouser who’s just going around fooling people, basically, and weaving a web of lies. The moment we saw the cover art, we all just fell in love with it, and it won hands down (laughs).
From the Aug. 21-27, 2013, issue