“Eight Days a Meek”
by Ryan Muldoon
Take a spin through the New Testament (or, if you prefer, the equally holy early records by Rush) and you’ll be informed that the meek shall inherit the earth. Whether this is a blessing or a curse remains to be seen – though if the L.A. band known as The Meek is spinning the soundtrack come judgment day, be prepared for a little bit of both.
Light and dark, black and white, blessing and curse – The Meek show no qualms dealing with these dualities, and certainly no qualms with a name that mocks their sound: a sound that builds on the tone set by The Velvet Underground’s “White Light, White Heat,” raises the reverb and distortion levels to the point that they bounce off of the moon and into your awaiting ears. And your ears shall inherit The Meek.
Singer Amy Lee tells us a little more.
I’m interested in the origin of the band’s name, “The Meek.” Is it a reference to the Bad Brains song of the same name, from the “Rock for Light” album? Was there a conscious decision to choose a band name that, at first blush, stands to contradict the passion of your sound? Will the meek (or The Meek), in fact, inherit the earth?
I asked a retired beatnik friend of mine who wanders the streets of Hollywood and who visits my newsstand, “What should I name my band?” and he said “THE MEEK” … I think he thought me meek. I had the name before I wrote any songs. I don’t mind the reference to the legendary Joe Meek. “Blessed are the meek…” I like the idea that good deeds merit eternal rewards. Yet the origin of the word is something like taming a wild animal, I think our sound is closer to that idea. I’ve never heard the Bad Brains Song. I like the Simon & Garfunkel song “Blessed”.
What is your musical history with the other members of The Meek? Have you collaborated together in the past, with other projects?
Everyone besides Jeff has never been in a gigging band before. Jeff and I met Aly and Ramses on New Year’s Eve 2006. We played them some of our demos and quick became friends. So, we figured better them than anyone to play in our group instead of being a duo at that time. We all shared an affinity for the same art, music, films and fashion – most importantly they loved what we were doing and that inspired us. Ramses has a gallery in Los Angeles called Substrate Contemporary where he curates art events and THE MEEK often DJ. He collaborated with Factory Records Designer Peter Saville and he debuted Natty Brooker in the United States, best known for his enduring imagery related to Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Aly is developing a lifestyle brand, a clothing line of primarily eco and animal friendly fabrics.
What are the challenges of playing together in a band with your husband? What are the benefits? If push comes to shove, who are your favorite musical spouses of all time?
My creative urges are precious to me, so the process can be a difficult one. We need to remember to trust each other’s instincts. I think we play beautiful music together. We have a very special bond–a creative intimacy. Finding a balance with our normal life and music is the biggest challenge. The benefit is going to those places in your mind and heart that only music can seem to open. It is a way to heal and explore, to take feelings right to the edge.
Larry and Jennifer Cassidy of Section 25, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert of New Order, Patti and Fred Sonic Smith, Poison Ivy and Lux Interior of The Cramps, Thurston Moore and Kim gordon of Sonic Youth.
What music has captured your imagination lately?
When I forget to charge my iPod I end up listening to the classical music station at work. It is a new education for me. I just heard Gustav Mahler’s 5th symphony performed by the Berlin Philharmonic – that captured my imagination. The contemporary music coming out of Iceland is my favorite. We did a west coast tour with Singapore Sling two summers ago and all the off shoots of that band are in the vein I most enjoy. 2 step, dark, drone.
How did you come to be aware of the Austin Psych Fest? Are there any bands in particular that you yourself are excited to see?
We played our second show with The Black Angels. Then just this past summer, when they were in LA recording we had this really neat rehearsal space in an old Hollywood bar before it was going to be torn down and we had some really fun jams and hang outs with them. We were invited last year but couldn’t make it. I am excited to see them in Austin, in their element.
The great, L.A.-centric blog “Nu Rave Brain Wave” indicates that The Meek actually doesn’t play live all that often. Is this by design, or just circumstance? What do you try to bring to the live performance that may be different or more amplified than your recordings?
We tend to be selective about the shows we play. All of us in the band have other passions and pursuits. We prefer to play shows that get exposure and that will allow us to give the people a unique performance.
Our recordings are lo-fi. Most of which are recorded live on cassette. Our performance has the same intension and execution yet has perhaps a better sonic quality. More of a wall of sound you can feel. We are reluctant performers, there are no antics, but we perform with the utmost heart and soul.
From the staggering amount of research that I’ve completed concerning The Meek (i.e. perusing your MySpace & Facebook profiles), you strike as a very ambitious – or at least very active – sort. What can you tell us about you involvement with vegan activism? And what about your neo-modern newsstand, “The Daily Planet”?
I have three values: Feel good, be good, and do good. I don’t feel particularly ambitious. I think of those people with their shirts ironed. I have been Vegan half my life and Vegetarian before that. I am focused on animal liberation. My activism/advocacy involves letter writing to state and federal officials to raise awareness and start a dialogue. I respond to action alerts and engage in an active community of like minded people to facilitate change mostly by way of ethical laws being enacted.
I like that you call The Daily Planet neo-modern. I feel like I made a small town dream in a big city come true. I started as an evening clerk there 10 years ago. It’s a cool place. Carefully chosen books, gorgeous candles, an array of magazines, a great location. It is my day job but it’s mine! And, I really enjoy being there day after day, it’s a great atmosphere and allows me the luxury to be a no compromise Artist.
To follow, what music magazine do you look forward to with the greatest eagerness? What music-related book has made the greatest impression on you? Have you read anything particularly compelling recently?
I enjoy Uncut and Mojo magazine depending on the featured artist. I am excited if I see Nick Cave, or Morrissey, The Velvet Underground, or Joy Division on the cover of anything. Ugly Things and Shindig are pretty cool for the serious retro enthusiast. You can learn about the more underrated bands of the 60’s and 70’s.
So many books have helped shaped my life. Recently, I read “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. And, I heard her read from it at the Hammer Museum. Wow. Such a well developed tale. How a poet became an artist became a musician with humor and heartache plus a little history lesson on New York City, The Chelsea Hotel and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Last year I read “Renegade: The Gospel according to Mark E. Smith” from The Fall. He is such an unconventionally charismatic leader, a professional outsider, an enemy of compromise, an enigma. Besides, his ghost writer name checks me in the acknowledgments. I think my brother has the largest Fall vinyl collection in the world.
In 1976, when he was 73 years old, songwriter, lyricist and co-founder of Capital Records, Johnny Mercer, said of L.A.: “I sit here in California, writing these reminiscences in a heavy rain, thinking of the fires and the mud slides, and it does seem that the sunny L.A. I knew has been ‘struck,’ like the movie sets it built, and has disappeared overnight, all its genius gone back into bottles, leaving skyscrapers where orange blossoms used to scent the wind.” Any thoughts on that passage? What does it mean to you, today, to be a band from L.A.?
I wish there were more “heavy rains”. Johnny Mercer moved to Los Angeles in the 30’s so I think by the 70’s he had seen so much change, with the advent of rock n roll and the environment both sky and land changing. He was a poet and he seemed to love to ruminate about nature and as skyscrapers became the landscape perhaps that caused some dismay or simply acknowledgement. I’m not sure how much to read into that passage…
I find L.A. interesting in its growth and evolution. I live where there used to be pineapple fields and horse stables close to Capitol Records. I think you can appreciate the past here and still look forward to the future. I love L.A. It is home to me. I have lived here for 16 years. I am from Detroit originally, that sense of hopeless, dreary, grey is still deep within me. Yet, I think of California as still “a magic sunny land”. So, it’s refreshing and is a nice relief from my internal world. As Johnny Mercer said “Hooray for Hollywood”.
What’s next for The Meek?
We are happy to be part of a movement of musicians in Iceland called Vebeth. Henrik Bjornsson of Singapore Sling is co-producing and mixing some songs for us to be released under that moniker. We are looking for interesting opportunities. We have some planned collaborations/remixes in the early stages. We are planning a trip to France, Germany and Spain. Travel, Records, Videos.
The Meek – http://www.myspace.com/meetthemeek