Dicky Barrett has always been self-deprecating, a state of being that belies an inner strength and determination which does not allow for self-pity.
Hey, there's no crying in punk rock.
Nobody knows that better than Barrett, the longtime vocalist/songwriter and ringleader for the third-wave Boston skacore band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Barrett started The Bosstones in 1983, and outside of a brief four-year hiatus in the middle of their run (2003-2007), the band spent more than three decades helping to define the U.S. skacore movement.
The band announced their breakup in January 2022. But can't keep a tough man down, and Barrett has bounced back with The Defiant, his current project.
A Sedona resident since 2020, Barrett's become a controversial figure in recent years due to his political beliefs and COVID-related views.
The January 2022 breakup of the Bosstones was announced thus: "After decades of brotherhood, touring the world and making great records together we have decided not to continue on as a band.”
The statement didn't address the fact that Barrett was a supporter of Robert Kennedy, Jr., and his anti-vaccination platform was a key reason for the split; Barrett revealed that later.
As for his staunch support of Kennedy, Jr, “I stand firmly in the things I believe in," Barrett says. "So, OK, this is my candidate I support. I found out who he was, I’ve met the man. I didn’t take it lightly, and that’s who I support."
It was around the same time that Barrett’s other gig as the announcer on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" also came to an end after 18 years for a similar reason — he refused to get vaccinated.
But in The Defiant, Barrett has found a new beginning with four other music veterans: Greg Camp of Smashmouth, drummer Pete Parada of The Offspring, guitarist Joey LaRocca of The Briggs and bass player Johnny Rioux of The Street Dogs.
“We just wanted to do something different,” Barrett says, "to see if we could make it work with guys from other bands that we admired and liked. It started inching along, but then as it started to move, it really started to gain some momentum and pick up steam, and we realized this stuff is pretty damn good!”
The band are geographically disparate — Barrett is in Sedona, LaRocca is still in LA, Rioux is in Houston and Parada and Camp are in Nashville, Tenn. — but distance isn't an issue in this day and age.
“The world is a lot smaller with the internet and technology, the thing we railed against in our very first single ('Dead Language'). But it’s very useful for us,” confesses Barrett. “The Bosstones operated from all over the map, too.”
The Defiant sound defies being categorized. The quintet finds themselves standing on the shoulders of their formative influences like the Clash, Blur, The English Beat, The Jam, The Specials and The Pogues.
It didn’t take long for the group to start sharing files and eventually unite in Nashville, where they recorded their debut album "If We’re Really Being Honest," on Cranberry Bog Records. It debuted in October.
The 12 tracks span a wide range of music genres including alt-rock, power pop, punk and ska.
The opener, “Everybody Loves Me,” is a brief but searing Black Flag blast of satirical sizzle. Tracks two and three are the first two singles, “Dead Language” which calls Gen Z-ers onto the carpet over their smartphone/social media obsession.
“Most of the credit that goes to 'Dead Language' has to go to Greg, and Greg is no stranger to writing monster hits that will stay in your head the rest of your life. I don’t think that was his intention. It’s just the way that he writes,” Barrett says.
The second single, “Where Were You?” is a nostalgic lookback for Barrett on all the changes he's experienced in recent years. It pays homage to The Clash’s “I’m All Lost in the Supermarket,” and it hits you in the chest and heart.
“Can’t Stop Cryin” is a ska-tinged number featuring a Farfisa organ, thanks in part to input by John Goetchius, the Bosstones' longtime keyboard for hire.
“No Nothin” is a mosh pit waiting to happen, with beat-keeper Parada's muscular drumming showcased here. Rioux gels with Parada’s timekeeping with mesmerizing, tight and gritty bass rhythm blasts. LaRocca, who adds veteran guitar power and shredding in his own right, gives The Defiant a depth most bands don’t have.
The third single, “Where Did Lady Liberty Go?” is served up with The Pogues/Flogging Molly touches of banjo. It addresses the loss of what Barrett felt were God-given rights in a world on lockdown.
“I sort of wanted it to be a storytelling song as if the singer was going back 100 years,” Barrett explains, “but really it was about what we went through in the last four or five years.”
The one-two punch of the final two tracks help the album resist being pigeonholed or categorized.
“These Shoes” opens with a Smithereens-like jangle rock guitar sound. And lastly, “It Is Over” pays homage to The Specials' “You’re Wondering Now.” It's got a wistfulness and irrepressible nostalgic tone. The acoustic guitar opening is combined with a rousing chorus sing-along and melodic harmonica. The number has a retrospective alt-country that rounds out the album.
Barrett is enjoying this next phase of his career. He creates music the way he wants and if people like it, that's just the cherry on the punk sundae. He's unflinching in this approach and is going to make music he and his mates like.
“I enjoyed the adoration and the admiration, and I enjoyed that people enjoyed what I was doing, but I was going to do it anyway,” he says. “I’ve had the same message I've always had, and that is strength that comes from unity; we cannot underestimate the power that comes from love.
“So, whatever you think I am, I’m not. I’m only what I say I am, and I think my actions have always spoken very loudly. I’ve always treated people pretty decently and those are the things I got out of the music and art that I enjoy.”
As for the ending of an amazing journey —The Mighty Mighty Bosstones ending and The Defiant beginning — Barrett put it best in "It Is Over":
“We’ll get over, we’ll get through, we’ll let go, we’ll hold on to. See you down the road my friend, it’s just an ending, not the end. Fail we may, but sail on we must, we must.”