It's shaping up to be a busy year for veteran desert punkers the Meat Puppets. First up will be the release of a new studio album, Lollipop, on April 12th via Megaforce Records. Then the group will perform their classic 1985 album, Up on the Sun, in its entirety at All Tomorrow's Parties in England (which runs from May 13-15, and is curated by Animal Collective), before hitting the road in the U.S. this summer.
All of the group's albums from the Eighties will also be reissued once more on CD next year, and will include video and bonus tracks in the form of rare live footage. And starting this summer, certain Puppets albums will be reissued on vinyl, including the aforementioned Up on the Sun.
Singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood spoke to Rolling Stone about the Puppets' latest effort, penning a song in Acapulco and what fueled the recording of the classic Meat Puppets II.
Lollipop is the third album since Cris [Kirkwood, Curt's brother and the band's bassist] came back into the fold.
The last two [2007's Rise to Your Knees and 2009's Sewn Together] didn't really lend themselves very much to live stuff, for some reason. Some albums are like that. I mean, there are a few songs of each of them that we played, and we'll still play "The Monkey and the Snake" off of the last one. But this one, the songs are real fun to play with the band, as opposed to being a "sound picture," as I look at some stuff being. Some stuff is rockin', and some stuff is more pretty or evocative, and I just don't feel like troubling people with it live.
You're playing again with Shandon Sahm [son of late Sir Douglas Quintet singer/guitarist Doug Sahm] on drums.
Ted [Marcus] had obligations to do some editing work, and just wasn't able to make some tour dates, so I got Shandon to fill in there. And then he just kind of picked up and kept doing it. Shandon's a great drummer, and he came straight into the band right into a festival – without any practice. We were opening for Stone Temple Pilots for two weeks. We played together quite a bit in the late Nineties and early 2000s, so it was kind of easy for him. But he jumped right in, and it's a good fit.
The first track from Lollipop, "Incomplete," reminds me of the 1987 Puppets album, Mirage, due to the presence of keyboards.
Honestly, I didn't write it with the keyboard part. I put that in there because Shandon was listening to Gary Numan "Cars" and stuff like that. So I was just kind of like, "Check this out." There's no conscious effort there – I go song by song. In terms of the actual recording process, that's the same throughout an album generally. But song to song, I arrange them, and instrumentation and that stuff is just particular to the song. "Incomplete" is a real old track I wrote that in my mid-twenties down in Acapulco. I was down there for like a month, just entertaining myself, and came up with that one. I was probably 24 when I wrote that. I don't know why, I never tried to record it. I kind of wrote it for a "fun in Acapulco" sort of feel, something for Engelbert or Elvis to sing...or even a Roy Orbison song.
What are some other favorites off Lollipop?
I like "Town." I think that's a rational approach to a song in slow waltz time. It's easy for me to play and it makes sense. Not a lot of lead playing – not a lot of challenging stuff there. I think "Hour of the Idiot" is a lot of fun – it's a completely moronic song, the way it sounds to me. I think "Damn Thing" is a cool song, too. It was kind of an experiment. I was trying to get the band to play a real subdued version of it, rather than a bar band version.
I heard that the Meat Puppets are going to be playing Up on the Sun soon in its entirety.
Supposedly, yeah. I don't know if I'll be punished if I don't – maybe they won't pay me! Animal Collective is curating All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, England, and they invited us to play Up on the Sun. It'll be fun. We play "Up on the Sun" quite a bit, we'll play "Seal Whales" and we do "Hot Pink" now and then, "Swimming Ground." There's a number of those songs that pop up in the set pretty regular. And then we'll just have to fill in the blanks. This is like the fourth one of these festivals we played in the last few years, of All Tomorrow's Parties – three in England, one in upstate New York. The second one we did was Meat Puppets II in upstate New York.
I understand the SST era albums are going to reissued on vinyl and CD.
I don't really know anything about it [laughs]. I mean, I endorse it. That's my quote there - "I endorse it." I endorse the further commercialization of these past efforts. It's nice that they can still be available.
Looking back, would you say Meat Puppets II is the band's best album?
I've always really thought that Meat Puppets II was a cool album. It is what it is. It's so unique in the way that it was performed. We would never have been able to do that again. I mean, we probably could if we got totally messed up and tried to be ourselves when we were that old again. But people would just say we were being "sloppy." I like the fact that that album just completely sucks, it's sloppy, it sounds like shit...and everybody likes it.
Are the rumors true that the band was totally high when recording Meat Puppets II?
The rumors about that? Yeah, definitely. We were completely inebriated. It was "inebriation specific" though. We figured it was our responsibility to figure out the depths of this one intoxicant. And there you have it – the results of this one forthright effort to document our irresponsible lunacy.
And would you like to divulge what the exact intoxicant was?
X! [Laughs] MDMA. We had an ounce of it.