Meat Puppets leader Curt Kirkwood is taking his band's new lineup on the road for a handful of shows in support of Golden Lies, the group's first studio album in five years, beginning November 28 in Lawrence, Kansas.
For a guy who's spent the years since No Joke! (1995) watching his brother succumb to drug addiction, who's had to rebuild his band from scratch, and then sit by while his latest album was stuck in record label limbo for more than a year, Kirkwood seems surprisingly patient now that he finally has a chance to get new music out to people.
"There's no accounting for taste, you just get people exposed to it," he said from his home in Austin, Texas. "No matter what you play, if you just hang on and keep doing it. It may be Madonna-like, you may rise to huge cult and mass status, both. It may take awhile for you to find what your thing is."
The Meat Puppets established their thing shortly after forming in 1980, brewing a mix
of psychedelia, punk and country music that drew critical raves and prominent fans such as late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. But after finally gaining mainstream notice with the 1994 single "Backwater," the band crumbled around the heroin addiction of Cris Kirkwood, Curt's younger brother and the band's founding bassist.
Over the past three years, singer/guitarist Curt, now 41, recruited a set of Puppets that includes guitarist Kyle Ellison, drummer Shandon Sahm and bassist Andrew Duplantis. And even with the new lineup, the group's recently released Golden Lies remains true to the Meat Puppets' wigged-out, affecting musical legacy.
"At the end of the day, the music is the therapy that saved him," said manager Tami Blevins, who has worked with the band since 1991.
"Even when things were really bad, [Curt and Kyle] would get up and go to their rehearsal space like they went to work. Get there at 1, stay till 7 or 8. Write songs, record their sessions, hang
out, talk about stuff, do art together. Just really getting to know each other. That's not to say there weren't hard times, but just that it didn't occur to anybody that you should be doing something else."
Despite the lengthy span between albums, Golden Lies dives right back into Kirkwood's free-association storytelling and exploration of his emotional psyche.
The catchy sing-along "Hercules," an imperative to stray from the herd, could easily follow "Backwater" onto modern rock airwaves. The three-part messiah fantasy "Fat Boy/Fat/Requiem," with its lyric "Stop the war on Fat Boy," was inspired off the cuff, Kirkwood said, by two stickers on Sahm's drum case: an anti-Rush Limbaugh tag reading "Bend Over Fat Boy" and "Stop the War on Drugs."
Meanwhile, the chantey-rhythm "Pieces of Me" opens with the backward-looking refrain: "Once I was something, but I can't remember/ Whatever that something should be." Kirkwood said it was inspired by his mother's
death from cancer a few years go.
"I found myself with innate influences pulled out from underneath me," he said. "I hadn't really realized what a big influence my mom was in my life. It took me awhile to get my sh-- together."
But perhaps the most telling track is the driving perseverance number "I Quit." Despite the surrendering title, Kirkwood stakes his faith in the creative process when he sings, "I believe in carpentry/ Gonna build a galaxy."
"Sometimes I think that's all you can really do, is be creative and be an inspiration," he said. "You can't really help anybody. I don't know that being creative is everybody's form of inspiration. Some people actually change diapers or whatever. I don't think there's anything that heavy about it. You gotta do something — sit and watch TV and keep out of everybody's way, which is what I do most of the time."
Meat Puppets tour dates:
- 11/28 - Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
- Columbia, MO @ Blue Note
- 12/1 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
- 12/2 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
- 12/3 - Madison, WI @ O'Cayz Corral