The Meer are an Alternative Rock/Post Punk band based in MD/DC. The band has released two albums: “Seven” (2015) and “Branches” (2016) that are available on (themeermusic.bandcamp.com). Below is my interview with band members Wanda Perkins and Jeff Orrence on the beginning of The Meer, their process of writing and recording, and the future of the band.
Q: How/when did the band meet and begin?
J: We met at an open mic at Cafe Nola. We were both performing solo material and enjoyed each other’s style. We had a few jam sessions and that led to the initial form of The Meer as a duo.
Q: You started out with the name The Lost Code, what prompted you to change names and why did you choose The Meer?
W: We came up with a lot of names trying to find the right one. We sort of settled on The Lost Code, but then I decided I didn’t like the idea of being anything “lost.” The Meer came to me as the name of a ghost pet I met in a house in Mount Pleasant where I worked as caregiver. I got really excited about calling the band that and told Jeff. He wasn’t sure at first, but it grew on him.
Q: How would you describe your sound in your own words?
J: It’s hard to say. Our sound has a wide range. We try not to write in a specific way. It’s easier to be creative when there isn’t a specific genre or style holding back the writing process.
W: Well we are definitely a rock band, which is an easy vague answer. Our sound is minimalist, rhythmic, and emotionally driven. Ranging from abrasive, fast and cutting, and quiet and haunted.
Q: I saw you guys (Wanda and Jeff) dressed as The Cramps for Halloween, do you have a favorite Cramps song or Cramps story?
W: I have always been impressed by The Cramps’ realness. Their work was their entire lives, and you can hear that in the music. They are/were the epitome of rock and roll. Poison Ivy is also a guitar idol of mine, even though we have very different styles of playing. I’ve wanted to do a Cramps Halloween cover show since before we even met, but didn’t know anyone who could pull off Lux Interior.
J: My favorite cramps song is definitley “I Was A Teenage Werewolf.” I like their dark aesthetic and everyone knows Poison Ivy is the queen of rock and roll.
Q: Who would you say are your biggest influences?
W: It’s hard to narrow it down! Modest Mouse and Nirvana are big influences for both of us, and in The Meer I sort of channel Kat Bjelland, Kim Deal, and PJ Harvey.
J: Tiger Army, Social Distortion, and Bad Religion shaped my writing style in a big way.
Q: What made you want to write original songs? What is your process of writing?
W: I have been writing songs since before I could talk. I used to try to make my sisters sing harmonies I wrote as a child. They were just always there in the ether and I wanted to pin them down. We each bring original songs into the mix, and some we actually write together on the spot.
J: I think we’ve both always written our own songs. I was never really that into covers. I played in some cover bands when I was a teenager, doing some classic rock that ranged from Sabbath to Led Zeppelin. It just never really felt as meaningful.
Q: Playing live can be intimidating for some, did you feel that way at all when you first started playing?
J: No. Playing live was the goal; it’s catharsis. Playing live is the best thing about being a musician.
Wanda: I do get shaken sometimes, but I actually think it’s easier performing on stage than knowing what to say or how to act in real life situations. What I do on stage is rehearsed. It’s planned.
Q: How did you go about recording your first album, “Seven”? Where did you record it and what were your initial feelings towards it/Did you achieve the sound you were going for?
W: We recorded at the home studio of a friend of my old band mates’. We did everything live and got everything done in two 4 hour sessions. The first day was instrumentals and the second was vocals. We really just wanted to get something out there because we wanted to play out as much as possible, and no one would book us without hearing a recording.
J: We definitely achieved the sound we were going for.
Q: I love the lo-fi feel and I hear a combination of Pavement, The Cranberries, Breeders and Lush-esque vocals… The best that Indie has to offer. It’s an extremely solid album.
Q: Do you have a specific song you would want people to check out from “Seven”?
J: I think the title Track, “Seven,” is the one I’d want people to check out the most. Lyrically, it has the most weight to me.
W: People seem to be into “Sand Machine” but my favorite changes every time I listen to it. My favorite lyrics are probably the ones I wrote for “Storm,” but “Seven” and “Fast Train” are the most telling and personal.
Q: You have played many gigs up to this point. Do you have a favorite gig memory? What are some of your favorite venues?
W: In Baltimore it’s probably Joe Squared. I like house shows the best, though the venues sometimes need to be on the on the DL. The Commune has been a recent favorite, and Comet Ping Pong is cool! Basically anywhere that gives us free vegan pizza, or someone looks out for us, is the best. We also really like touring and plan to do a lot more in the future.
J: Rock and Roll hotel in D.C. is definitely up there, Joe Squared in Baltimore has an amazing space and they treat all the performers very well. The Commune is one of the best places to play in D.C. and always has something exciting going on. It’s a great place to network and meet other performers.
Q: Who are some of your favorite local bands and bands you have shared the stage with?
A: More Am Than Fm is our band crush, we’ve played more shows with them than anyone else.
A: There are so many good local bands, and every time we play a show we discover more. We started a blog actually, to support and help keep track of all of them (Glory in Sound).
Q: You signed to Future Dog Records late last year, it later changed names to Dead Industry Records and then went defunct in September of this year. Do you think independent record labels can stay alive in this digitally dominated music world? It’s very easy to digitally distribute your own album on ITunes and other retailers on sites like Distrokid and CD Baby these days. What can indie record labels offer aside from what you can already do on your own and would you ever sign to another one?
J: It’s always a risk signing to an indie label, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a shot. If nothing else, it works as excellent promotion for a band’s music. Just don’t expect a 50k grant from your local indie label. They can help a lot with planning tours, show promotion, merch distribution, and more. We aren’t against signing to a new label should the opportunity present itself, but we will move forward more cautiously in the future.
Q: What made you decide to start doing acoustic gigs?
J: We do a lot of our songwriting with acoustic instruments and we starting coming up with a lot of material that didn’t really fit with our heavier sound. It was the natural avenue to present those songs to people. Lately we have been experimenting with adding drums to these songs though, and it’s been going well.
Q: When did you begin writing your second album, “Branches”?
J: We started writing branches in 2015 and some of those songs are older.
W: I had written “When We Were Birds” and “The Well” for my previous acoustic string trio, Wind Divine. We broke up and didn’t end up using them, so Jeff wrote bass parts for them and they were adopted by The Meer. The others were new.
Q: You released “Branches” a year after the first album, are you planning around an album a year?
J: At this point, that’s about our going rate. We are currently recording our first full length electric album that will be released in 2017. There is another album planned and set to record after that one is finished. Four total planned now, likely a lot more than that in the future.
Q: “Branches” is a slight departure from your first album in that it has an acoustic vibe, only one drum track with Paris Boyd, and you have the addition of a guest member, Chris Wallace. What made the band add a guest member and what did he bring to the group?
A: We recorded it at the retreat, Chris is a good friend and guest musician on “Time Machine”. He brought beer.
J: We first got into contact with Chris through his solo project, Owl Like Creature. Wanda did a review and interview of him for Glory in Sound. He plays the lead guitar on the track, “Time Machine”. We recorded this album at The Retreat.
W: The Retreat is where I live. I had my husband Trevor Higgins teach me a bit about recording and then did most of it myself. He did the mixing for “Branches.” I mixed “Seven,” myself, and was pretty happy with it, but he is an actual pro so “Branches” came out with a much more polished sound.
Q: This album also features male lead vocals on some songs. Who sings lead, Jeff, Chris, or both?
A: Wanda and Jeff are the only vocalists on “Branches.
Q: Who plays Cello on this album, as featured on the track, “The Well”?
W: Ethan Foote, of Wind Divine, played cello.
Q: Was there anything you learned from recording the first album that helped you better the second album?
J: I think the most important thing we learned was to take our time. If there was anything we thought could be done better, or needed to be polished or edited, we made the time to fix it.
Q: “Branches” reminded me of Thurston Moore’s “Demolished Thoughts” where he steps away from his blazing Sonic Youth guitar driven rock and embraces his softer melodic side. Wanda’s voice gave me a vibe of Tanya Donnelly’s Throwing Muses vocals and the male vocals were reminiscent of the straight-forward lo-fi garage rock of Spare Snare. “Branches: is an ambitious follow up and a great way to show the band’s diverse talent.
Q: Do you have a specific song you would want people to check out from “Branches”?
J: I would have to say “Moonrise,” but I’m a little biased toward that song. Wanda did some amazing work with bells on that song.
Q: What were your goals and aspirations when you started this band? Have you achieved them/have they changed? Do you have any new goals?
J: Our goals and aspirations have mainly been to express ourselves, have fun, connect with people, and travel. I would say we have accomplished that, but there’s always more travelling, more shows, and more recording to be done.
W: I wanted to find band mates who were as crazy into this music thing as I am; to see my passion and match that, to practice 3 days a week, gig constantly, and put the band before everything. I found that with Jeff. Paris is the best, most tasteful drummer, and she actually understands dynamics and subtlety. But she has a family she loves more than us!
Q: What can we expect for the future of The Meer?
J: Upcoming Vinyl release of “Branches”, our first full length electric album, Shed, in 2017!
Q: Anything else you would like to let people know about?
W: People who come out to shows are our favorite people! You can always find our upcoming shows on the Facebook page, and I am just getting into updating reverb nation as well. We also have music available at themeermusic.bandcamp.com, and DIY hand made merchandise (CDs and Shirts) up here: etsy.com/shop/SunEarthCharm