Dead Meadow was formed from the ashes of assorted D.C. bands. Their roots are intertwined with personnel from Dischord Records and its flagship band, Fugazi, as well as from Matador Records, which is pretty much all the street cred one needs to be taken seriously in indie circles. But Dead Meadow doesn’t make music typically geared towards the Matador or Dischord crowds. These fellas are more interested in laying Lovecraftian themes and Tolkienesque tales over blues riffage rife with weed smoke. It’s more akin to Black Sabbath than Black Flag, a melding of ’70s heavy metal and ’60s psych rock into something best represented by Frank Frazetta art airbrushed on the side of a van.
The band has found itself touring in some varied and esteemed company, including road dates with The Make-Up, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Guided by Voices. Dead Meadow also has the distinction of being the only band to land a coveted BBC Peel Sessions gig without actually recording it in the United Kingdom. Instead, the group cut their six Peel tracks in Virginia, on a console that once upon a time recorded Fugazi songs, which is cool.
Unlike many doom- and stoner-rock bands currently making the scene, Dead Meadow seems to understand that tone and riffs make the package complete. All of this psych-rock-stoner-metal jamming came from blues, anyway, so drone can only take a band so far before it misses the point. There’s a marriage of blues and rock that must be adhered to that makes the whole cacophony make sense. Without that through line, the music becomes less dynamic and gimmicky.
Jason Simon (guitar, vocals) and Steve Kille (bass), working with a handful of drummers since the band’s founding in 1998, understand. But even after 20 years together — a milestone they’re marking with a new Dead Meadow album, “The Nothing They Need” — they remain shrewd. An ability to change the landscape of the music from song to song keeps listeners paying attention. Also, it doesn’t hurt, if you want to tour with some fun and sundry bands, to be accessible even if you’re drenched in feedback and fuzz.