Chad Ubovich has been hiding behind Ty Segall onstage. He’s the bassist in FUZZ. He’s the guitarist alongside Mikal Cronin. He is, simply put, the handyman who helps out when a friend needs that extra instrument live. But on his friends’ tours, Ubovich was busy writing his own material under the moniker Meatbodies, and now he’s making a remarkable debut joined by three of his closest friends.
“I always have different songs on hand,” Ubovich says over the phone. “When I would come home, I would write things down and play around with different rests. When it was time to record, I had things stacked up.” The material was split between being written on tour (“Disorder”) and between breaks (“Two”). As such, it gives his songs contrasting dynamics: the high energy of concerts and the clean structure of home recordings. “For a first album, I wanted it to be loud and exciting. Every first album of bands I like is like that.” It’s the sound of a man who splits his time between the chaos of touring and lounging in the desert alone.
From the power chord riff high on “Mountain” to the heady fuzz of “Tremmors,” Meatbodies is full of unapologetic sonic force. Even when they slow things down for some smooth, jazz-like notes on “Off,” they blow it back up with stacked riffs. They’re the type of band whose press photos see them covered in spaghetti or roaming the dark in glow-in-the-dark paint. More importantly, they’re a band of friends.
California’s scenes are very dependent upon a larger musical friendship. For a long time, Los Angeles had Bleached, Trash Talk, and TOGETHER Pangea. San Francisco had Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and Thee Oh Sees. “There was a huge community of bands that would be playing with one another and we would all hang out,” he says. “A lot of those bands are getting too old now and slowing down, or like the San Francisco scene where it’s slowly dwindling because people can’t afford to live there anymore. Bands starting out now are signing to bigger labels, too so we don’t see them much anymore.”
Now they’re at the beginning of a revival. It’s a new era. “The new thing that’s happening, from what I’ve noticed, is there’s a lot of heavy stuff,” says Ubovich. He and his pals are starting to loop in new bands coming down to their area with hopes of starting something like that again. If it works, they could jumpstart California so it starts running smoothly again. “Who knows, though,” he laughs. “Maybe I’ll stop playing that and start doing rap music for the kids and I’ll want to hang out with Oddfuture.”
The only way he can do that is if he stays puts, but Ubovich is constantly touring. Staying put can make him lose his mind in a time of fragile structure. It also, as he points out, shows you how other cities are rebuilding their music scenes – even at places as small as Kingston. “We were packing up after a free show there when the promoter came over and said he wanted to show us something they were working on. He goes to the back door, unlatches it, and there’s this giant room from the 1800s. It’s a massive, spooky theater and he’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re hoping we can turn it into a bigger venue for like 900 people or so,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude, you can fit like 9,000 people in here!’” he laughs. “It was cool to see what small towns are doing… but we were so scared at the moment that we ran out of there.”
After all his time touring with bands, his advice is simple: “Shut up and play, put a smile on your face even if you don’t feel like smiling, and have fun. Even if you’re not, you have to pretend.” It’s good life advice, in general, from a man ready to make peace with change.
As Ubovich continues on the road, this time as the ringleader, he’s feeling hopeful that they’re doing their part to bring garage rock back to its threshold. They’re there to perform. We’re here to take it in. It goes in line with their name; “meatbody” is a Scientology term to describe the part of the human body without the soul, namely our muscles and skeleton. “I thought it was pretty cool,” Ubovich laughs. “I do hope they don’t come and ask for the bill, though. It just sounded like cool sci-fi stuff.”
MEATBODIES W/ PURLING HISS. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM AVE., ALLSTON. TUE 10.28. 9PM/18+/$12. FACEBOOK.COM/MEATBODIES