What we’re really looking forward to in 2021 are new records from some of the best bands around right now. Here, Laura Stewart talks to Chris Sutter from the Chicago punk band, Meat Wave, whose new music you need to listen to in 2021.
Being an independent musician was hard even before COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. With venues being shut down, tours cancelled, and releases postponed, the ongoing pandemic has shaken up the music industry as a whole, and independent artists are among those whose livelihoods are most threatened by the global crisis. Despite all this, 2020 has been a prosperous year for new music and artists have been finding increasingly inventive ways of getting themselves seen and heard. For once, I think we can all be grateful for social media for keeping us entertained through the dark times. There is hope for the new year; though it may take some time to return to normal, we do have new music to look forward to.
Meat Wave are a lo-fi-infused punk rock trio from Chicago’s thriving underground scene. They formed in 2011 and have three albums under their belt, Meat Wave (2012), Delusion Moon (2015) and The Incessant (2017), the latter of which is one of the greatest and most underrated albums of all time. On December 18th they dropped a surprise new track, “Yell At The Moon”, which is why I am so excited that 2021 promises new music from the band. Meat Wave are Chris Sutter on lead vocals and guitars, Joe Gac on bass and Ryan Wizniak on drums.
LS: Chris, thank you for taking time out to talk to me. 2020 is almost over, yay!. What have you missed most this past year and what are you looking forward to?
CS: Yes, thankfully. Before the pandemic, I was working at a music venue, so I saw live music all the time. Too much, probably. But I truly would love nothing more than to watch a band. Like, even a terrible band. They’re all assholes. I’d watch them. A good band full of nice people, even better. A house party would be fun. Or a night out to dinner. All the luxuries that didn’t seem so luxurious at the time.
LS: It’s so strange isn’t it, the more I stay inside, the more anxious I am when I have to go out. I don’t want that to become “a thing”. You have a new album on the way, can you tell us when it will likely be released? What can we expect from album 4?
CS: I wish I could give you more concrete answers. It was supposed to come out in 2020. We’re really quite happy with it and excited for people to hear it. The silver lining in all of this is that we’ve kept making music and have a couple of different releases planned for 2021. So hopefully throughout the year we’ll keep putting stuff out. I think a lot of it is really different than what people might expect. I don’t know. I played some new stuff for my partner the other day, and she said it sounded like an acid trip. That’s a good take. It won’t be too long now!
LS: Oh I like that! I am excited to hear the new sound; it’s been too long since The Incessant. What is your songwriting process like?
CS: It’s definitely changed a lot since we’ve been playing together. We started the band when I was 20 years old. I’m 30 now. In the beginning, I had always come in with a pretty clear vision of the song, and then Ryan and Joe would kind of do whatever I asked of them basically—putting their respective personalities on it. The past couple of years and especially with this last project we just did, it’s a lot more collaborative. Some of the newer songs have formed out of jamming and messing around at practice. Ryan and I have gotten together and recorded hours of free-form jams, and we picked out some stuff from that. Or bringing in half of a song and trying to navigate our way to the end. I’m kind of trying to relinquish my control and want more of our collective voice or style to be reflected in the music. There’s a lot going on.
LS: Who are you inspired by musically?
CS: It’s really hard to say. I have my staples that are kind of ingrained—AC/DC, The Jesus Lizard, The Brokedowns, The Stooges, John Reis and Rick Froberg’s bands. At this point I’m not necessarily trying to draw from those influences. They’re certainly there; it’s not clear to me though. I’m pretty influenced by everything. Especially what’s happening here in Chicago. So many amazing people and bands. I miss them all dearly. It’s a really supportive community and everyone seems to be rooting for each other. It makes it easier to step outside of our comfort zone and away from the driving punk stuff that people might have come to expect. It’s still there, but we’re trying to keep it interesting and push ourselves somewhat out of that box.
LS: Where would be your ideal gig and who would you be on the bill with?
CS: Not to be a kiss ass, but every time we play in London, it’s amazing. Would love to play at The Lexington. Or Vera in Groningen, Netherlands, which is probably my favorite venue ever. In an ideal world, I’d love to come over with some Chicago bands. FACS, Melkbelly, Campdogzz, Rad Payoff, Paper Mice, C.H.E.W., Oozing Wound. The mere thought is making me ache.
LS: I will definitely check those out. Melkbelly’s track “Kissing Under Some Bats” was on my “25 songs that got me through 2020” list, along with “Yell at The Moon”, so have some ass-kissing right back! There is a ton of great bands coming out of Chicago right now. All the talent is being hoarded between there and Bristol here in the UK it seems.
If we were to take a look in your fridge right now, what would we find?
CS: Like many people in this pandemic, I think I’m a chef now. It is my new love. We had a Croatian Christmas dinner at home this year. So I made a brudet, which is a seafood stew with a tomato base, and cevapcici sausages. And a Swiss chard pie! So the remains are in my fridge—a bunch of wine. Like I said, I’m a chef now.
LS: God, that sounds delicious. In addition to the album release, what are your plans for 2021 when we are all allowed out to play again?
CS: We’re itching to tour. Still obviously have no clue when. But it’s a fertile time for our little band so we’re gonna keep making stuff, and wait it out. All of us are in good spirits and thankful that we’re still doing this. We just did our first ever Livestream; I think it went pretty well, albeit extremely weird. But afterwards we were reminiscing—a rarity for us—about all of the cool shit we’ve been able to do. It’s truly mind-blowing. Thankful for it all. See you soon!
LS: We in the UK can’t wait for you to come back, I haven’t seen you live yet and that error needs fixing. Thank you for talking to us here at 25YL, Chris. I can’t wait to hear the new stuff. Hope you and the band have a happy and healthy 2021.
Please support your favourite independent artists by buying merch and music directly from them, and if you can, donate to your local venues that are at risk of closing down due to the pandemic.