“There’s nothing like it in the US, so we’ve been going literally every day, sometimes twice a day.”
If mega award winning cheap eatery J.D. Wetherspoons were looking for representation, they could do worse than Chicago post-punk trio Meat Wave. When I meet up with Meat Wave at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, they’d already been to the sometimes-hit-and-miss home of cheap beers on every stop of their UK tour (something which they were more than happy to acknowledge/boast about later on during their set). Following their stop off in Leeds, the band only had six chances left to experience the culinary delights of Wetherspoons locations across the country, with the rest of their European tour kicking off in France on May 3rd. Outside of cheap meat…
“…everybody’s nice and treating us well.” Says frontman Chris Sutter, following his confession. “Shows have exceeded our expectations. We keep expectations low, but they’ve been exceeded.”
Their partners in crime (and definite Wetherspoons pushers) during this most recent tour of the UK have been label mates Cassels. The Chipping Norton siblings had been showing them the ropes throughout their stay (dates including Brighton and Nottingham, which the trio say they’ve a lot of time for) and are hovering around us during our pre-gig conversation.
“Ahhh man, they’re kinda dicks…” Smiles Chris when he catches them coming over.
“Terrible – they’re the worst dudes. They’ve been dropping a lot of acid every day…” Jokes drummer Ryan Wizniak.
It’s clear a total bromance has been born with these two bands becoming affiliated (signed in ink via end of tour Wetherspoons tattoos) and it’s all down to their signing with Oxford based label Big Scary Monsters. Announced at the tail end of last year, their partnership was an absolute feather in the cap of BSM, the label being on an incredible run of signings these past two years, as well as being wonderful news for fan throughout the UK.
“We weren’t really aware until we came here, and it seems like everybody just follows what they do.” Says Chris of BSM. “It seems a really well respected label, so it’s cool to be a part of that. To be honest, we’ve yet to meet those dudes, but hopefully on this run we will. We just appreciate them helping us out.”
‘The Incessant’, the latest Meat Wave album, found its UK home through BSM this February, whilst it was released in the states through Los Angeles based label SideOneDummy Records, the label having previously put out their 2015 release ‘Delusion Moon’.
“They’re super supportive and friendly. They kinda give us free reign to do what we want.” Says Ryan of the pairing, noting their assistance on surprisingly helpful items such as the tracklisting for The Incessant.
“Yeah, they took special care of the record – rolling it out and releasing it.” Adds Chris, giving a nod to the label having already released a second pressing variant (clear with blood red splatter, baby!) “We love them, they’re the best.”
Whilst later on that evening it’s early single ‘Brother’ that lights a fire under the arse of everyone in the crowd, every track from The Incessant that gets an outing is greeted with much approval and vocal support from the packed out room. It’s had a few months to make an impression on UK audiences, though it’s something the band haven’t quite made their minds up on yet. When I ask about the response they’ve had thus far, it takes a bit of thought.
“It’s hard to say. I think people who enjoy our band enjoy it and people who have come to the shows so far have been saying it’s nice to hear the new songs.” Says Chris. “It’s not necessarily new to us, but we really enjoy playing them – more than anything else. People have been really positively receptive to it, which is all we could really ask.”
The Incessant made its initial rumblings back around the release of Delusion Moon, with Chris starting up a notebook following a pretty rough break up. The notebook was used for jotting down the sort of thoughts and feelings that hit you in the wake of a break up, with a torrent of emotions hitting you all at once (hence the title of the album itself). Meat Wave were actually in the UK at the time, as Chris notes.
“I remember I would just make a little poem or little note every day, every city we went to. I think that started the formation of the themes and what the record was gonna be about. We were touring kind of a lot, so I think when we weren’t touring we would just practice a lot. We had a few sessions of writing where it just started to take shape…”
The release of The Incessant was preceded by multiple articles, interviews and even the official press release for the album airing of a lot of personal information about Chris that one might not expect to be privy to for a band of this size. This is the first time I’ve met Chris, sat across the table from him at the Brudenell, but even I know little bits here and there about the fallout of the breakup. Whilst it seems there’s no escaping the watchful eye of Big Brother in the social media obsessed world we live in, it’s still feels creepy to have all this dirt on someone you’ve never met.
“It is weird, still.” He admits. “Sometimes it’s regrettable and sometimes I feel really good about it. I don’t know…It’s far enough removed where I’m excited to start doing new stuff. You can look back on it now, not so much in it. So yeah, it’s very of its time for me. It’s what it is. I don’t listen to it, I don’t need to listen to it, it just is what it is.”
As well as the aforementioned split from his girlfriend of over a decade, there’s also the story of his appendix causing him a bit of bother prior to being the Best Man at his Dad’s wedding to the tragic tale of him losing his feline companion when he parted ways with his former partner (paints ‘Tomosaki’ in a totally different light!) Everywhere you turned, there was a lot of Chris’ personal life out in the open before people had even heard the new record.
“Sometimes it feels very cathartic and other times it feels like a bit much.” Admits Chris. “People writing about it – that gets a bit weird. You know, off a one sheet that they get sent – it’s like my fucking life! It’s really weird and sometimes I regret it, but we’re happy with the record and we’re happy we did it. Try to live with no regrets, but I don’t know…” He laughs.
It’s evident through listening to The Incessant and Delusion Moon that our writer wears his heart on his sleeve in many respects. But with the reflective nature of his writing on The Incessant, a price was being paid that almost resulted in the album being scrapped for being too personal and focusing heavily on a destructive period of the frontman’s life.
“I feel like I was pushed to talk about it a little more than I would have. So yeah, it’s weird – pulling people into it that don’t need to be involved. It’s just kinda weird that way. I don’t know…” He says with a smile as Ryan chuckles. “I’m looking forward, I’m looking to the future now. But like I said, it’s good, we’re happy.”
A key to this happiness came back home in Chicago, at famed studio Electrical Audio – home to Steve Albini. Having previously utilised the in-house production of bassist Joe Gac for prior releases, with The Incessant, Meat Wave looked to Albini to produce.
“He’s super professional. He’s done all these great bands, but he’s really good at making you feel extremely relaxed, he’s a really funny guy.” Says Ryan. “Super-efficient and easy to work with, seemed like he was having a good time.”
The band liken the use of Albini as similar to having another tool at their disposal – something required of a certain job here or something else specific there. The studio time for them was not too dissimilar to previous releases.
“We were pretty well rehearsed going into the studio. So the plan was pretty much to play through the songs and that’s what we did.” Says Joe. “It is what it is.”
Whilst Joe and Chris were able to play around with every piece of gear they could get their hands on during a day off in their four days together with Albini, the trio all agree that it was actually the mixing of the record itself that was the best part of the whole Electrical Audio experience.
“That’s kind of a performance in itself, which I had never realised.” Beams Chris. “Rolling everywhere [in his chair – Ed]. He has this ear that you don’t think he’s necessarily listening, but he’ll catch five things from the sidelines and he’s totally in it the whole time. It was a pleasure, it was awesome.”
The Albini mark is clearly heard on final track ‘Killing The Incessant’, a brutal, raucous crescendo intending to put to bed this overarching narrative of the album. Most interesting though is the final notes of the song – the delicate, acoustic fingerpicking following the ‘death’ of all that’s come before it.
“The record is very tense.” Says Chris. “I could understand why somebody wouldn’t wanna listen to it. It’s just very kind of abrasive and tense. It’s kind of a palate cleanser at the end there – everything’s gonna be fine, you don’t need to be so fucking dramatic all the time. It’s just gonna be ok and you can move on and move forward. I’m glad we put that in, ‘cus it’s kind of a changing of the tides.”
With The Incessant on its death bed and talk of tides changing and a focus on the future, I was eager to hear what follow up plans are – if any – at this stage. With The Incessant, Chris has been put through the wringer on an emotional scale, so what’s next?
“We’re kinda just getting into it now. We’ve been focusing on touring and playing these songs as best we can. So yeah, we’ll see.” Says Chris. “I think we’ve gotta kind of throw a wrench in it, ‘cus we’ve been doing the same kind of thing for a while, which is good, but I think we wanna go somewhere else. We’ve gotta find it. It’ll be different for sure.”