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Posted February 19, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Jason Simon of Dead Meadow: Taking the weirder road

Dead Meadow
Dead Meadow

When psychedelic rock band Dead Meadow formed in Washington D.C. in 1998, it sounded nothing like the punk and hardcore bands that had made the city’s music scene popular. The group caught the attention of the indie label Matador, which signed the band in 2003. Last year, the group issued Warble Womb, its first new studio album in five years. The droning guitars sound heavier than ever, suggesting the group is reinvigorated after a few line-up changes and a break from steady touring. The band toured Europe last year and is currently trekking through the States. We talked to singer-guitarist Jason Simon as the band was traveling to a show in New York.

You first formed in D.C. in the late ’90s. What was that scene like?
You know, it was the time of D.C. punk rock. We all grew up listening to that. There were awesome bands like Fugazi. There are so many bands that tried to sound like that. With Dead Meadow, we wanted to do something different.  We wanted to stretch out and take it back to the music we listened to before Fugazi, stuff like Sabbath and Zeppelin. We liked bands that were more trippy and even dreamy. It’s funny that we came out of D.C. I don’t think people got it at all. There were some heavy bands like Spirit Caravan. We weren’t really metal and we weren’t really punk either. Some of the people who first helped us out were the guys in Fugazi and The Make-Up, who wanted to hear something different coming out of D.C. too.

Were you really into ’60s music?
As a kid, you like Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin, the Beatles and the Stones. We just wanted to see how big and expansive we could make it.

Did that phrase stoner rock exist when the band started?
I think it did. You would hear it with Sleep and Electric Wizard. We never felt that comfortable with the term in any way at all. I think Sleep was great, but there aren’t that many bands in the genre that do that much for us. For us, it was for lack of a better term. It’s not metal or post-punk. We got slapped with it.

You signed to Matador in 2003. Did that immediately increase your profile? Was that a good experience?
That was cool. It’s funny how much things have changed in the music industry since then. We were like, “Wow, you can get recording advances.” We still have some recording gear from that time and have used it to record ourselves. The exposure was great and the label turned people onto the band. It did extend our reach for sure.

Did major labels every approach you guys?
Not really. It’s funny. We always take the weirder road. Even with the first Matador record, Shivering King and Others, they wanted a Queens of the Stone Age. That’s not what we were about.

We always wanted to try something new and do something that didn’t sound like anything else. I don’t think major labels ever saw dollar signs when they heard us.

What’s it been like putting the albums out yourselves?
The label is run by Steve, our bass player. In this day, it doesn’t matter what label we’re on. The name is already out there. We sell the same amount records. It makes sense to hold onto everything ourselves. That’s where the money is. The more you hold it to yourself, the better. You want fewer hands in the pot.

At what point did you move to L.A.?
We first went out there and did some shows with Brian Jonestown Massacre that went really well. We were a little heavier than those bands out there but we were into the same type of music. We wanted to bring back old school psychedelic rock. D.C. got more expensive and gentrified. The last year we lived there, we would play New York and Philly. It was a staggered thing. Our bassist went out first a few years ago.

Did you try to do something different with Warble Womb?
Since we did the live record Three Kings, it was to play the songs live first. We don’t have a set idea. Or we do, but it changes from week to week. We just wanted to include things that sound cool and eventually put that onto a record of some sort.

Was it difficult filling a double album?
I think it didn’t feel done in terms of what songs were there until we recorded the last batch of songs. All of a sudden we had so many songs. There was some thought of cutting a few or making it a bit shorter, but to make it a single record would have required cutting so many songs. You might as well make a full on double vinyl. We hadn’t put out a new record in awhile so we wanted to give people a bunch of songs to check out.

Is the band re-energized at this point?
Yeah. I feel like we’ll record more stuff. The shows have been really good. They’re grueling but and the response has been really good. The psych scene has opened up and we’re seeing a new batch of fans that are younger.

Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates

2/12

2/13

2/14

2/15

2/16

2/17

2/18

2/20

2/21

2/22

2/26

2/27

2/28

3/01

3/03

3/04

3/05

3/07

Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts

Boston, MA @ Sinclair

Washington, DC @ DC9

Brooklyn, NY @ GLSSLNDS

Hamden, CT @ Spaceland Ballroom

Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse

Montreal, QB @ Petit Campus

Toronto, ONT Lee’s @ Palace

Cincinnati, OH @ Northside Tavern

Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop

Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club

Fargo, ND – Aquarium

Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews

Chicago, IL @ Double Door

Kansas City, KS @ Riot Room

Oklahoma City, OK @ Conservatory

Omaha, NE @ Slowdown

Denver, CO @ Lost Lake


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.