The Bad Words are already living up to their name in high profile fashion. The recent regional winners of the Colgate Country Challenge, a Nashville Star-like talent competition, have been told by the toothpaste sponsor that they can't play one of their signature songs, "Drunk at Church," at the contest's state level.
"We've been censored right off the bat," says guitarist/vocalist Frank Presstop. "Somebody called the people at Colgate and told them our lyrics are less than family-oriented so they checked into us and don't like our song 'Drunk at Church,' and they specifically said we could not play that song."
"And we kind of assumed we can't play 'Badass Country Boy,'" continues guitarist/vocalist Dan Bennett. "We asked to get into this thing and it's a family event so we understand why they don't want us to play the songs. We're not going to do any kind of Doors thing and play the songs that we were told not to play."
Since their formation a little over a year and a half ago, The Bad Words have notched some impressive accomplishments. Since their debut gig in March 2007, The Bad Words have appeared at Princefest (the local Prince tribute show) and the Westside Streetfest, competed in and won the local/regional phase of the Colgate Country Challenge at this year's Taste of Cincinnati and recorded their self-titled Rock-to-Country-and-back debut CD.
Bad Words co-songwriters Bennett and Presstop got together in late 2006 after long tenures in a variety of bands, including The Smittys (which featured Bennett and Presstop), Diet Audio, The Revolver and Snaggletooth.
With the addition of bassist Geoff Buckingham and original drummer Phil Holt, the band began channeling some the same kinds of influences that inspired them in their previous outfits into the Bad Words' high energy brand of Wilco twang and Bottlerockets tang.
"I think we all listen to different types of music but we have some common similarities," Presstop says. "I listen to The Beatles and The Stones and Pink Floyd and Wilco and Weezer, but it doesn't come out sounding like that at all. It's like Fleetwood Mac has three different songwriters with three distinct styles but when it all comes together it all still sounds like Fleetwood Mac. That's how our stuff comes together."
Just before the May release of the album, Holt exited the band and they tapped veteran drummer John Sims (Coy Taylor Band, Foxy Shazam).
The Bad Words are already enjoying radio exposure outside of the usual outlets for local music. Thanks to the advocacy of DJ Vern Smith and his Motown Hoedown show at the University of Windsor's CJAM-FM, The Bad Words' "Drunk at Church" was the No. 1 most requested song for two months.
Although the day job grind prevents The Bad Words from venturing too far from their Cincinnati base, they've got plenty on their collective plates. After a full calendar of local gigs, the Bad Words will move on to Colgate's state competition in September at Annie's, where a win advances them to the national competition and a shot at $100,000 and a recording contract. In the meantime, The Bad Words are making fans the old-fashioned way: one audience at a time.
"People need to see us live to appreciate us," Presstop notes.
"We're trying to play out quite a bit and get that exposure," Bennett says. "If people in the suburbs like our music, we'll play in the suburbs. I have no problem with that."
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