A Psychedelic Fiesta Comes To Psycho De Mayo

Dead Meadow

Dead Meadow, one of many bands on the bill for Psycho de Mayo at the Yost May 5
Photo courtesy of Magdalena Wosinska

Experience the psychedelic droning power chords of Dead Meadow who will be one of the bands performing at Psycho de Mayo at the Yost Theater on May 5. An all day into the night affair featuring numerous psych (short for psychedelic rock) bands such as Black Mountain, A Place To Bury Strangers and Dead Skeletons to name a few.

Dead Meadow is a three-piece group featuring vocalist and guitarist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Mark Laughlin. They will release their much anticipated sixth studio album, “Womb Warble” on their own Xemu label this Fall after releasing three albums over five years with Matador Records.

Between doing their label, putting out other bands, and finishing their album, somehow, Kille and Simon found time to answer a few questions.

OCCG: What do you like about playing in Orange County?
Kille- I like that it is close to LA but a different crowd. It is inspiring to not have to go far to play to new people.

OCCG: What can fans expect when going to a Dead Meadow show in 2013?
Simon – A good time!!!!! The fans can expect a slew of classic Dead Meadow tunes and a bunch of new tunes from our upcoming record. I always want and hope the people at the show can have as much fun as I do playing. I figure if we can lose ourselves in the music the audience can as well.

OCCG: Can you offer some background on the writing/recording of the upcoming album “Warble Womb”?
Simon- We’ve been carefully constructing this record at our own studio for the last two years. It’s evolved and changed as all good creative projects do. I still don’t know what it is we’ve made. It’s always a surprise to hear the finished project.

OCCG: How did you come up with the title?
Simon- The records I love create an all encompassing space for the listener to enjoy, intellectually and emotionally. “Warble Womb” seemed like a particularly apt title for our humble attempt to create an inviting place for the listener to spend some time. Come inside, my friends….here is a shelter from the storm…stay as long as you like.

Kille- I actually had a dream about making a record called Wiggle Room and that it would be our most important album yet. When our graphic designer heard the story he mistook the words and Warble Womb was born. Now as Simon said it really encompasses our vision for the album and vision for our music in general. Maybe a higher power guided us on it?

OCCG: I understand you have your own label, Xemu Records. How did that come about?
Kille- It was a label started by writer/ director Cevin Soling in the 90’s. We became friends when I lived in New York. Over a couple beers we talked about starting it up full time again as a way to reissue Dead Meadow non-Matador albums. I guess one thing led to another and here we are now working with a hand full of psych and pop/rock artists. It has been really rewarding to be on the other side of the table and control the business side of things a little more. It is like the Wild West these days and even though there is not much funding in music in 2013, with the Internet you can reach a ton of fans and spread your music with little effort. It’s out there with a few clicks of a keyboard.

OCCG: Going back to the beginning of Dead Meadow, what were some of your early musical inspirations that lead you to creating your type of music?
Simon- As a kid it was bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jimi Hendrix that inspired me to pick up a guitar in the first place. We all came up from high school in the DC punk scene. It was a revelation to discover bands like Fugazi and their artistic integrity and passion. We played in punk bands for a number of years but Dead Meadow was a return to our earliest influences. Throw in some Neil Young, some Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and that’s what kicked us off. We also really just wanted to freak people out and at that time, a long tripped out guitar jam was pretty much the most punk thing you could do. A massive intake of marijuana probably pushed us in that direction as well if ya know what I mean.

OCCG: What inspires your music today?
Simon- We still want to freak people out. To give the people something trippy with the hope that it will inspire them to create something trippy of their own. The urge to create, to attempt to capture a feeling, or some aspect of the world within or the world without, and to share that through song keeps leading to new ideas and those ideas in turn lead to other new ideas. It’s never-ending or at least it hasn’t ended yet.

OCCG: Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to do music?
Simon- For me, as long as I can remember I’ve been sure that this was the only thing that really seemed worthwhile to spend my life doing. It was more of a need than a constant decision. I’m not sure I had any choice in the matter.

Kille- Yeah, it sort of found me. I knew I always wanted to do creative things as a career. I have always been interested in art and writing. Really came about buying my first guitar when I was bored that I realized a whole other way to express myself and what was even better that it was collaborative something that art and writing had never been for me. So with multiple heads collectively working on ideas the art is exponentially stronger. I guess like making a movie, albums and music, the sum of the whole is better than the individual. I like that team aspect.

OCCG: What other bands do you listen to besides your own and what is the last “record” that you bought?
Simon- Recently I’ve been digging a lot of old banjo players like Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley. The music they make is so spine tingling and eerie. A combination of old English Ballads and the sound of the blues, all filtered through old Appalachia. I always go back to some Dub. I never get tired of Lee Perry, Scientist, and King Tubby. Xemu just released The Strangers Family Band Record. It’s great!

OCCG: On Wikipedia there’s a reference to Tolkien and Lovecraft, what have you read in the last few years that made an impression and why?
Simon- I’ve been on a big Nabokov kick lately. His prose is like fire. It’s so powerful. I went back to school for a few semesters at a Buddhist university so have been reading a good deal of the Pali Canon. The level of cutting insight into our human condition and the true workings of the mind is simply astounding. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, an American born Therevada monk, has also been blowing my mind. Check him out! All of his writings are free and available online.

OCCG: I just have to ask, how did Mark Laughlin go from playing drums in Dead Meadow, to pursuing a career in Law, and back again? That was quite a long hiatus. Was he studying Music Law?
Kille- I know it is a funny turn of events. When he left originally I didn’t think we would ever play in a band together again. He was really focused on his career and pursuing a non-music life. It happened when we were first approached by Matador and it became an option that we could take the gamble and make this thing full-time. It was a scary decision and at the time Mark didn’t want to take the risk. In the years that followed we all always remained close friends with him even traveling out to LA onetime with us just to hang out while we were playing a string of shows. After the years as Stephen lost interest in playing Mark I guess was secretly yearning for it again. When Stephen finally announced that he wanted to move on Mark immediately hit me up and we asked if he wanted to do shows again. Luckily for us he wanted to relocate to sunny California. He is still interested in law but I think he wants to be involved with entertainment. In NYC he was involved with government-based law and child rights.

OCCG: Does Simon have plans for another solo album? Are any other band members considering a solo album?
Simon- The solo thing has morphed into a band called Old Testament. Check us out…we’ll be playing Psycho de mayo. It’s an attempt to put a bit of the old and weird America into the music.

Kille- I have been recording bands a lot. I have really been excited by production and working with other musicians helping them get their ideas into recorded form. I have been evolving our studio that I have been calling the “Wiggle Room” (play on Warble Womb) into a comfortable place for musicians to come in and start hammering out the details. I have had the opportunity to work with some great people from Kim Deal to most recently been working on ex-GBV James Greer new band Detective. Aside from all of that I have been playing bass on the new Pink Mountaintops album which has been fun since the current studio musicians are all old friends.

OCCG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kille- Thanks for taking the time to interview us. Hopefully we can continue to keep playing the OC and maybe there will be more indie shops and venues to keep arts happening here. Definitely stop by our Xemu Party at Don The Beachcombers on June 8th. I see its potential as a great new venue for the scene to play at. They definitely have a love and respect for new bands and that lack of jadedness is a pretty healthy change from these days. Join us!