Meat Wave: ‘A punk band trying to not always be a punk band’

ENNo contemporary band sounds like Meat Wave. The Chicago-based band just delivered a sensational EP (“Volcano Park”), a deep-dive into the Polvo and Slint scene that deserves all the credit for 2021. So… I had some nineties questions for him. I took the opportunity to talk about Chicago and discuss some more trivial matters. Meat Wave, thank you for everything!
FR: Aucun groupe de la scène actuelle ne ressemble à Meat Wave. Le groupe originaire de Chicago vient de délivrer un EP sensationel (“Volcano Park”), une plongée de la scène de Polvo et Slint qui mérite tous les honneurs de l’année 2021. J’avais donc quelques questions nineties à lui poser. J’en ai profité pour lui parler de la scène de Chicago et lui poser quelques questions plus triviales. Meat Wave, merci pour tout !
Let us start with a playlist curated by
Meat Wave for Still in Rock

How are you? What’s up with you these days?

I’m doing pretty well, trying to adjust to some sense of normalcy even though it feels really abnormal. I’ve been collaborating with a lot of friends on music. Trying to be outside. This is the stretch of time for us in Chicago when we can enjoy being outside. 
Sounds good to me. Now, first thing first, are you vegan? 😉

I’m not vegan. But I have been trying to eat more of a plant-based diet at home…

Tell me, if you had to summarize Meat Wave in just one sentence, what would it be?

A punk band trying to not always be a punk band.

And what was your intention when you created the band? Has it evolved over time?

Our intentions were just to create songs and play shows with friends in Chicago. It evolved way beyond our expectations. We’ve toured a fair amount, playing with bands we really respect, putting a lot of time into the project. But I think the intentions remain basically the same. 
Your music
What’s the story of the song “No Light”? I am so obsessed with it…

Thanks! It’s a pretty dark one, really. I think the song is trying to make sense of how debilitating depression and shame can be. Trying to recount and analyze. Sometimes it seems like you can’t catch a break. It’s all ebbs and flows; that’s how life seems to work. Lightness and darkness. But I do still like playing that one!
Dang, that’s dark indeed. Moving on to the present day, what is the common thread behind Volcano Park?

The only common thread I can speak on is that we tried to make something different that excited us. Every song is intended to have a different vibe than the other. Thematically, I don’t even know at this point. There’s a lot of shit bags in the world. A lot of people are not to be trusted. Meat Wave is an outlet for stuff like that for me. I wish it could be more positive. The idea was to write and record everything pretty quickly. It was peak pandemic. We were all wearing masks and trying to be safe. The other common thread is that we did everything ourselves for the most part- recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, video, and pressing the LP ourselves. And then Big Scary Monsters has helped us distribute it overseas and such. 

And how different is Volcano Park from your previous releases?

I’m not sure. I think we’re trying new things in quite a few of the songs. Trying to push the sound a bit. We got our act together real quick for this. I think it might be the best recording we have of the band thus far. Joe, who plays bass in the band, he’s recorded most of our music. He killed it. 

I hear Polvo, Slint, Shellac, Unwound, and that art-rock / noisy scene in your music, especially in Volcano Park. Is that just my imagination, or do these bands indeed inspire you?

It’s definitely there. I feel like those bands laid the groundwork for a band like us to exist. There are so many bands I feel indebted to. But it’s kind of funny; for Volcano Park, I think I was trying to think more outside the “genre.”  I love when people pull apart and twist a song in their own really specific, particular way. That’s what I’m always trying to do. And I think we just happen to play that kind of punk. But those bands, and bands like that, have all contributed to my sensibility—one hundred percent. 

And they are so under-represented, somehow. Anyway… The drum in your music is very distinct. Is Ryan Wizniak composing the drum part? And how is it recorded? It has a dry sound, à la Fugazi. I adore it.

That’s entirely Ryan. I first met Ryan when I was 16, he was probably 19 or 20, and it was also the first time seeing him play the drums. And I remember dying laughing because it was so sensational to me. He’s incredible. Joe always gets a great drum sound. It all works really nicely together. We recorded the drums on the top floor of our rehearsal space. Mostly just live, us playing. This time we were really focused on the drums, though, and then any guitars we needed to overdub we could. The initial performance was all about the drums. 
The scene
Are you part of a “scene,” and if so, which one?

Erm, I’m not sure. Our thing always was, we’ll play with anyone. And in the beginning, we played a lot of weird shows. A lot of people interpret our music differently. Many people lately have described us as “post-hardcore.” I’m not exactly sure what that is. “Post-punk.” That term’s getting a bit bloated. We’re a punk band. We’re a rock n’ roll band. There’s a lot of scenes. Sub scenes. But mostly, we’re trying to do our thing. 
Tell us about the music scene in Chicago. Is it going in the right direction? What would you like to change? 

It’s the best. That’s what scene we’re in. The Chicago scene. And it’s not really limited to anything. You have to not be an asshole, and you have to try to make good art. That’s the criteria. There are so many bands and artists. So many cool people. It’s definitely going in the right direction. We just need to keep pushing it. More inclusion. More people up on stage that I don’t always see up there. We just have to keep pushing it forward. 

Also, I didn’t know Big scary Monsters before your EP. How did you end up working with them?

I think we met them at a show in London. I honestly don’t remember. They have just been down since the last record to help us out—really cool people. We played a festival a few years ago, and those guys were there. I remember the label manager Dave told me, “If one of you or all you get thrown in jail, call me.” And that’s the kind of thing I’d like to hear from a person at the label, ya know?

Always good to have a Get Out of Jail Free card 🙂

To conclude
And now… here is a (very) complex question: what important truth do very few people agree with you on (whether it concerns music or anything else)?

I believe Genesis from like ‘83-’86 is just perfect pop music. A lot of people shit on me for that. It’s the Phil Collins era. Post-Peter Gabriel. Phil just does something to me. I understand that it’s cheesy. The production is cheesy. I don’t give a shit. It’s really good and speaks to me. 
Haha, I love it. Best tour memory?

There are way too many. Ryan and I were just talking about eating pizza in Italy. We’re pizza boys. So it was a right of passage. We had the best day in Verona. I think the promoter had taken off work to show us around the city. It was lovely. 

What is your favorite album of the last few months?

FACS – “Present Tense”.

When can we expect some new music from you? Is there any plan for a new LP?

We have an LP ready to go. It’s been done for quite a while. We were waiting for the pandemic to ease. So now it’s looking like more of a reality. The EP was like our consolation for not putting out the LP. Pretty soon, though. 
Yay, awesome! In the meantime, one movie I should watch? 

Will do. How do you imagine your discography 20 years from now?

Oh boy. I don’t know. There’s a tiny evolution going on. I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be a band. As long as we do it, though, I think it’s going to keep changing. Especially now, since we’ve made four records in a similar vein, it’s going to really start changing. 

Alright! Last question: is “rock’n’roll dead”? 

Rock ‘N Roll Will Never Die!!

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