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Since forming in 1998, Washington, D.C.'s Dead Meadow has toured the globe relentlessly, doling out doses of dreamy, distortion-heavy psych rock in the key of Black Sabbath spiked with acid-infused Beatles. With sessions for a new album under wraps, drummer Stephen McCarty talked with us about escaping civilization by avoiding the shears and (what else?) taking drugs.
Westword: You guys clearly look the part of the fuzzed-out psychedelic rock band. Did the music inspire the image, or vice versa?
Stephen McCarty: We definitely didn't look the part when we started out on this path, but people at stoner-rock-type shows would be like, ŒThis is weird: Are these guys posers or something?' Looking the part always seemed like a bit too much of a cliche, but there's something about living the actual life of playing all the time, something about not having such a close relationship with your scissors or razor, that helps you be more free from normal society. You're not always checking in with how you're supposed to look.
What's the typical Dead Meadow fan look like -- older guys reliving their Black Sabbath days, or a younger breed of bearded hipsters?
When we started out, it was a lot of older people; there wasn't much of a psychedelic scene. But now there are so many bands calling themselves that, so a lot more young people are getting into it. That's cool. It helps. You can't hang out with old dudes all the time. They're nice, but it's nice to feel like you're a part of something with your generation.
What's the relationship between the drug culture and Dead Meadow? Is it necessary to be high to get the full experience?
When I first started listening to music that was made by people on drugs, I wasn't taking drugs, but it still blew my mind. I had an experience similar to the one the musicians were having, because that transmitted without any drugs. It does seem like a lot of people use our music in a similar way that they use drugs -- as a tool to get them into a different consciousness, to celebrate that altered state -- but it's definitely not necessary.
Each successive Dead Meadow record has been less trippy and more coherent. Is accessibility something you're striving for?
I think it's less about accessibility and more about groove and solidity. I feel like early on it was more about creating a swirling kind of obscure atmosphere that sounded really cool. But you couldn't really get the message of the lyrics as much because you had to listen to it longer; you couldn't really lock into the groove right away because of all the effects. We're just trying to hone the device of getting into people's heads so they don't have to work as hard to feel us.