Big Head Todd & The Monsters

The very first Ford Thunderbird rolled on to the streets of America back in 1955. The legendary car’s legacy spanned eleven generations, and it endured as an original in every iteration. In similar fashion, Big Head Todd and The Monsters have persisted as a rare force of nature in rock ‘n’ roll. The platinum-selling Colorado quartet—Todd Park Mohr [vocals, guitar, keys, sax, harmonica], Brian Nevin [drums, percussion], Rob Squires [bass, vocals], and Jeremy Lawton [guitar, keys, vocals, steel guitar]—have consistently churned out undeniable and often uplifting anthems fueled by a hybrid of no-nonsense hard rock, simmering soul, dyed-in-the-wool blues, and a twist of country. Akin to your favorite classic automobile, their influence and imprint only widen over time, selling out even bigger venues and enrapturing new eras of fans with every passing year.

Now, they’ve crafted the perfect soundtrack to this journey in the form of their 12th full-length offering, Thunderbird.

“As a title, Thunderbird seemed to represent the album,” states Todd. “The Thunderbird is a symbol of freedom and rainmaking—maybe with a little resurrection thrown in. In some ways, all of the songs are lyrically about freedom. As far as the music goes, it may be more on the hard guitar rock side of things than some of our past efforts.”

These cats have always paved their own lane. Todd, Brian, and Rob started playing music together while still in high school during the early eighties. Becoming Big Head Todd and The Monsters during 1986, that lane has twisted and turned just as much as Highway 66…

Following a quiet D.I.Y. rise, the group shook the mainstream with 1993’s now-classic platinum-certified Sister Sweetly. In its wake, Robert Plant tapped the band to open his Fate of Nations Tour. Following Strategem [1994], they unveiled Beautiful World [1997] highlighted by a cover of “Boom Boom” [feat. John Lee Hooker]—which notably became the theme song for NCIS: New Orleans. They welcomed Jeremy to the fold in 2001. After penning “Blue Sky” at the urging of friends connected to NASA, they notably performed the song live from Mission Control as an interplanetary wakeup call for astronauts on the shuttle. Along the way, the guys joined B.B. King for a “Crossroads” session and toured with blues heroes a la Hubert Sumlin and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. They have headlined Red Rocks Amphitheatre a staggering 35 times. Recognizing “38 years of continuous musical service to fans, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inducted the quartet as part of its “Class of 2023.

Kicking off another chapter, Big Head Todd and the Monsters wrote, produced, and recorded what would become Thunderbird in Jeremy’s basement studio, perfecting what everyone loves about them in the process.

“Our group has developed significantly in every area from our individual abilities to our abilities as a band and as a business,” Todd observes. “As a guitarist, I have a continual love of learning. In the age of YouTube, great instruction is everywhere. My songwriting has shifted to a more personal and poetic approach, and it helps me handle difficult topics. We’re also going for ‘Lowest Common Denominator Pop’. We want to hit people hard and affect them emotionally.”

The introductory single “Crush” lives up to this ambition. A bluesy guitar groove dips in and out of a steady beat as Todd’s smoky croon takes hold with a warning, “You can’t crush me, now I’m free…I don’t hear your voice no more. A wave of distortion dissolves into a hummable lead played with panache and passion.

‘Crush’ is about how we are formed by our past and the voices that influence us for good or not,” he reveals. “It could be about how one was told from an early age that they couldn’t do something. My chorus, ‘Heavy words broke my bones, is personal and political. One believes lies until we see they are really a set of handcuffs and we want our freedom.”

Then, there’s the rip-roaring barnburner “Thunderbird.” Its hum resembles the purr of an engine accented by wild piano and bellowing vocals.

“It was inspired by American Graffiti,” he notes. “In the movie, there’s a mystery woman driving a white Thunderbird. Starting with a great film leads to a cinematic songwriting style involving multiple characters—much like early Springsteen.”

The album opener “Her Way Out” revs up with the twang of a loose riff as Todd sets the scene on the chantable refrain, “She found her way, her way out, and now she’s free.

“It’s about a situation that happened to someone I know,” he reveals. “He said things to his girl that he couldn’t remember. She left him for it, and she never told him what he said! In real life, he was her way out. My song has a happy ending though.”

On the hard-charging “My New Number One,” a punchy riff moves in lockstep with the drums as Todd counts down a different list of loves…

“It’s based on my bad habit of collecting guitars,” he laughs. “Every new guitar is somehow my new number one. My band members just laugh. The last time I heard myself say it, I saw a whole song there. I just had to complete a romantic number rhyme and a badass chorus.”

The swaggering stomp of “Rainbow Girl” culminates on a hypnotic call-and-response, “Rainbow girl, she does what she pleases.

“It’s inspired by my daughter Margo,” he smiles. “She’s six now, but she’s obsessed with unicorns and rainbows, as all girls are. I was interested in how those symbols related to life and relationships compared to the male toys and interests of the same age. I wanted to understand what Unicorn power was. It turns out, they can help things pretty well. They’re practical. I found a superhero comic book character from the sixties who was Rainbow Girl. She had these psychological powers and spells, so I knit it all into a fun song.”

In the end, Big Head Todd and The Monsters might just make you feel free too.

Thunderbird is conflict, freedom, love, and some relief,” he leaves off. “We hope this grows deep on you. Making songs happen is our pleasure. We hope for our Thunderbird many returns.”

Photo: Jason Siegel

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