Get past both Meat Wave’s name (it’s taken from an article off The Onion) and the members’ youthful faces (their bassist is 31 years old) to take in what the band’s all about: melting your face off. They take the heavy rock of greats before them—Jesus Lizard, Shellac—and combine it with the succinct echoing riffs of The Wipers, ending up with a tour de force of rock far too loud to come from three people. Yet that’s exactly what it is. Guitarist and singer Chris Sutter, bassist Joe Gac, and drummer Ryan Wizniak have their sound whittled down to a sharp, dangerous object that could easily puncture your heart on their sophomore LP, Delusion Moon, as well as their debut self-titled. Live, they let it go crazy—but in Chicago, they’re just one of the bunch.
The Windy City’s DIY scene is more bustling than it is hustling. There, no one is clawing their way up the ranks in hopes of making it big. Sure, they’d like to get a wider audience, but it all comes down to having fun and letting these songs fly out of an unbridled energy, making music for the sake of expression. Band after band lines up to play house shows throughout the city’s many neighborhoods—ones they have yet to even make it to.
“I think you can chalk it up to enjoyment,” Sutter says over the phone in an effort to break down their scene. “There’s so many creative people in one place, and there’s so many niches—probably more that we aren’t even aware of. We see bands we like that we may not necessarily know at houses, but Chicago is so huge. There’s neighborhoods we don’t even go to that have their own community, like Pillson or something. The fact that you can meet people from these different communities and genres and maybe form other bands is kind of nice.”
Sutter just had his wisdom teeth taken out (three, to be exact) and is sitting at home, nursing the wounds with surprising comfort. If he’s in pain, he doesn’t express it in the slightest. Nothing seems to phase him. If the changes in their city stay on track, though, it sounds like something finally will. Meat Wave’s three members live in the quickly gentrifying Logan Square, drawing sizable crowds to tiny bars next to the very pizza places they work at between tours. One bar in particular, a stone’s throw from their house, hosts free shows every weekend with three-band bills starring High Priests, Hot Garbage, Foul Tip, Melkbelly, or the like. “For the last few years, I feel like I go to any random show and it’s packed,” Sutter says. “People are excited. There’s a lot going on and a lot of people to make it happen. Seeing the city change into a trendier area is weird.” And though the three are open to playing anywhere, the music they play is fit for that DIY scene.
Meat Wave’s music has no barriers, no restrictions, and no set tempo. They hurl themselves forward, barreling into walls in the most endearing of punk fashions. While the fury of 2013’s “Brother” aged well, their newest songs, like “Network”, toy with format in an exploratory fashion. The first album had a strict vision. Delusion Moon is a bit more poppy and colorful. You can hear that immediately. It started out as a 15-song collection and skimmed off two cuts—including their cover of The Wipers’ “Mystery”—for a set of work their proud of, no matter who tells them it’s too long. Now, in their eyes, it scratches in some notes from Built to Spill and Steve Albini, but the rest is their own individual songwriting taking on its own shape.
“I had to learn how to not blow my voice every time we play,” Sutter says. He signed up for a year of his high school’s choir, but no other formal training prepared him to sing in a band. Learning how to breathe properly became a priority. “We like to play the kind of music that’s wound-up and tense. From a thematic and lyrical standpoint, it’s a lot of tense situations. We don’t want to zone it in. I scream my head off to match that.”
While the music brews its own feeling, the record’s lyrics and title tell their own story. “Ryan always talked about strange or messed up things happening when there was a full moon; we all started to notice this,” Sutter explains. “As time went on, I was in school and had a couple jobs and a couple bands where I had no time for myself. I was in school for journalism and I was so into it, but you’re constantly plugged in and it never ends. I felt like a crazy person. It seemed like young people around me were crazy in different ways. I got into the concept of delusion and mass delusion, how all of us are under the crazy full moon that we don’t even know of but is making us in sync.”
If you hear madness in volume, then Meat Wave’s sound and lyrics match after all. For three people, they’re quite a force — and one member in particular stands out. “I think our drummer plays abnormally loud, so we have to match that,” explains Sutter. “A lot of venues get upset and try to make us turn down. We buckle usually, but I think we have to put our foot down. We are only three people. At that point, our sound is being changed. We try to do this loud, powerful sound, and while it has a lot to do with the volume, it really comes down to Ryan’s drumming.” That, and the meaty muscles shredding away on the guitars next to him. If we didn’t know better, Meat Wave would be a nod to the band’s musical strength flooding over everything in sight, not a joke story from a humor website. Actually, yeah. Let’s get that rumor going instead. It may as well be true.
MEAT WAVE + THE DIRTY NIL + ANIMAL FLAG. SUN 10.18. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 9PM/18+/$10. GREATSCOTTBOSTON.COM.