Oxford, Miss. — a state school town where the legacies of William Faulkner and frats entwine like kudzu — has long been recognized as an artistic outpost in the Deep South. It features a local music scene currently championed by the likes of indie blues label Fat Possum and Cats Purring, an eclectic pop collective headed up by artist Dent May.
A beneficiary of both groups is John Barrett, who records perilously raw, stripped-back garage rock under the name Bass Drum of Death. Barrett released his debut on Fat Possum, and lived for a time at the Cats Purring Dude Ranch, the rambling Oxford residence maintained by May.
amNY spoke with Barrett, who is touring behind his band’s striking, self-titled sophomore release.
What is it like to form a band in Oxford?
It is pretty easy. There’s a ton of people that play music here, especially given the size of the town.
How have you improved since your debut?
We’re a lot tighter when we play live, and the shows flow a lot better now. Personally, I think my songwriting improved a whole lot. I tried some new things on this [new] record and tried to push myself.
Conversely, what do you think you still have to work on?
Being comfortable with being in a studio and making a record with other people, aka giving up control. I’m bad about that. I think if I dial down the control-freakness a bit and let some other people have input, we could make something really awesome.
What connections, if any, do you see between Southern culture and the recent successes of rock and punk acts from the region?
I don’t really see any, honestly. There’s a lot of really good rock/punk bands from all over the place. The South has an insanely rich musical history though, so I think myself and other bands based here work that much harder to keep up with that reputation, and to keep that reputation moving forward.
Bass Drum of Death is at Shea Stadium BK Monday night at 8. 20 Meadow St., Williamsburg, liveatsheastadium .com, $10.
The band is at Glasslands Tuesday night at 8, 289 Kent Ave., Williamsburg, 718- 599-1450, $10.