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The BoDeans Biography

Home > Music > B > BoDeans, The > Biography

Birth Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Years Active: 1983 - present
Genres: Rock, Roots Rock, Alternative Rock

BoDeans is a rock band formed in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1983 by singer/guitarist Kurt Neumann, guitarist Sam Llanas and drummer Guy Hoffman. After the trio became popular around Milwaukee, they decided to add bassist Bob Griffin, whom Neumann and Llanas had met while roadies for his band The Agents. Their early performances were billed as Da BoDeans. In 1985, the quartet signed a contract with Slash/Warner Records and shortened their name to simply BoDeans.

Under the guidance of producer T-Bone Burnett, they entered Hollywood's Sunset Sound Factory to record their first album. Their critically acclaimed debut, “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams,” was released in 1986. Later that year, drummer Guy Hoffman left the band.

In January 1987, a Rolling Stone reader poll voted them Best New American Band. That year, the band traveled to California to work with an unnamed producer, but the sessions were halted after disagreement broke out between both parties over direction and sound. They went back to Wisconsin and accepted an offer from Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison to produce their second album and were given more freedom to experiment.

“Outside Looking In” was released in October 1987 and featured a more modern 1980's-rock sound unlike its roots-influenced predecessor. The album's lead single, “Only Love,” peaked at #16 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Drummer Bo Conlon and keyboardist Susan Julian toured with the band throughout the rest of 1987. That year, they also contributed to Robbie Robertson's debut solo album alongside U2 and Peter Gabriel.

In 1988, the band began recording with Jim Scott, whom they had been introduced to by Robbie Robertson. Unlike their two previous albums, the tracking was mostly done live in their warehouse rental space. At least 22 songs were recorded during these sessions, but only 15 made it past the mastering stage and onto the record. In 1989, their third album, “Home,” was released. It was more reminiscent of their rootsy debut, but showed a diverse range of influences including Motown, U2-inspired arena rock and heartland rock. This album was also the first with keyboard player Michael Ramos. Drummer Kenny Aronoff, best known for his work with John Mellencamp, also played on the album.

In 1991, in search of a different take on their music, the band began recording with David Z., the producer and sideman of Prince, at Paisley Park Studios, and released their fourth studio album, “Black and White,” that year. The album's electronic-influenced sound was a sharp departure from most of their previous efforts, with more emphasis on synthesizers, drum machines, and processed guitar tones. The album also explored darker and grander lyrical themes. Though not a single, the album's first track “Good Things” achieved some success and became one of their best-known songs. The rebellious and political “Black, White, and Blood Red” was the only single released from the album, though it did not perform well in comparison to their previous songs that made the charts.

After “Black & White,” the band decided to shift their focus to making the album that pleased them instead of searching for a hit. For their fifth album, “"Go Slow Down,” in 1993, the band reunited with T-Bone Burnett and took a more homemade approach with Neumann playing many of the instruments himself. Unlike their previous album, "Go Slow Down" was more acoustic and marked their transition into 1990's alternative rock. The first song from the album, “Closer to Free,” brought them to a much larger audience after it was selected as the theme song to the TV series “Party of Five.” The band would return in 1999 to perform a cover of The Beatles's “I've Just Seen a Face” as the theme song for the show's short-lived spinoff “Time of Your Life.” Due to the newfound exposure, “Closer to Free,” became the group's biggest pop hit, peaking at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, three years after its release.

In 1995, “Joe Dirt Car,” a double live album, was released. The album included live tracks recorded between 1989 and 1995, some of which were acoustic. In 1996, the band released "Blend", produced by Greg Goldman. Two of the tracks were mixed by Bob Clearmountain, and Danny Federici, best known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, contributed accordion to the album. This album expanded upon the “Go Slow Down” alternative rock guitar-driven sound. The single “Hurt By Love”" achieved minor chart success while the song “Hey Pretty Girl” was used in an episode of “Dawson's Creek.”

In 2001, the 17-song compilation, “The Best Of BoDeans - Slash and Burn” was released on London/Slash/Rhino. In 2003, they also released, “The Leftovers,” a collection of previously unreleased songs that never made it to studio albums. In 2004, the band returned with their long-awaited seventh album “Resolution,” released on Rounder/Zoe. Being their first album in eight years, it was well received by fans.

A live album recorded during the Resolution tour was released in 2005, entitled “Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst.” In January 2006, Bob Griffin left the band for personal reasons. BoDeans released an album, entitled “Still,” in 2008. Produced again by T-Bone Burnett, the album moved away from the modern rock sound of their previous albums and was more reminiscent of their heartland-esque sound of the late 1980's. “Everyday” was the first single from “Still.”

BoDeans' ninth studio album, “Mr. Sad Clown,” was released in 2010. Similar to their 1993 release, Neumann produced and played most of the instruments on the album in his home studio. Though critics lauded the album for its homemade approach, reviews were mixed. Their song “Headed for the End of the World” was used in the antiwar documentary film “Countdown to Zero.”

The band released their tenth studio album, titled “Indigo Dreams,” in 2011. It featured the singles, “Blowing My Mind” and “How Can We.”

In 2011, Sam Llanas officially left the band.The band stated that they will continue on without him with the addition of new member Jake Owen. In November 2011, the band began recording at The Village in Los Angeles with producer John Alagía. Their eleventh studio album titled “American Made” was released in 2012. The album featured 11 original songs as well as a cover of Bruce Springsteen's “I'm On Fire.”