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When Todd Park Mohr and Brian Nevin met in the Columbine High School jazz band in the ’80s, they couldn’t have known that they’d still be making music together 30 years later. The two friends, together with fellow Columbine classmate, Rob Squires, quickly bonded over their love of music, a mutual appreciation that would eventually lead to the creation of the legendary Colorado band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters (they adopted the name while attending the University of Colorado Boulder). Eventually, three became four, with keyboardist Jeremy Lawton joining around 2003. Since then, they have released 11 full-length albums and garnered a cult following, especially in their home state.
With the release of their latest work, New World Arisin’, in November, Big Head Todd is once again hitting the road. In advance of their two upcoming Colorado shows—December 21 at the Aggie Theater in Fort Collins, and December 23 at the Boulder Theater (tickets here)—we talked to Mohr about their Colorado roots and the new album.
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5280: What was it like breaking the mold in Boulder’s music scene?
TPM: There was very little original music. There were a couple places to play—Cricket on the Hill was one of them, and Herman’s Hideaway in Denver. There was a lot of energy in it because there were audiences that wanted music to break that mold, too. As a young band with a young audience, we had a place to go, and we wanted to see something different happen in music.
How has Colorado shaped your music in the last 30 years?
Well, first, Colorado’s always had a tremendous music audience. Red Rocks is an incredible venue, and there are great radio stations. So, musically, even though it’s not a regional kind of music city, like New Orleans—Colorado is definitely not New Orleans—that has its advantages. The influences come from everywhere. Because of that, growing up, I drew my influences from records and radio and things I could find from all over the world.
Tell me about the new album. What’s different about it?
I’d call it a guitar rock pop album. We don’t really have any ballads on it, which is unusual. It’s all pretty straight up the more aggressive side. The songs span [the decades]; some are over 20 years old, some are in the middle, some are brand new, so there’s a mix of years that are represented musically, but it has a nice, lyrical theme, which I describe as ‘the heart is always wrong.’ A lot of the songs are about conflict, and how that plays out in relationships—the relationship between conflict and intimacy, and the heart is bound to conflict.
What inspired that theme?
My personal life, and looking at the world and everybody’s else’s lives around me. I’ve been divorced twice so I’ve had a lot of experience with conflict in relationships. I know a lot of people have; I think it’s a universal thing.
What’s it like playing in Colorado, versus other states? Do you have more loyal fans here?
Sure, I mean, it’s the home of my family and friends. My whole life has been spent in Colorado. It’s definitely home, and it’s a nerve-wracking experience to play at home, because all the people I love are watching me. But also, musically, we fit with Colorado somehow. I don’t know what to credit for that. You grow up in an environment and that’s what you mirror in your music.
What are some memories you have of playing in Colorado?
I guess my early memories are [that] we were just ragtag, kind of troubadour-style, college musicians without any money and had to really scrap for gigs. Wedding parties, frat parties, or this or that. It was really fun, just because there was nothing at stake. We’re back in that same game now, having as much fun as we can.