When psychedelic rockers Dead Meadow first formed in the late ‘90s in Washington D.C., the scene there was dominated by punk and hardcore bands. A group that played music inspired by Sabbath really stuck out. And that’s exactly what singer-guitarist Jason Simon wanted.
“We wanted to do something different,” he explains via phone. He brings the band to the Grog Shop on Saturday for its first local show in a few years. “There were awesome bands like Fugazi. There are so many bands that tried to sound like that. We wanted to stretch out and do something different 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.”
Eventually, the group caught the attention of the indie label Matador, which signed the band in 2003 and helped increase its profile.
"That was cool,” Simon says of the of the five or so years the band spent on the label. “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 had turned people onto the band. It did extend our reach for sure.”
Not that the major labels came calling.
“We always take the weirder road,” Simon says when asked if the group was ever approached by a major label. “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.”
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 has been reinvigorated after a few line-up changes and a break from steady touring. (Its last studio album was 2008’s Old Growth). The sludge-y opening tune “Six to Let the Light Shine In” features slurred vocals and wonky guitar work that has echoes of Brian Jonestown Massacre. The band toured Europe last year and is currently trekking through the States.
So is the band reenergized at this point?
“Yeah,” says Simon. “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.”