by Alicia K. Prince
"Once we have a CD to sell, we'll go on tour." If you're a musician, you've probably heard this from one of your peers. You may have even said it yourself. Having a product to sell has always been a crucial step listed in any "Successful Music Career" handbook. So what gives with Meowskers? With zero -- count 'em -- zero songs set to tape, this band toured aggressively during its first year, to the point where they can easily sell out a club like Pianos. Can a live band be so good that they don't need a CD to kick things off? According to Meowskers, yup.
There is a CD, mind you. The opening track, "Suicide Note," has recently been posted on the band's myspace page. A multi-part epic of white noise, Motorhead-ish lead bass, and piano that sounds like Coldplay on crack, the song is just a taste of the yet-to-be-titled EP dropping later this Spring. To call Meowskers a three-piece rock trio is understating things quite a bit. You've never heard piano bashed out quite like this; "lead bass" is a term normally reserved for Spinal Tap; Brooklyn rock drummers tend to use reduced kits. Over the course of a year since Matthew Rudnicki, Michael Cheever and Jeff Neuberger formed the band, its sound has grown to epic proportions.
It wasn't always this way. In Boston, the band would play carefully selected shows, utilizing connections to get opening act gigs at bigger venues, and bringing out large crowds of their enthusiastic friends. Drawing on their love of theatre, the trio initially crafted a sound resembling something closer to vaudeville. Gradually, they realized that their friends were coming out "wanting to be rocked." The band began channeling their no-holds-barred theatrics into their playing. The new EP, recorded upstate with famed engineer Kevin McMahon (The Walkmen, Big Sleep) under frigid conditions, ups the audio ante. One listen to "Suicide Note" and the listener can get a sense for the wall of sound the 'Skers are determined to recreate live. Rudnicki and Cheever have added numerous pedals to their piano and bass arsenals, respectively. Neuberger has -- there’s no other way to put it -- a massive kit. "We have to compete with bands like T.V. On The Radio and the Arcade Fire... bands that have, like, 15 people onstage," states Rudnicki. So far, so competitive.
The band members originally lived in opposite corners of the country. Realizing that this wasn’t working, they all moved to Brooklyn over the summer of 2006 and currently live together in a space across the street from Pete's Candy Store. That small, intimate venue is the last place one would expect the Meowskers to call home, but they consider it the epicenter of everything they've done over the past 8 months. Those four brown walls have been rocked silly. Sonically, the Meowskers are now ready for larger venues, even if they always return to Pete's for a nightcap at the evening's end.
The trio acknowledges that their "epic rock vibe" may seem a bit pretentious, but what is a band without its pretensions? This is Meowsker's "sincere gesture to spread [their] arms out as wide as possible" and deliver the audience a musical vehicle for cathartic release. Along with Beat the Devil, the Meowskers are one of the few Brooklyn bands making their own stab at Springsteen levels of rock. This isn't the thinking fan's music, this is the feeling fan's music.
"We never want to have to make excuses for anything," states Neuberger. This explains why Meowskers' fans have had to wait so long for a CD. In an age where the DIY aesthetic has bands churning out mid-fi "demos" with apologies attached, this group has waited until they had the resources to do it up right. And in the meantime, they approach their live shows like the Boss: rocking away at 110% like every night is their last.