MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Bad Ends’ “Mile Marker 29”

Apparently, it didn’t take all that much to coax Bill Berry out of retirement. “In my later life, I’ve preferred playing guitar or piano, but it was fun to grab the sticks again after a two-decade hiatus,” says R.E.M.’s founding drummer, who played on the band’s first 10 albums before calling it quits in 1997.

Significant credit for luring Berry into the Bad Ends goes to its primary creative force, Mike Mantione, leader of Athens, Ga., cult faves Five Eight. The Bad Ends’ debut album, The Power And The Glory (out January 20 via New West), grew out of Mantione’s close friendship with band members Dave Domizi, Geoff Melkonian and Christian Lopez. With the group’s core already solidified, Mantione ran into Berry and sent him a video. It was enough to coax the drummer into rehearsals.

“It was my mom’s cooking that finally got Bill into the band,” says Mantione. “We’d been playing together on what was to be my solo project, and I decided to invite everybody over when my mom was in town. My dad was a Sicilian Italian, and he married a Swede. She had to learn how to make an incredible Italian feast, old-school style. At the end of the night, we were leaving and thanking my mom for the meal, and everyone was just glowing from practice. Bill said, ‘You know, I think I just joined a band again, fellas.’ There’s a couple of pictures of that dinner on the inside album art.”

A raggedy bar-rock romp with dark and disturbed undercurrents, The Power And The Glory was recorded, produced and mastered at Mike Albanese’s Espresso Machine studio in Athens. The inspiration for opener “Mile Marker 29” grew out of a once-in-a-lifetime a camping trip with an eclipse as the backdrop.

“We were up in the Georgia mountains at a huge campground filled with Boy Scouts and their families to get the best view,” says Mantione. “The clouds came in, and you couldn’t see a damn thing. Dave (Domizi) and I were like, ‘Screw this.’ We grabbed our families, jumped in our minivans and began racing down back roads, following the sun. Watching the clock, I finally saw the blue sky just up ahead. We jumped out of our vans, looked up, and boom, it just happened. Of course, it was right at Mile Marker 24.

“I knew there was a song in there somehow. I couldn’t wait to play it for the band. It was lighting in a bottle to me. But Bill really didn’t hear it till I sat down and recorded a solo demo of it with nothing but me and an acoustic guitar. Bill had me sing ‘29’ because he thought it sounded better. He was right.”

We are proud to premiere “Mile Marker 29” today at MAGNET.

—Hobart Rowland