With tags like “collective” and “neo-psychedelia” attached to them, Dark Meat could easily be understood as yet another attempt to revive the flower-power good times of the ’60s. That would be a gross misunderstanding.
With tags like “collective” and “neo-psychedelia” attached to them, Dark Meat could easily be understood as yet another attempt to revive the flower-power good times of the ’60s.
That would be a gross misunderstanding.
Dark Meat, who are currently touring the country with anywhere between 12 to 22 musicians, are a collective from Athens, Ga.-but that collectiveness is more an expression of their creativity than any desire to be “far out.”
“People can contribute as much as they want. Some of our members are in other bands and those are their priorities,” said one of Dark Meat’s founding members, Ben Clack, in a phone interview.
What could be a certain death for another band seems only to foster the inspiration and appeal of Dark Meat. Somehow, they have managed to create a situation where everyone is involved in the creative process without constant stalemates.
Clack said that the process goes something like this: one member brings an idea to the table, and that idea will find its final shape from months of rehearsals, which vary in size and order to work on specific aspects of the song. Jim McHugh, a co-founder and singer of the group, writes the lyrics.
“We’re organized in a pretty fluid way. Everyone is encouraged to participate as much as they desire. Not one person is in charge in any way. No one person has to shoulder the burden,” Clack said.
Though the songwriting process may take a bit longer than other bands, the result is fueling Dark Meat’s growing popularity. Their first album, Universal Indians, is on its third reissue under Vice Records. The album includes three bonus tracks and showcases the intrepid sound that makes the band stand out.
Dark Meat’s music is amazingly unique. They’ve seemed to reach out to pluck aspects from everything-jazz, gospel, rock, county, blues, R&B, folk and yes, even elements of psychedelia, the counterculture-fueled music associated with the ’60s.
Their track “Freedom Ritual” is a particularly good example. It begins with just female vocals that are at once reminiscent of bluegrass, gospel and Celtic ballads. Then, suddenly and surprisingly, come in guitars that could only be called classic rock, along with a male vocalist whose gritty, at times unsteady and down-home singing, sounds almost like a hybrid of Tom Petty, Isaac Brock and Neil Young.
Toward the middle of the song a variety of instruments take over, including horns, for a section that sounds like an orchestra tuning, a jazz group doing their own thing and a choir reaching crescendo.
The discord finally comes together again, after offering listeners a cathartic and chaotic release. The song comes back to McHugh’s vocals in a moment of therapeutic relief, leaving listeners feeling satisfied and happy.
“We use the group structures of jazz and rock as a base to create a full experience: sound, performance, visual, olfactory …” Clack said.
Olfactory makes sense, considering that on average there are about 20 people on Dark Meat’s bus at any given point in the tour. Not to worry though, they do like to bathe.
Clack said that, “crazy shit happens all the time, we’re pretty wild.”
But frustrating things happen as well. When I spoke with Clack, he said that the band was stuck in Denver, Co., because of snow, and was forced to cancel shows.
But for every bad thing that happens, Clack said “there are three awesome things that happen that remind us why we keep doing this. All the shows are wonderful and we’ve met some wonderful people.”
And of course there are the funny stories as well, such as the time they had to cross the Queens Fare Bridge on the way to Long Island City.
The bridge clearance said 10.5 feet, and their bus’ height is 11 feet. Unfortunately (or fortunately), some of the members were in an altered mind state at the time, and visions of topless busses loomed to terrify. Luckily, the bus made it through.
So what was scary at the time became hilarious in hindsight–a possible window into how the band approaches performing.
As Clack said: “Always say yes, don’t ever say no, and have fun.”
Dark MeatDoug Fir LoungeTonight$8, 21-plus