Dead Meadow: Zen Going 20 Years Strong

reppin: dc, usa // xemu // 1998 - present

sounds like: according to jason - Dead Meadow is like a favorite episode of “Columbo”.  Entirely soothing with a hint of the unnerving and the bizarre.  

last album drop: the nothing they need (march 16, 2018)

featuring: jason // steve // juan
 

Dead Meadow | photo cred: Jessica Senteno

Dead Meadow | photo cred: Jessica Senteno

A few years back, when the Double Door was still alive and well, I stumbled into the venue to check out Dead Meadow during a warm summer day. They mesmerized my ears and mind with a calming yet heart-pounding set of rock along with a visually stunning projection of animation and color. That night they wheeled me in and grabbed me by the arms, not letting go until I was cleared in my head and melted in my face (I was able to put it back on). However, their story goes way further back to a city that was music rich back in the late 90s.

Back during the 1980s and 90s, DC was on the map when it came to the uprising of emo, punk and hardcore bands. Minor Threat, Fugazi and The Dismemberment Plan are cemented as vital bands in that era, and from it came a combination of two bands to form Dead Meadow. With some experience behind them already, they combined 70s heavy metal and 60s psychedelic rock, creating a simple, yet fantasy world of sound...always stretching your imagination. They have no fear of jumping off their usually script as they’ve had albums in the past with a heavier blues influences and acoustic elements.

In 2018 we are celebrating 20 years of this group. They have toured the world, shuffled their lineup like most long-time bands would, but have always kept their fans, gained new ones and established themselves as legends among countless newer bands trying to join the fold. They have clearly laid out a path for not just success, but happiness, fruitfulness and fulfillment as a band. Their latest release just a few short weeks ago, The Nothing They Need, is shelter in a way according to the band. There is much negative energy that blankets us these days and the sounds and visuals of the new album are meant to be an escape. So, come on and escape as these guys answer some of my questions ahead of their Chicago gig at Beat Kitchen.

beat kitchen tickets - april 4

interview stuff

Think back to when you formed as a band, through those first early releases. What would you tell your former selves now. Any regrets? Would you do it all the same? Are the same values important to you as a band?

steve

Dead Meadow's recent release: The Nothing They Need

Dead Meadow's recent release: The Nothing They Need

jason: Yeah there never was really much of a choice about doing something else.  I think I always knew it wouldn’t be an easy road but I think you’ll find most people involved in spending their life in pursuit of any creative endeavor feel it as a sort of calling.  I think the primary value that was true in the beginning and now is to stay as true to our creative vision as possible. You know most of what I love and have been influenced by has most always been work that seems to cater to a certain niche crowd off the beaten track.  I guess it is only natural that the band has cultivated a similar sort of following.


There is a heavy influence in your music from the 60s and 70s: rock n’ roll, metal and psychedelic rock. To me, especially in the late 60s, that’s when lyrics turned from questioning to more raw feelings and angst. What do you want to tell your fans with your lyrics?

jason: Well I rarely have a direct message in mind that I am trying to convey.  Songs tend to be more mediations on certain themes and feelings. I find for me it is most important to try and be open as much as possible in order to catch those phrases and lines when the come.  Where they come from is a whole other question. Whether you feel they come from within, without, on high, deep below, certain things feel inspired and worth building into a cohesive whole…well, cohesive at least for me.


When it comes to touring, how do you channel your identity to the live stage? When you make eye contact with that fan or are warming up a room, what do you want them to feel?

Dead Meadow | photo cred: Jessica Senteno

Dead Meadow | photo cred: Jessica Senteno

steve: for me there is a zen like place with the energy of a room that really pushes the music out. In my mind even when caught in the moment I still am thinking if what we are doing is believable and feels true.. Like as simple as rocking out how far is goofy and what isn't enough. You need to be comfortable with your message being received by the audience at all times otherwise it can be too cartoon like.

jason: I feel all I can really do is attempt to lose myself in the present moment of creating music and play to the best of my ability.  If I feel I’m achieving that hopefully the fans can come on the same enjoyable journey that I’m on.

 

What, if any, rituals, goofy corks and all do you have as a band during pre-show prep or after the show? What gives you the most fulfilling moment during this process of getting to a gig to playing it to winding down?

Dead Meadow | Double Door, Chicago | 5.17.16

Dead Meadow | Double Door, Chicago | 5.17.16

steve: i guess a few drinks and laughs can help it be comfortable. I feel our fans can be a bit of the inebriated variety so sometimes it is good to be on the same level. Really the actual talking to the fans and meeting people face to face is the most rewarding. It is really cool to know everyone and what makes them interested in seeing us. I kinda feel I I would get the same enjoyment from a meet and greet only tour.. Like playing the songs is great and moving but it is the contact with people that really makes playing live music so special.

jason: yeah, no green room seances or warm up chants for us… a drink or two, a spiff… etc…   It’s always nice once everything is set and our intro drone is rolling to take a minute to breath and relax.  


Every post/article I do is drawn from the experience of listening to and seeing live music. I like to be very detailed and metaphorical (not a fan of comparing bands to other bands, critiquing or reviewing) If you had to describe the identity of Dead Meadow with a metaphor, what would it be?

jason: Dead Meadow is like a favorite episode of “Columbo”.  Entirely soothing with a hint of the unnerving and the bizarre.

 

suggested listening experience: twist one up // sunny evening, winding down // when you need to find your space and mellow out

listens: nobody’s home // what needs must be // greensky greenlake // sleepy silver door // 1000 dreams // keep your head // heaven // 'til kingdom come

dm // spotify // ig // twitter // fb

interview stuff: PEARL EARL

reppin: denton, tx // dreamy life records // 2014 - present

sounds like: in stef's words - when two praying mantises meet and do a dance and they fall in love and then make sweet mantis love then the female eats the other one’s head off and then she has a baby (check out the bottom of the story for more good ones)

pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

last album drop:  pearl earl (july 2017)

featuring: ariel // stefanie // bailey // chelsey

pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

Something about summer nights and finding new music makes my mouth water, the hairs stand-up on my arms and my ears start begging me for some good sounds. It is nights like these that I seek inspiration, a feel good kind of story that answers the calls of expanding my mind and focusing in on what matters in life. Well, these four nice, sweet an bad-ass chicks delivered in just that way. Hailing from Denton TX, which I can only imagine as a hot summer spot with lots of good food, cowboy hats and denim, they have musically grown from within as well as taking in from the scene around them.

bailey of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

bailey of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

What I love about these ladies is that their music is parallel to the journey and goals they have as a band. Their sound blends the psychedelic feel from the 70s, garage rock from today and classic rock from way back when. The mysterious slice of exploration puts my my into an imaginative and open kind of space. I also can focus in on the bouncy sort of sound that reminds me that life can be fun and easy if you let it. Much like that psychedelic vibe, their free spirited nature has allowed them to find one another as their musical careers have moved forward. Then, there is the more focused idea that fun and love is so visible in their music. Something I can only allude to their music minds being flexible in nature, allowing them to let these different types of sounds blend. They each bring a bit of past to the picture, a favorite style of music that makes them a rare group.  

I happened to come across the girls that are Pearl Earl on the Jukely app as they were rolling through town this past July at the Empty Bottle on a chill Sunday night. I am telling you, the mixture of furious vocals, guitars mixed with that good old rock n' roll is something to pay attention to. Sitting down with these goofy girls, as fireworks were going off all over the city, we chatted about their adventure as Pearl Earl, what is to come and what they truly want out of being a band. I could immediately since the comfort they bestowed upon the venue as well as opening up to me, a complete stranger. Check out what makes these ones rev up their engine and go.

INTERVIEW STUFF

ariel of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

ariel of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

When did you all start as a band. How did you land on your sound, what happened in prior experiences that made you want to make this music?

Bailey: We started 3 years ago this August.

Ariel: I started the band back in the day, I was in the another group called Mink Coats and then I wanted to start Pearl Earl. Naturally just the kind of music I gravitate towards. After knowing Bailey, we just kind of played and learned more music together and I dunno, we are definitely influenced by more of the psychedelic sound. When we played together more and more and that’s what just sort of happened.

Stef: Bailey and I are def more into classic rock and Ariel is definitely more into psychedelic so I think that kind of meshes a current tone these days, while being centered around certain themes that were happening in Denton and Austin area. Certain rhythms were coming from more of a classic rock and prog driven area. The key parts kind of came in with a certain tone that bridges the generational gap of music.

Jared (Me): I personally like your music because you have one half of it that is just fun while the other half that is more in this clear mind kind of space, that lets your imagination run. It’s a really good balance

Bailey: You hit the nail on the head. We definitely try to split the fun and out there kind of vibe.

Alright, the lyrics. So usually I see lyrics being about something in specific, or something that wants to be interpreted. What is your style?

chelsey of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

chelsey of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

Ariel: So, I try to write really ambiguously for this project, but with hints at something that really does exist rather than not making it super personal. You know, I want it to be for everybody. I also kind of think of this as an experience as Pearl Earl. Also metaphorical. I try to be kind of witty with it...not take it too seriously, but I also have to remember there is going to be that serious, personal factor always there.

Me: I like interpreting lyrics, so thank you.

So what about the live show, what is your mission when you take the stage? What do you want to do in order to gain fans, what do you want them to experience?

Stef: We all have our own things

Me: Oh yea, hit me?

Ariel: She (Stef) has good eye contact and the running man down.

Stef: Yea, it is just constant movement with me. I can’t help it. Sometimes it is just hair in my face or other times I look up and try to make connect with someone. It may seem stupid, but its fun and engaging. I like to get engaged with them (bandmates). It can be very distracting and kind of almost a game. Sometimes when you get engaged with your bandmates, sometimes you just do it until someone fucks up, then you’re like alright, alright (laughs from everyone).

Ariel: We are all really into what one another is doing since we have our own way of interacting during the set.

chelsea of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

chelsea of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

Bailey: Honestly, all of our crowd engagement happens when we are not playing. We all disperse and talk to everyone and dance for the bands and hang out. Cause, if you do that, you have a fast friend and they’ll have you back.

Me: I like that, cause if you are not having fun on stage, then what is the point.

Ariel: You can tell if bands are disinterested and it sucks.

Chelsey: I don’t want to go see a sad, sappy band. I want energetic shit, something that will make me happy.

Stef: Not only does Chelsea do the keys, she does percussion as well. And she’ll tell you how different she is on stage.

Chelsey: Yeaaaa, I’m really quiet in person, but when I get on stage I am a different person, more wild. Last night, we played at an easy house show, there was no stage and I could walk out into the crowd. So if there is an opportunity where I can just walk into the crowd with a tambourine and get dancing and get hyped up. I’ll jump in there! Then everyone goes crazy. No one expects it (weird screams). I love it, easy access off the stage! One of the bands we traveled with was thinking we were trying to start pile-ons on stage and everything. Come on man, I can’t workout, so I am going to burn my calories on stage. The music is so energetic, there is no way you can be deadpanned.

stef of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

stef of pearl earl | empty bottle, chicago | 7.2.17 | @thefaakehipster

Okay, finally, what is the metaphor for Pearl Earl?

Stef: It’s like, when two praying mantises meet and do a dance and they fall in love and then make sweet mantis love then the female eats the other one’s head off and then she has a baby.

Bailey: So actually, praying mantises have like 100 kids and they all fight until the death until there are four or something left.

Me: For real, this is true?

Bailey: Yea man, I’ve seen it, it’s nuts. (screams and cheers for fireworks)

Ariel: The one that I like that someone else said is we sound like the a scene from Fear and Loathing when all the lights change colors when you walk into the casino. And another one I liked, mystical wizard rock.

Stef: Rainbow fuzz power too!

suggested listening experience: mid-day pick me up // kicking it with with some friends // any kind of road trip

interview stuff: L.A. WITCH

reppin: la, usa // suicide squeeze records // 2013 - present

sounds like: according to them (and Holy Wave): "we are a spider eating other baby spiders in a cave deep in the forest and there is a motorcycle driving off in the distance"

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

next album drop: L.A. Witch (debut out September 8th) PRE-ORDER HERE

featuring: sade // irita // ellie

Think about your week so far...how many instances have you had where you just wanted to say “fuck off” or you needed a moment to just shake off the anger, the stress and the typical bullshit of daily life. I dig tunes that can speak to certain aspects of life. The rad, rocker chicks that are Sade, Irita and Ellie have tunes for you so you can chew up and spit out whatever it is that you can’t shake off. This beautiful kick in the throat that spills from their amps and drums is a blender of garage and psychedelic rock with a sprinkle of punk and reverb. They will throw you back to the 60s and will literally make you think of dark, deep witches.

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

What began as a few friends meeting in high school turned into a band around 2013 and blossomed into something special. As we got to kick it on a rainy, early summer night, I could notice the calm over them as well as the chemistry that has built them into road warriors. They really have been a tight knit group for some years now and are ready to make some noise with their new record, which you can pre-order HERE. Hailing from LA, it is hard for bands to stand out above the crowd, but these ladies are quickly rising above the clutter. While stuff can happen quick and fast, I don’t detect any sort of fear in these ones.

After we sat down for the interview we got to kick it through the night with their good friends, Holy Wave, and the fun carried over. Beers, shots, perhaps a special delivery of greenery complements of my brother went down and it was the perfect lead up to their set. They don’t need to talk much as they take the dimly lit stage. They move through each song swiftly and you can tell they are focused on one another, in the zone if you will. When they go into their solos, you literally can just lay back and not give a shit since the instruments take you to this dream like state. The riffs are powerful and the vocals are deep, dark and delightful. As the set rolls through the crowd engagement picks up and the feels settle amongst the venue. You need to catch these kids live.

As for the interview, check out how they discovered their sound, why they write the lyrics they do and how they try to channel that into their live show. I should note that things started off on a great note before I even got to ask a questions we talked about the past few weeks...a few quotes:

“She just ate an edible the other day and that killed her.”

“In Austin we took some acid and it was like really strong. We were told, take 2 of these and be careful...it’s been a pretty fun tour so far.”

INTERVIEW STUFF

Simply put, your music takes me to a “i don’t give a fuck” space...everyone needs a i don't give a fuck moment everyday. Is that something you try to do with your sound. What do you want to get out of that fan listening to you?

Sade: We want our fans to feel inspired and take whatever they want and can from our songs. If they want to interpret songs to cater to their needs, then that is what we want. It is for everyone to listen to.It is always really cool to hear people say they started bands because they saw us or we make them want to pick up an instrument again or work harder at one. Even the people who do not plan on playing music. If you can find a connection that makes you stronger, then that is cool.

Let’s talk lyrics. They are super relatable and really left open ended, like sometimes, what the fuck are you talking about? “Save me from myself” is something that sticks out...Are there any moments as a band or before you became a band that led to this theme and foundation?

Sade: I mean, wait, I forgot the question (laughs)

It all happens way more spontaneous. We don’t really plan it out, you know. We’ll come together, maybe bring a piece of a song or lyric to the table and we’ll all sit and work on it...then it forms into something. For this upcoming album, it wasn’t really anything that was planned. There was no song on there that was, wait, this is going to be atheme. It was all very naturally put together, what we were building as we went through and wrote. In the future that may not exactly be how it is, the lyrics may be more complex. For what we have right now, we have that whatever happens kind of vibe.

That same “fuck you” idea...your tracks give me a sense of relatability. How do you channel that into your live show? What is going thru your mind as you are making eye contact with that one human out there?

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

l.a. witch | schubas, chicago | 5.10.17 | @thefaakehipster

Ellie: As a drummer...I just want them to feel like they are on the same page as us...raw emotion.

Sade: Yea I agree with ...I want them to feel what we feel as much as possible. We don’t exactly focus too much on the audience, it is not like we are ignoring them, but by connecting with each other on stage, we are being as honest as we can as a band. Even if that means we have to feel like we are in our own little bubble, that is for the fans. It is really scary to perform and throw yourself out there, so we are still learning to work with the audience and see what different ways we can connect with them.

I always use funny metaphors to describe bands and artists i write about, what would you use?

We are a spider eating other baby spiders in a cave deep in the forest and there is a motorcycle driving off in the distance

suggested listening experience: twist, smoke and chill // road tripping // on the ride home after a long day

listens: kill my baby tonight // untitled // get lost // heart of darkness // haunting

lw // spotify // fb // twitter // sc // ig

interview stuff: METHYL ETHEL

reppin: perth, australia // 4AD/Dot Dash/Remote Control Records // 2013 - present

sounds like: taking the "Magic School Bus" with Ms. Frizzle out into the vast depths of Earth's atmosphere

lastest album drop: everything is forgotten (march, 2017)

featuring: jake // thom // chris

methyl ethel | photo cred: issuemagazine.com

methyl ethel | photo cred: issuemagazine.com

WARNING: Before your eyes and ears are on this, put your shades on, maybe twist one up, take your mind to 1963 and get ready for a magical journey that can only be compared to the one “The Dude” takes. What they are saying is true, normal is the new weird. Weird opens the mind, makes us more flexible and accepting of different weird. Weird is beautiful and this music that Methyl Ethel creates is nothing short of beauty. A balance of pop and psychedelic rock that can catch the ear of a human that despises psychedelic shenanigans. How does that make sense?!

These kids truly are blessed musicians filled with individualism and uniqueness that shines through each track they produce...and there are a lot of them. Having put their stamp in their hometown of Perth, they are just the latest example of awesome “band x” killing it in music. Like for cereal, Australia’s scene is amazing right now whether it is punk rock, indie or something a bit more experimental.

Last month I caught singer and guitarist, Jake Webb, on the cellular as they were in the vast grasslands of Iowa en route to Minneapolis before rocking out the Empty Bottle here in Chicago. Just from the sheer bliss of their sound, I knew there was a deeper meaning behind how they create these songs. Well, I sure as heck found out what it was all about. Feel free to read to yourself in an Australian accent.

Interview Stuff

Love the little drips of pop and psychedelic in your sound. Where does the sound originate from and what did you combine from that 50s/60s era to make it your own?

So the jumping off there. I just draw from whatever I sort of listen to as well as my musical knowledge. There is never a really a choice to reference anything. I mean what goes are kinda like what I’m feeling in the moment and what is around me and what I enjoy.

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

Me: I like to try and at least put the reader in this bucket of the type of music it is going to be, but I understand that is not the basis for how you are writing and trying to sound. If anything, your sound is super original.

Hey, thanks. You know I find it very fun to record and write music. It’s kinda this back and forth of subconsciously referencing things that are around me and that I’m going through. Okay I could that, that sounds nice.

Me: You seem like you have a great grasp of organized chaos of how to write a song. Is this a slow build or does it come out all at once?

It is just feel. The songwriting and recording go hand in hand a lot more lately. I’m more inspired these days by trying to pull melodies and incorporate progressions from other vast types of sounds rather than just sort of sitting down and just writing. So when I sit down I am not writing with this harmonic structure in mind. I think that is where the chaos is being organized. It is more inspiring to me to create music like that rather than just writing and sitting down.

How do you channel your sound into the live show? What is going through your mind as you are looking into the audience..what do you want them to experience? (Note: They were in the middle and still are of a pretty large scale worldwide tour)

I think at the moment our show, we kinda toured all of last year as well. Then the album came out and we had a bit of time off in the winter period. With this new record, we’ve added another member and flushed it out. As it stands, it is kinda of taster for what is to come in the future. When we leave the states I think we’ll flush the show out a bit more. We got a bit of everything from all the areas of each member. There is a lot more that we’d like to do. We are constantly tweaking the show, I could get into the nuts and bolts and technically aspect of it, but that would get boring. We definitely have this idea of delivering the record in a 3D way. I think we have been quite successful in bringing the sums of this new record to life, I’m really happy with it.

Me: I haven’t seen you all live yet, but just kinda trying to envision your record coming to life, I can see how maybe you can perk the ears of the common individual who may not know what you are all about.

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

The parameters that we work with as well are always changing. We play bigger venues in Australia, smaller ones in the states and mixed ones in Europe. I don’t want to have three different shows and have to dial back when we play smaller ones. The same show in Chicago should be the same show that we play in Sydney. It is about not getting too ahead of ourselves and being patient. We don’t want to move too quickly

It seems like there has been just year after year of pushing out some solid records? How do you all grow as a band as you are constantly writing music? Are there moment that stand out where you thought, yes, this is the next step?

Well for me it is the only the constant, is making more music. It makes me feel better about having an album out there and knowing I have a follow up on the way. So, at the same time, whenever I am, whether in the back of a van or at home, being able to work on music constantly keeps me sane. Who knows how many records I’ll make either so strike while the iron is hot. I’m still loving it so why not.

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

methyl ethel | the empty bottle, chicago | 4.13.17 | @thefaakehipster

I think a lot of people work real hard to get to where they are. I think the work justifies the opportunity you have and it just balances out.

Lets talk about your lyrics. Who writes, where do they drive from and how do you want your fans to take it in?

They definitely supposed to be interpreted. I suppose they are just based off of personal things and relationship based as those are great sources for inspiration. But then at the same time I am trying to spend more time constructing in writing and with the lyrics. I think my first record was more stream of conscious writing. I’m working on more of a cerebral approach and I think there are definitely things that I have put in there, but at the same time they are very open and are supposed to read in multiple ways.

Me: I love when lyrics are interpreted openly. It makes me think about songs I loved in high school and how those tracks have a totally different meaning now than they did in the past.

Yea, I mean we kind of live in world that is so clearly defined. We can find out everything and so much detail. So, to be able to leave some mystery in things, it’s kind of nice given the context.

I always use funny metaphors to describe bands and artists i write about, what would you use?

That’s a tough question (laughs). Well...I don’t know, I’m going to have a think about it. There are definitely some physical places I can see it taking people to, but I think I should have another listen to the record and get back to you. I haven’t actually listened to it in quite some time.

Side note: So - I was not able to connect with Jake at the show, but as you can see I did some deep thinking. Jake, there is still time to think of one!

suggested listening experience: getting through the day at work // sunny saturday afternoon around the house // twist one up and relax

listens: ubu // no. 28 // twilight driving // idee fixe // rouges // l'heure des sorcieres // drink wine

me // spotfiy // fb // twitter // sc // ig