Often associated with cowboys and hillbillies, country music was an energetic form of folksy expression through most of the 20th century. Subsequently trampled on by the likes of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain in the 1990s, some people may have been left to feel as if the best of country had hung its hat in Tennessee and died. However, over the past several years, the genre has found a new home within indie rock culture. Local acts like The Sadies and Cuff the Duke are attracting large followings (and Juno nods) and it’s not just because their sound is familiar. It’s that they’re playing a type of music they love and doing something different with it. It’s in that exact vein that Meanwood steps in.
(Pic by Brooke Wedlock)
How did you guys find each other?
Steve: I was looking for the escape hatch to this town when I heard Belle sing for the very first time. While she was abroad, she sent Mike and his lovely wife a video cover of a Gillian Welch song for their wedding present. I was floored by her talent… So, when by chance Belle and I met again at a party, I approached her about getting some songs together and she agreed. We both had some skeletons and [such], so we made them dance, put them to music, recruited our favourite people to help us make the sounds and here we are.
You’d want Meanwood powering the soundtrack for a good ol’ fashioned western. It’s easy to get lost in the vibe from the moment they hit the stage to moment they leave, smiling and dripping with sweat. Between the hair-raising, sweet twang of Belle’s vocals and the undeniably solid instrumental harmony of Steve, Mike, Eric and Harley, it’s impossible not to notice that Meanwood is quite simply impressive. Whether it’s an uncomfortably packed crowd at The Crawford or a distracted bunch at the El Mocombo, people’s ears perk up and they turn to attention when the band starts to play.
What are your top 5 influences?
Belle: Leonard Cohen has always been my biggest song writing inspiration. He’s pretty much the voice of God. And as far as women go, there have always been two: Judy Garland and Janis Joplin. They are untouchable.
Harley: If I just had to pick one it’d probably be The Band. They can do it all and it’s so casual, no pretense, just a bunch of dudes hanging out playing sweet tunes. The Constantines are/were the modern day equivalent of that for me as well.
Mike: Stones, Dylan, Elvis (in their early years) and the Beatles. These bands completely changed the game and have had a hand in everything that’s come after in some way, shape or form. They all had raw skill, perfectly-a-little rough around the edges. Music then had a pulse.
Steve: Rev. Gary Davis, Cuby and The Blizzards, The Pretty Things, The Impressions, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Neil Young to name a few. Honestly, I could fill a double bound book with all my influences.
Eric: I listened almost exclusively to Nirvana and early Sabbath until about the age of 13, but since then, I’ll listen to just about anything and try to glean something enjoyable or useful out of it. That can be like squeezing water out of a rock, but even the vilest of pop music says something to someone, even if it’s just all production value on top of a formula.
Their debut EP Trials, much like Meanwood’s live show, is a diverse mix of fervent jams, mellow grooves and stirring stanzas. Sexually charged and ready to dance, it’s most definitely worth picking up. Songs like Sing To Me and Mercy are sure to bring about the country-rockin’ soul in just about anyone.
If Meanwood were a sex act (depraved or otherwise) what would it be?
Steve: Meanwood is a musical sex act whereby its participants ‘bust a nut’ up in a room full of strangers who are doing just the same… Go on, throw your hands in the air and scream Mercy!!!
You can scream Mercy! with Meanwood on [Facebook here]