In punk music, dissatisfaction, disaffection and disorientation are as much part of the canon as boisterousness and noisy guitars. Meat Wave key into these traditions, but there’s almost nothing predictable about this Chicago-based three-piece.
Formed in 2011 by singer/guitarist Chris Sutter, bassist Joe Gac and drummer Ryan Wizniak, they soon released a tension-brimming self-titled debut LP. It demonstrated how you could produce edgy post-punk with genuine mass appeal. Now with the release of new album ‘Delusion Moon’, they’re increasingly capturing the imagination of music fans everywhere.
“This year has been fucking insane, because we’ve gotten to travel to so many different places,” Sutter tells me. “Life has totally changed in that we are entirely focused on playing and making music.” With experience of playing in other much-loved local bands, the three shared a vision for creating something offbeat and angry. They’re all trying to stay faithful to Meat Wave for now, but you can’t keep a punk musician sitting still for long. “We’ve been a little busy with this album, but I’ve got a little home recording project I’m working on. Ryan and I are in a couple other bands, and Joe’s recording a bunch of shit. Life’s good!”
Now a growing fan base brings greater demand for live shows. The rigors of extended touring demands everyone gets some good rest, whilst not partying too much. “Which is easier said than done. We’ve just started having a friend or two travelling with us. It really makes a difference to have someone to help and who isn’t as invested in the band.” They’ll now be on tour until the end of the year, a prolonged excursion that includes a visit to Brighton’s The Hope & Ruin on Mon 23 Nov. Then more touring is coming in February. It seems success comes at the expense of any free time.
‘Delusion Moon’ is a hard-hitting record, alive with entwining rhythms and rushing dynamics. It’s the band’s most powerful dose of apprehension and annoyance so far. A long time in production, the album’s release brought a rush of emotions for the band. “It feels really good. We recorded it fairly quickly and then just kind of waited around on it. It’s actually kind of unbelievable.” Musically it sees them surge ahead. Meat Wave isn’t a band happy with the tried and tested. Lyrically they cover a range of subjects; from intimate social gripes to wide-reaching social issues – and America is alive with inspiration. The National Rifle Association receives particularly heavy criticism. Despite mass shootings being a regular event in the US, their considerable influence obstructs any meaningful gun control. “The NRA pays people in the US government to work for them and their interests. Ugh… It’s fucking sick. We’re all doomed.” (Just after this interview, another tragedy struck at an American college.) The cycle of violence continues, yet the rights of gun-owners will dominate the next presidential election. “I’m excited and terrified. The news makes it hard to know what’s really happening. It seems like Bernie Sanders is doing well. If Donald Trump even gets the nomination I’m moving!”
Although one of their local Chicago craft brewers offers an entirely unrelated ‘Meat Wave’ IPA, the band’s name comes from a typically bizarre ‘The Onion’ article. The humorous website offered news of a deadly ‘meat-wave’ sweeping through the Chicago area, leaving an estimated 40 residents dead from meat exhaustion, each of them bloated beyond all recognition. With victims suffering surreal fates like smoked-sausage inhalation, ‘meat-stroke’ and ‘roast-traumatic stress’, making it the ‘worst natural food disaster since the San Francisco Panquake of 1970’. It’s a wonderfully absurd jump-off point for a band with a fierce outlook on the world. “I don’t know if it is a great band name or not, it’s just silly! I change my mind on it a lot. I think a lot of people are turned off by it and won’t check us out because of it. A lot of people love it though… it leaves a lot to the imagination. It’s pretty arbitrary, but people get pretty hung up about it.”
Beguiling, urgent and perplexing, Meat Wave has the angst demanded of any worthy punk outfit. Their music is laden with hooks, but they don’t embrace the obvious. Even when unleashing a noisy sing-along anthem they hang it on a serious issue. The real beauty of these songs lies with the gut-wrenching anticipation created by each arrangement. Epic build-ups are played off with vociferous crashing climaxes. It’s not simple music. There’s careful thought given to every single dynamic on this album. It references Pink Floyd on the cover and features a longer running time than the debut, plus the title track has a rather psychedelic video… It makes me wonder if it’s indication of an impending new prog direction. “I don’t know if I would call it ‘progressive rock’ but I think we want to keep things interesting for ourselves. We intend to make music that’s more exploratory.” It could be viewed as a concept piece of sorts, revolving around the cycles of the moon and its effect on our behaviour. The thread running through everything is – we live on a crazy planet. Everyone is dealing with his or her own form of personal madness, but this can be something that unites us. It’s a complicated subject matter, but one Meat Wave can present in an entertaining manner. “I’m really interested in juxtaposing something dark with something light. Sour and sweet… Chocolate pretzel… Mmm. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult at all. It’s fun. It’s more cathartic and visceral than anything else.”