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Eddie Van Halen never had to make the sort of decision that Patrick Meese recently had to. EVH's eponymous band has weathered three different singers and multiple albums. Meese, on the other hand, abandoned his namesake band after seven years due to the rigors of major-label success. Luckily, the experience caused him to re-evaluate the type of music he wanted to play. Meese has channeled this newfound clarity into his new project, the Centennial. A vast departure from Meese, the new group focuses on blissed-out melodies and mid-tempo builds in the vein of the Postal Service and Dntel. We spoke with Meese recently about the decision to start all over with a new band and new music.
Westword: Stylistically, what will be different about the Centennial's music from Meese's?
Patrick Meese: The Centennial will be very different from Meese — I'm on drums and singing; my wife, Tiffany, is singing lead with me and playing synth; Nate Meese is playing guitar and some keyboards; and Joe Pope [Nathaniel Rateliff, Bela Karoli] is going to help us on bass for the EP release. I feel like the chord progressions and melodies are still very "me," but the lyrics and arrangements are much more like what I've been interested in lately. I'm very excited to put new music out and let people hear the changes.
Talk about the decision to dissolve Meese and start from scratch. What factors played into this decision?
It wasn't an easy decision to break up the band. We had put a lot of hard work into making it succeed, and it was tough to let it go in some ways. But in other ways, I was very ready to move on to the next thing. Meese wasn't fun anymore, and when you're playing in a pop/rock band and not having fun, it can be very miserable and fake.
Our drummer quit the band a few months after the record came out, and by that point, both our A&R guys had been fired. Then we got dropped shortly after that, and it was time to make some decisions. After several months of writing, touring and trying to figure things out, Nate and I decided to start something new with Tiffany.
Because of what happened with Atlantic Records, would you ever deal with a major label again?
We set out with the goal to sign to a major label, do a big deal and put all of our eggs in the radio basket. It worked out for a while, and like most bands that enter that world, it went away as quickly as it came. We met some amazing people through the experience, but there were also some promises made that were never delivered. Anyone who goes into the major-label game should realize that they're not in control and everything can change tomorrow. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, though. I learned a great deal about myself as a musician and about the music business. If a major label made sense for the new band down the road, I wouldn't write it off immediately, but I wouldn't jump in head first, either.
Meese did a tour with Ludo and another band from Missouri called HaHa Tonka in the fall of 2009. Ludo, the headliner, dropped off half the shows, and ticket sales were horrific. But it didn't matter, because we bonded with HaHa Tonka, and we had the most fun we could, no matter how shitty the venue or crowd. We were riding in each other's vans and lighting off each other's fireworks in crowded Albuquerque parking lots. It's like any job: It doesn't seem like work if you enjoy the people you're working with.