How much do we love Meat Market, let us count the ways. Actually, scratch that. No list making today, just unabashed for love this Oakland-based rock band who have been turning heads in California and are blowing minds in Austin as I type this. They may be flying slightly under the radar now but with one rock solid LP under their belt and new material on the horizon, don’t count on Meat Market staying on the DL for too much longer. They’re way too fucking good for that.
We at Lo-Pie have been feeling warm fuzzies for the band ever since founding Pie Ruby Perez wrote a review of their self-titled tape/LP (released on LA-based label Under the Gun Records), a record that later made our Best of 2012 list. Their cool mix of surf, pop, punk, and good old fashioned RnR has kept the LP on our collective turntable for months, which is one of many reasons we’re beyond stoked to have Meat Market on our SXSW showcase, taking place tomorrow afternoon at Copa Bar & Grill.
This interview took place in the band’s tour van during a quick stop in El Monte on their way to Austin. Equipped with an 18-pack of Tecate and a full pack of smokes, we hopped into the van, turned on the recorder, and began asking questions. The band was already somewhat toasted so take some of the responses with a grain of salt. And just for laughs, here’s the first thing captured on tape: “Whoa, I just spilled beer all over my crotch. It looks like I peed myself.”
PS. For the astrologically inclined, Meat Market is made up of a Cancer, a Sagittarius, a Libra (“Li-bro”), and a Taurus, which kind of makes them like the Captain Planet of bands, encompassing the best of all the elements–much like their music, come to think of it. The interview was conducted by a Virgo and a Leo.
When did you start Meat Market?
Alex: Jeff and I went to middle school and high school together, but we never hung out until we united at Santa Cruz and we played in a band called Heroin Face when we lived together. That dissolved when we went abroad. When we came back we started playing music again as Bang Boys.
Jeff: It was just guitar and drums and vocals.
Alex: Then we realized we needed to expand and make the sound bigger and more full.
Jeff: So Ian came over to my house once. I remember I was with you and Hannon and Keenan. I thought you and Hannon were gay.
Ian: We were.
Jeff: Then I heard you play and I was like, oh you should play with us.
Alex: We just wanted to play music with friends and people that we thought had good attitudes, and we asked Jake to play. He’s always been our friend and he wrote some lyrics for our old band.
Jeff: Jake learned bass to be in our band.
Jake: I’d never played an instrument before.
How would you describe Meat Market?
Jake: Ask Raphael.
Raphael: Well, there’s definitely a surf influence.
Does anybody surf?
Ian: I don’t surf anymore.
Ian: Because I started playing music with them.
Alex: Sometimes I tell people melodic punk.
Jeff: We’re all into different kinds of music. Alex is into punk and I’m into System of a Down.
Alex: We listen to everything but we have four very different minds with four very different interests and tastes and it comes together as Meat Market. The guitar parts can be kind of bluesy. Ian can play the banjo and harmonica, and he wails on all of them. I like to keep the beat faster, a little more simple. I think we don’t want to pigeonhole our sound into something too describable.
Raphael: That’s why with Meat Market the music is very accesible, because it’s not this or that.
Photo by Ruby Perez
Where did you come up with your band name?
Jeff: Originally, picking our name, we went through a lot of stuff. Alex wanted to be Table Leg. I wanted to be Chink Niggers, but that was a little too racy. And one day I was driving with Alex and we saw a fish market and I was like: Fish Market. We were seriously naming anything we saw. Fish Market, okay! And then, I think, our friend Angel was like: “Why not Meat Market?”
How’d you get hooked up with Under the Gun?
Jeff: They just messaged us. A friend of Evert’s saw us in Santa Cruz and told them to check us out. We’d done the recording ourself and we didn’t know what to do with it.
Alex: I’d also like to say that starting in Santa Cruz was extremely vital to our beginnings.
What’s the scene like there?
Ian: The music thing is good, but personally I had the worst time of my life in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has a terrible underbelly because it’s this tourist town and this surf city and this haven for the hippies, but there’s lots of meth and heroin, and because of its proximity to certain towns, it’s a major stopping point for the drug traffic from Mexico. So there’s really easy access to terrible drugs, which is good and bad.
But you say that it was vital?
Alex: Because of the college aspect and people who were down to listen to music and do art. Everyone was extremely supportive, would come out to a show any night of the week.
What’s the coolest place to play in Santa Cruz?
All: House parties!
Jake: House parties were good, but there’s a noise ordinance in Santa Cruz so the cops always came and the shows always got shut down. But you could start a band and every weekend someone was willing to let a bunch of people into the living room and trash the place. And we’d play shows every weekend with all our friends and if that wash’t case we probably wouldn’t have made the songs we made.
Raphael: I just want the opportunity to say that senior year, Meat Market were a pivotal force in the house show scene. Especially senior year there was this folk vibe going on and Meat Market started playing a lot of shows and it was cool because people always came out and it was a cool community.
Would you call yourselves a Santa Cruz band?
Jeff: We started in Santa Cruz, we all went to UC Santa Cruz.
Ian: We’ve been playing in Oakland longer than we played in Santa Cruz.
Jeff: Me and Alex are from the Oakland area.
Ian: I’m from San Francisco.
Jake: I grew up in San Diego, I met all these dudes when I moved up to Santa Cruz to go to school and I’ve just been following them around ever since.
Alex: We’re more of an Oakland band because that’s where most of the growth is happening right now. But we have international influences.
Alex: The Oakland music scene is pretty cool, there’s a lot of different things going on. There’s more house parties, things that are more accessible and free, whereas I feel if you compare it to across the bridge in San Francisco it can be very divided. I want to play for as many people as possible. If they just enjoy live music or listening to rock and roll or whatever.
Jeff: It’s such an exciting time to be part of music in the Bay Area right now!
Who are your favorite local bands?
Jeff: Uzi Rash! They’re not a band anymore but they’re my favorite band. I love Scrapers. Twin Steps!
Jake: I really like Grass Widow, they’re my favorite band.
Jeff: We just got to play my dream show with Fleshies. They have been and forever will be awesome. Twin Steps, Religious Girls, Sad Bitch are an up and coming group that are cool.
Ian: Oh Coltergeist!
Jeff: Coltergeist! Art Vandelay for sure, he makes really sick beats. He’s been playing with our friend Luis from Religious Girls and they formed this band called Coltergeist and it’s crazy drumming and Jamie playing samples and Danny on guitar and it is sick as fuck.
Alex: Exciting with three X’s.
Alex: Religious Girls have been killing it forever. Synthetic ID, Repeater Pan. There are too many. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I just have to sit down, you know?
Jeff: Glitter Wizard!
You just went on a pretty crazy tour with Pangea and FIDLAR.
Jeff: That was fun. Those were the craziest shows we’ve played, at least consecutively.
That venue you played in LA, the LA Fort, it got shut down because of that show.
Alex: That was crazy. We didn’t know what to expect. We know Pangea and FIDLAR are from LA, but that was just the best. We made a lot of new friends, everyone was happy, not just on a music level but on a friendship level.
Jake: Some strong bonds were made.
Photo by Ruby Perez
Rad. So you’re on your way to SXSW now, right?
Alex: We have some really cool shows set up so we’re really excited. We’re ready to eat the food, meet the people, sweat it all out, and have a good time and try to sleep when we can. We do have a van now that can get us all there.
What were you driving before?
Jake: 3 Volvos.
Alex: 240 DLs, baby!
So if you had to tour you would just caravan around?
Ian: Whenever we’d come to LA we’d have to, two to a car at the most.
What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?
Alex: Playing with The Spits!
Jake: I’m really excited to see White Lung, I’ve never seen them.
Jeff: I don’t know what to expect. I’m sure it’ll be a good time.
Ian: I heard you can get deep fried avocado tacos so I’m waiting for that. I want that.
Jeff: I just don’t want any kind of rash to appear on any of us.
Has that ever happened?
Jeff: We were all really sick on our last tour. Ian got bronchitis.
Alex: Ian got bronchitis and laid in the van suffering most of the time by himself. He still fucking delivered, though.
Jake: He played every show!
Had you played shows like that before? Where the all kids were going ape for you?
Jeff: We’d played a few shows like that but not consecutively.
Ian: In Oakland we usually end up playing bars and we didn’t play any shows on that tour that were 21 up, so there were a lot of younger people.
Jake: The younger crowd get really into it. It was refreshing.
Alex: And people had really nice things to say after, that really touched us. Seriously.
What did they say?
Alex: They were like: We like you, I want your set list, can you sign our record. It was unreal.
Jeff: Signing records was crazy.
Alex: And bringing smiles to children’s faces because being a teen or adolescent is kind of hard. One girl I noticed in the very front in Santa Ana did not crack one smile, but she was in the front getting trampled on the whole time. At the very end–at the very end—she cracked a smile. And it was like, yes! Playing music is worth it. But you know that’s the thing, we’ll play to anybody, to any age. We’ll play retirement homes.
Have you done that?
Alex: No, but we will! There’s one by my house that I would totally do. There’s a hallway that looks out onto the street with big glass windows and there’s ten of these individuals that just sit there throughout the day.
Jake: They probably wouldn’t like us very much. They’d turn off their hearing aids.
Alex: The point is we wanna play for everybody. I was just really surprised that people listen to our music and know our songs. That’s crazy. It’s really crazy to see where it is now and where it started.
Jeff: You can feel it when it happens. It’s not physical, like someone touching you, but it’s more of a growing deep inside.
Ian: Like a boner?
Alex: Yes, it’s a spiritual thing. I’m just happy that we can just do our art and we get a reaction from it that for the most part has been very good.
Jeff: This is it for us. For me, we made it a long time ago. I’m really excited for everything that’s happening.
What’s up with new recordings?
Jeff: Well, we have to get some new songs first.
Ian: I think we have the makings for at least a 7″, potentially 4 or 5 songs. They’re just not all done.
Jeff: The new stuff is going to be kind of different.
Alex: We’ve got some new stuff cooking that’s going to be delicious when it comes out.
Jeff: I’m stoked on the new stuff, the new stuff is going to be better. It will be a different direction.
When you say different, what do you mean? Do you think touring has changed your sound or the way your write songs?
Alex: Touring for me at least makes me tired of playing the same old stuff, I want to play something new. And I think generally music reflects your life experience and as your experience changes so will everything you put out. It’s just natural.
Who’s writing most of your music?
Jeff: Me and Ian come up with instrumentals and then pretty much everybody writes the lyrics. It’s pretty democratic. Usually Jake will write the lyrics, he wrote the lyrics for “Don’t Surf” and “B&E BBQ”.
Alex: And then we’ll all contribute to putting the puzzle together.
Photo by Ruby Perez
How often do you practice?
Alex: When bands say they send each other demos from different cities and write shit, I can’t imagine how the hell that works.
Jeff: It doesn’t make sense that we don’t practice because most of us don’t have jobs, at least until now.
Jake: We’re a very lazy band.
You don’t have day jobs?
Ian: Most of us don’t right now.
Alex: We just don’t work in the traditional sense.
Well, being in a band is a job.
Jake: I don’t have a job right now but in the past…the reason we have this van and the reason I haven’t worked in months is because I worked a very strange job for a very strange man.
Jeff: He should’ve kept the job in my opinion. He paid him 700 bucks a week.
Alex: He flew him out to the East Coast once a month.
Jake: I was a personal assistant. He was a very weird man.
Jeff: When Jake realized he had enough money for a van he peaced out.
Jake: It was an assistant job with a creepy old guy which I ended up quitting because he was having sex with some of his younger employees and it made me feel very uncomfortable.
What are some band tensions?
Jake: You have four different people trying to work together to produce something, so there’s going to be disagreements but I feel like we deal with them pretty well.
Jeff: I feel like me and Alex are always on the border of just killing each other.
Is that true, Alex?
Alex: Sometimes. When I first met Jeff, I felt like he had some social disorder, I’m not joking. Maybe Aspergers. I mean it was sixth grade, but I never had a real conversation. But sometimes–sometimes–that assumption still comes out. But for the most part, the four of us know overall the big picture and the tensions are just not worth it. As life changes and your experiences change, you learn different things about your friend. Ian scares me sometimes. I would also say a lot of these thoughts and ideas are very new to us because we’ve never been asked. All these questions, like what we’re about. It’s a new thing. But I have so much fun with these dudes. We work for the most part.
Jeff: We’ve known each other for five plus year almost. You learn what to say, what not to say, what buttons to push and what not to push.
When are you going to tour nationally?
Jeff: Not for a bit because we’re kinda broke after this trip. We’re going to take a hiatus and write some new stuff.
Alex: But if an investor from China wants to put in, we will put out!
What are you most excited for coming up?
Jeff: We’re just really excited about the coming year, going to new States and playing for new people.
Ian: I feel more excited about writing new songs. I mean touring is fun, but when I think about the band and the future, I think more about what should we do musically.
And what is it?
Ian: I think we should spend more time writing music and the touring will come after that.
Alex: And that’s one thing about the Bay Area, is that it’s pretty easy to get distracted.
Jake: We’ve never sat down and written an album.
What was the writing process for the last record?
Ian: We had a bunch of songs, some of which were written before we all were a band. And then we wrote some more songs when we started playing together. Then we were approached by Evert and Janelle, and were were like, yeah we have this body of songs, which were pretty much all of our songs minus one or two.
At this point we’re winding up the interview when the band begs me to ask a racier question.
Okay, what’s the craziest tour experience you’ve ever had?
Jake: There was the one night at The Overpass…
The band said we could print the entirety of the incident, however I’m overruling their decision in the interests of brevity and their future employment opportunities. But trust me. It was wild.