By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
"It's weird where songs come from," muses Joe Reinke, lead vocalist and guitarist for San Francisco's Meices, during a mid-June interview. "They just come out of the air or out of experiences and things like that. You have to live to be able to write, I think. If you sat around in your room all day long and you never did anything fun and you, like, never had any trauma or drama in your life or anything like that--I mean, you'd suck, you know? You'd write crappy songs that sound like Yanni or something like that."
Fortunately, there's little danger of this fate befalling the Meices (Reinke, bassist/vocalist Steve Borgerding and drummer Shawn Trupeau). The band's highly publicized off-stage antics--including the theft of a yacht from a San Diego harbor and busts in several states for marijuana possession--should provide sufficient fodder for several lifetimes of songwriting. But while their recreational proclivities are the stuff of legend, Reinke doesn't use this reputation as an excuse for the musicians' various misdeeds. In discussing a drunken brawl in Barcelona that resulted in a handful of charges (according to band lore, the case was thrown out because a local judge took a fancy to the threesome's shapely young public defender), he notes, "It's all about taking responsibility for your actions, I guess. I mean, like us getting tossed in jail in Barcelona; we can't blame that on getting high or smoking hashish or anything like that. I just blame it on sheer stupidity."
Reinke adds that while his bandmates still indulge in illicit substances, "I don't do that anymore, believe it or not." When pressed for details, he insists that his decision was prompted by "nothing, really. I just needed a break, you know? Nothing knocked me over the head--or I didn't get, like, arrested and have to stop. It's just really not a big deal--which you might think is bullshit, but it's the truth. I've been clean and sober for four weeks now." Nevertheless, he doesn't feel like boasting about this achievement. "Me, I'd rather talk about the music on our new CD, Dirty Bird, and why it's so great and stuff. But people would rather talk about, like, the silly things that happen to us."
This situation is starting to change, however--and Dirty Bird, released on the London imprint, is the primary reason. The disc was produced by Gil Norton, whose previous credits include the Pixies and Echo and the Bunnymen; about the producer, Reinke says, "He's crazy. He's got dog ears, man. The guy can hear stuff that, like, nobody else can hear."
As a result, Reinke believes that Dirty Bird features the Meices' finest performances to date. In comparing it to the trio's predecessor, he explains, "On the last record, Tastes Like Chicken, we just had one of those regular Kmart bras. And on this one, we've got a Wonderbra that just pushed our tits way up and way out there."
The political incorrectness of Reinke's assessment notwithstanding, Bird is, in fact, way out there; the opening slab of slacker rock, "W.o.w.," crackles with high energy that hardly lets up until the recording's thirteen cuts have played out. Along the way, the Meices manage some stupid-as-a-fox lyrical self-flagellation; for example, Reinke delivers the oft-quoted couplet "No time to say you're sorry/Once is dumb and twice is retarded" (from "I'm Cool," a postmortem love song) in a surprisingly authoritative whine. And although hyped-up rockers like "Disenchanted Eyes" do little more than rehash a formula that's already been flogged to death by groups such as the Goo Goo Dolls, the bracing power chords and melodic muscularity of "Harry" could put an end to rock fans' lamentations over the demise of the Replacements--at least for the length of the song.
However, the players' growing musical acumen doesn't mean an end to the unpredictable adventures that have always cropped up around them. The latest involves a fire that destroyed most of Reinke's dwelling place while the band was on tour but spared Meice, a beloved cat (named for an obscure reference in an old "Pixie & Dixie" cartoon) that inspired the outfit's moniker. Surviving wasn't easy for the feline; it preserved itself by holing up in a relatively unscathed portion of the flame-gutted house for several days until being rescued by Reinke's girlfriend. Because Meice was unhurt, the singer is able to see the bright side of the entire event: "The back of the house is kind of burned up, but it's pretty cool, because we don't have to pay rent for a while."
A recent gig in Grand Rapids, Michigan, produced a similarly unexpected benefit. A handful of horn players arrived at the venue before showtime and announced that they were going to provide musical accompaniment to "W.o.w."--a chore handled on Dirty Bird by Rocket From the Crypt members Apollo 9 and JC 2000. The Meices were resistant at first, but after the members of this volunteer brass section hummed the appropriate parts (in order to prove that they actually knew them), Reinke and company invited the strangers on stage. "These guys just got up and played with us--and they didn't miss a note," Reinke marvels. "They were right spot-on, and it was awesome! People were digging it, and I was, too."