On Jan. 12, local rock band Rigorous Proof will release their third studio album, Postmodern Apocalypse, since they first met at an open mic session at Red Rock Bar in 2010. For frontman Johnny Bailey (who performs under the stage name “Johnny Harpo”), it’s the natural progression of a lifelong obsession with music—the guy was even raised in a radio station.
“My dad [long-time KOZZ DJ Glenn Bailey, who goes by the name “Max Volume”], he would take me to work with him because there’s not a babysitter or something, you know,” Bailey said. “So, the nice thing about growing up in a radio station, and especially with my father, when you needed the Smiths, there they were. When you need MC5, there they were. When it was time to get into Led Zeppelin, you know, all nine records are right there.”
Bailey’s rock influences collided with those of bassist Jesse Gaddis in 2003 when they were both 17. In 2010, they formed The Madorians, a reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s Tralfamadorian alien species, as the precursor to Rigorous Proof. The past decade has seen numerous changes to the lineup, but the group’s focus on exploring all aspects of rock—with a little something extra—remains.
“I call it postmodern alternative rock, because it’s got certainly modern production, but it’s also, you know, we grew up in the punk rock scene and later got into classic rock and prog rock stuff and jazz fusion,” Bailey said. “So, we kind of pull a little bit from everything.”
The core of the group has always been Bailey and Gaddis, but they were joined for the recording of Postmodern Apocalypse by keyboardist Adam Landis and drummer Wes Forster. With the help of producers Spike McGuire and Greg Gilmore of Loud As Folk Records, the band layed down the album’s five tracks as far back as 2016.
“And then the next couple of years we just spent kind of tacking things on and making them as weird and as cool in the headphones as possible,” Bailey said. “Both [McGuire and Gilmore] are recording artists on their own, and having them in there, messing around with guitars moving backwards and all the cool stuff that people think about.”
As evidenced by the title, the album deals with dark subject matter. Commenting on both bleak political themes in the country and the members’ own personal struggles, Bailey said the album has evolved in its three-year incubation period to deal with the “apocalypse” with what he calls a sardonic wit.
“If anybody knows me, I can make fun of even, you know, the devil,” Bailey said. “People get married. People get divorced. People sometimes move to France and come back—sometimes they do all three, like I did. Life, love, you know, the modern world and trying to be an organic, meat bag computer that can understand that you’re conscious in this world is kind of what it’s about.”
The album’s release marks a return to form for Bailey and the band, he said, as he hopes to finalize the lineup—the other members besides Gaddis are involved with other projects—for a West Coast tour sometime this year, and to record the follow up album, which he’s already written. To Bailey, it’s all just part of the formula.
“It’s like a mathematical term: rigorous proof,” Bailey said. “You don’t have something that’s a law or even a theory until you have rigorous proof of what you’re finding, and that’s in our music too. Our music is rigorous proof of who we are as musicians.”