Cowboys, Lone Star and the Marked Men: A Conversation with Bailey Johnson of Basketball Shorts

by Morgan Davis

Photos by Adrian Gandara

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Basketball Shorts recently announced that Bailey Johnson, of local band Michelle and Them, would be joining their ranks just in time for new recordings and a tour. Ben Shorts reached out to us to see if we would be interested in introducing their new member and we thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know Bailey and catch up on all things Basketball Shorts. So Morgan Davis and photographer Adrian Gandara headed over to Bailey’s place to hear some of the new songs the band is working on and talk to Bailey about how he first encountered the Shorts, some of his favorite Texas bands, pizza, beer and more.

Morgan Davis for Ovrld: How did you get to know Ben Shorts and the rest of Basketball Shorts?

Bailey Johnson: I guess it was over two years ago and I was living in Fort Worth. I heard about the band from this Modern Vinyl podcast, they played one of their tracks, the Billy Murray one [“Peter Venkman,” from Basketball Shorts’ split EP with Big Bill]. I was just jamming the shit out of it and I found out they were here in Austin. Coincidentally, a little while after that, I moved down here and I would drag my buddies to the shows they were playing. It’s just totally my style, that type of music.

I guess it would have been right around this time last year, I was going shows at SXSW and I kept seeing Ben at the shows I would go to. So I started saying “What’s up?” and drinking beer with him. We both liked cowboys, Lone Star and the Marked Men, so we had some common ground there. I found out he lived here in the neighborhood, so we’d just do what we’re doing now, come over and drink beers on the porch, talk shit about music. I’d continue to go to their shows and just hang out. We were lucky enough to have them play here at my house last year. My Austin band [Michelle and Them] played, and I have a Denton band, Camp Anawanna, those guys drove down so we did a full house party show, which I remember like half of [laughs].

Ovrld: That’s the Austin way, right?

BJ: Yeah, man! They kept pushing back Camp Anawanna to the point where I blacked out for the entire set. There’s pictures of Ben peeking out from behind the curtain and literally pouring Slow & Low bourbon on my face and in my mouth while I’m trying to play the drums, and then I ended up sleeping behind the drum kit. That was the first show I played with Basketball Shorts [laughs]. That was their introduction to my drumming ability.

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Ovrld: Since you were a fan first, what was your favorite Basketball Shorts song before you were in the band?

BJ: God, man. I was really anticipating that Hot and Ready record. And that first track [“Lookin’” is still one of my favorites.

Ovrld: Did you get the record hand delivered to you?

BJ: I did! Ben brought it over with a t-shirt and a pizza box and we slammed some beers on the porch [laughs]. I think he brought two over. He brought one for me, and then one for my roommate. Two for one.

Ovrld: Now that you’re playing with the band, how does the experience differ? What are some surprises about Basketball Shorts that you didn’t expect?

BJ: That’s a good question. I guess how serious they take it when they’re in there practicing. Sitting behind the kit, it’s not a lot of playing around. They’re pretty regimented, and they’re good musicians, every one of them. They’re funny songs and they’re lighthearted, but they take the rehearsal pretty serious.

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Ovrld: Do you have a favorite Basketball Shorts song to play now?

BJ: Man, these new tracks have me really excited. I love Adam [Shorts]’s drumming and it’s fun to learn these parts to the songs I already like, but being able to play what I want to these new tracks is cool in itself but also these new tracks are some of my favorites that I’ve heard Ben write. So that’s super exciting.

Ovrld: Since we already talked about Hot and Ready’s delivery method, I feel like something important to talk about with anyone who’s new to Basketball Shorts is pizza allegiances. Do you have a favorite local pizza place?

BJ: Yeah, so, I can smell [“East Side Lies” subject] East Side Pies from here and I’m over it. It’s just too expensive and it’s never consistent. Salvation is my favorite. That’s my spot, dude. They don’t deliver but I’ll get up and go get it, it’s worth it. They’re connected to Little Woodrow’s, that shit is so good.

Ovrld: Are you excited that we have a Home Slice coming to the neighborhood?

BJ: More or less. I applied there when I first moved to Austin, they were such dickheads. I managed a pizza shop in Denton for three years and I went there to get a part time job and they took it way too seriously. They offered the job but I didn’t take it [laughs]. I just kind of steered clear from that one. But maybe this one will be a different story. I’m not holding my breath.

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Ovrld: You mentioned that you guys are working on new songs, are there touring plans in the works too? Seems like Basketball Shorts was laying low for a little bit. 

BJ: Yeah, immediately. I’m hopping on a couple weeks before our first show in San Marcos. April 6th is my first show with the band here in Austin, from there it’s literally every for the next ten days on the road, all the way to the West Coast and back.

Ovrld: Basketball Shorts also has a friendly rivalry going on with Big Bill. Have they assigned you a member of Big Bill you’d have to take on in a street brawl?

BJ: Dude, I’m up for the challenge. I’ll take the drummer.

Ovrld: Basketball Shorts is pretty connected in the scene, and Ben has been doing his thing with Flavorsound Productions, showcasing a lot of acts. What are some of your favorite local bands outside of Basketball Shorts?

BJ: It’s funny because Ben is really tuned in to the scene in Austin and I’m still pretty tuned in to the scene in Denton. So I don’t really have a good answer to that. I really want to get together with Parker Lawson, he’s got a band called Two Knights.

Ovrld: Yeah, they’re great!

BJ: I love that band. They’re recording again now. I’m really hoping they start playing out again. They kind of separated to do that project Mimisiku and Miles [DeBruin] hopped off the drums because he’s like my favorite drummer.

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Ovrld: They’re pretty amazing. We’ve tried to get Two Knights out to Austin a few times before for shows but I think that was right when they were sort of taking a break. 

BJ: Exactly. So Mimisiku they recorded an amazing record [The Thrill of Living] but now I know Miles and Parker are in the studio with Michael Briggs and Miles is back on drums, so I’m excited about that. I know that doesn’t really answer the Austin question [laughs].

[in the background, Ben whispers “Just say XETAS.”]

Yeah, XETAS!

Ovrld: I like how Ben is just feeding you answers now. What are some of your favorite spots to play in town? What are some of the venues you like best?

BJ: I haven’t played too much around here yet. But Hard Luck treats us so good. They give us 100% of the door and usually pick up our tabs. They’re cool dudes, they take good care of the bands that play. And I’m excited about Cheer Up Charlie’s because I’ve heard great things and I frequent that place to see shows, so I’m excited to be on that stage for the first time.

Ovrld: What are some bands you and the Basketball Shorts crew bonded over? 

BJ: Mean Jeans, definitely. A lot of bands on Dirtnap [Records], Radioactivity is one of my favorite bands. And then of course the Marked Men, that punk out of Denton. A year ago at SXSW, those were the shows we were running into each other at, all the Dirtnap showcases.

Bailey Johnson Basketball Shorts

Ovrld: Do you share a secret country obsession with Ben?

BJ: I don’t. Sorry.

Ovrld: Have you heard Ben do country music?

BJ: I haven’t. [Looks at Ben] Man, look at that country trucker hat [laughs]. I never saw it before, but man, now I know. [In a Texas twang] “Is that the truck that ain’t got no A/C in it?”

Ben Shorts: I said that recently [laughs].

BJ: I can see it now. It makes sense. The story checks out.

Basketball Shorts kick off their tour on April 6th at Cheer Up Charlie’s with Bailey Johnson’s other project Michelle and Them, plus MeanGirls and Stretch Panic.

Morgan Davis sells bootleg queso on the streets of Austin in order to fund Loser City, the multimedia collective he co-runs. When he isn’t doing that, he gets complimented and/or threatened by Austin’s musical community for stuff he writes here at Ovrld, which he is the Managing Editor of.