Better Know an Artist (Vol 26): Mean Motor Scooter

In 2015, power trio Mean Motor Scooter dropped a 5 track self-titled EP, filled with frenetic garage rock. They thrive on their authentic vintage indie rock sound, with influences from stoner rock to surf rock to punk rock. Basically, they just rock, and then keep rocking. Sammy Kidd, Joe Tacke and Jeff Friedman will probably be rocking the fine citizens of Fort Worth’s music scene’s socks off for years to come. They’ve got a new single coming out soon, and maybe we’ll keep on the lookout for a full length after that. There’s definitely more to see here. Today, though, the guys sat down to answer the all important questions

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

SK: I knew from age 6 that I wanted to be an artist. My drawings were often very crude or considered violent and raised concerns with my teachers. I was always very destructive as a child. I got a lot of pleasure out of breaking things, watching things burn or blow up. In my later years, around 12-15, a group of friends and I would vandalize things and skateboard. That was basically what we did with 90% of our free time when we weren’t in school. When we actually were in school, we spent all of that time drawing comic book characters or horrific portrayals of gruesome blood, guts, vomit and sometimes even pornographic scenes. The day I discovered Nirvana’s concert footage of Kurt Cobain smashing his equipment and screaming into th emic a catchy song about being the angry youth of America, I immediately though to myself “This is what I want to do with my life.” I was about 13 or 14 years old. I showed Chase (Jeff Friedman), who had been my best friend since the 5th grade. I watched him stare in awe at the “You Know You’re Right” fan video of a compilation of Nirvana gigs. His eyes lit up and I knew we both understood the same thing: this was for us… and we needed to start a band immediately.

JF: I really didn’t have as much appreciation for music until after I met Sammy in 5th grade. Our friendship began with a common interest in art. Then he showed me that video. That’s where it started, I guess. I’ve enjoyed playing drums for various other groups, some more than others. Through those experiences, I learned many things about the nature of music. I try to think of the music people create as art and not so much as a business, because that’s essentially what it is.

JT: I guess I always knew that this is what I wanted to do. I don’t necessarily come from a very musically inclined family, but I come from a very musically interested family, if that makes sense. Growing up, there was always music on in the house. We listened to everything from classic rock to top 40 to classic country, and everything in between. I picked up my first bass at 14 or 15 and never looked back. After playing in a few different bands in college and opening up for a few small touring bands, I realized this is what I wanted to do, and it was actually possible to do it. But, I’m also a realist and practical, probably to a fault, so I also started learning the art/wizardry of audio engineering about 7 or 8 years ago, just to ensure I always have a way to stay connected to making music.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

SK: To those who haven’t heard us yet, I would say that the best way to describe the sound by genre is Surf Punk/Garage Rock. We’ve been compared to bands like FIDLAR, Ty Segall, Eagles of Death Metal, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, etc, but it’s basically fast catchy tunes with lots of nasty vocals and screaming. It goes back and forth from Stoner Pop to gritty vintage rock.

JF: Very energetic.

JT: I think Sammy hit the nail on the head, except that I would say he’s probably selling himself a little short. He’s got a pretty amazing voice that really shines through on a lot of tunes. There’s plenty of grittiness to be sure, but he can belt them out with the best of them.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

SK: I’d say Nirvana, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Joy Division, the Germs, Jesus Lizard, Metz, AFI and Freddie Murcury. I could go on.

JF: Dale Crover from the Melvins

JT: My influences are constantly changing depending on what I’m doing at the time, but I guess that’s the nature of being an audio engineer. If I had to pick some in general though, I’d say Jack White, Chris Walla, and Josh Homme. I’m a tone junkie and they definitely speak to me on that level.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

SK: It’s hard for me to say which of my songs mean more to me than others. I’ve written so many songs over the years and only 10% of those have made it on a recording in general and another fraction of those songs made it onto our albums. But I will say that “Son, I’m an Alien” does have a lot of sentimental value and deep meaning for me. I wrote it about my father, shortly after he passed away, through the eyes of my younger brother. It’s a very personal song.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

SK: Nirvana, because they motivated me to make a career out of smashing things and making noise and Ty Segall because I believe he is the best living songwriter today.

JT: It’s probably way too obvious of a choice, but I would have loved to have opened up for Led Zeppelin in like ’72 when they were touring IV. I imagine that was a pretty wild time.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

SK: I really enjoy the Heavy Baby Sea Slugs, but also Black James Franco, Fungi Girls, Chingalotus, Roar Shack, and the Longshots, as far as local bands go. That list could go on for far too long. For new bands, or new to me anyway, I’d say METZ are amazing. The Growlers, Shannon & the Clams are both great bands. We recently got to play a show with Leopold and his Fiction which was tits, and a dream come true in a small way because I was listening to them a good deal when writing the songs for Mean Motor Scooter in the beginning.

JF: Modern Convenience from Memphis, TN

JT: As far as local bands go, I also love Chingalotus. They’re my favorite band banging around Fort Worth right now. I’m also a big fan of the Phantom Sensation and I Happy Am. They’re not exactly new, but I’m also really digging Archie Powell and the Exports out of Chicago right now.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

SK: No possible way I could answer that without wanting to change my answer many, many times….But, I can’t seem to stop listening to Melted by Ty Segall. I guess you could say it’s my go-to record.

JF: the Cramps Bad Music for Bad People

JT: I’m with Sammy on this one. There is now way I could pick just one. I guess, gun-to-my-head, I would pick Blind Melon’s self-titled album, but My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges and FIDLAR’s self-titled album would both be strong contenders.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

SK: My favorite thing about the DFW music scene is also my least favorite thing about the scene: it has a ton of diversity in music and genre. That’s great, but because of that, it’s lacking any one strong underground scene that is a movement of its own. It’s being pulled in too many different directions for it to develop a one of a kind scene. Instead, you get like-minded musicians separating each other because of all the sub-genre BS. It’s all noise…. Why can’t we all just get more organized and work together?

JF: (Favorite) A lot of DFW bands work hard to promote their work and it shows. Their overall presence both online and onstage is always changing, always evolving. We are constantly learning from them whether they know it or not.
(Least Favorite) There’s a lot of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” attitude that is constantly floating around between a few bands which is a real shame. I guess it’s some sort of sense of entitlement or an ego-thing, which we avoid all together because it can be a real downer, ya know?

JT: I actually really relish the diversity of the scene. I love that I can go watch someone like Vincent Neil Emerson at the Chat Room and then walk down the street to the Boiled Owl and see a band like Animal Spirit or ours. Plus, you can reserve the venues and that scenario still makes sense. But like Sammy said, to some extent, that is a hurdle. It’s really hard to stand out in a scene so big and spread out. I mean, it’s not like it’s LA or anything, but it does feel hard to get noticed sometimes. I think we could do a better job locally of incubating and cultivating talent.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

SK: Grotto or Lola’s It’s hard to choose. They both have their pros and cons. But they are definitely my two favorite clubs in Fort Worth.

JT: I loved getting to play at Trees a few years ago with a different band. It’s the biggest stage I’ve ever played on and the sound was great. As far as day in and day out as a working musician though, it’s the Grotto. That place has treated us so well over the past year of Mean Motor Scooter. It’s more or less our home base of operations now. The staff is awesome, the sound is great and the crowd is always fun.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

SK: I’ve already mentioned a few great local bands, but here’s a shout out to some hard working local talent: Animal Spirit, Dead Words, Buzzkills, Moon Grave, Jack Thunder and the Road Soda, Chingalotus, Royal Savages, Mountain Kid, Satellite Dream, Barron Brothers, Not Half Bad and many, many others.

JF: Satellite Dream. Those guys play great music.

JT: Sammy’s list covers it pretty well, but I’d also add: Bad Blonde, Slumberbuzz, Picnic, Lightning, Henry the Archer, VNE and the Old Souls, Fibs, Red Admirals, and pretty much anything Ben Napier is associated with.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

SK: I’ve only had one real job. It was at a car wash and only lasted nine months.

JF: My grandfather, Bayard H Friedman, was the mayor of Fort Worth from 1963-1965. He greeted Kennedy when he came to town and helped send him off to Dallas. My grandmother’s words after they left were: “I hope they behave themselves in Dallas”.

JT: I’m originally from Montana and speak fluent Russian.

Much thanks to the boys from Mean Motor Scooter. Keep an eye out for them. You can catch their single release party for “Naked Brunch”/”Such a Seducer”, April 30, at the Grotto, with Picnic, Lightning; Henry the Archer; and Phantom Sensation. If you miss that, they’re probably playing a few shows next week too. These guys are everywhere. Check out 2015’s Mean Motor Scooter EP below.

 

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Better Know an Artist (Vol 25): Ronnie Heart

Ronnie Heart has been a fixture in the scene for several years now, having spent some time in the very successful Denton project, Neon Indian, before branching out on his own in 2011 to finish school and pursue a solo career. His passion for danceable grooves is obvious in his music and just lend a general feel-good attitude to the output. Check out his new EP You(r) Mine at the end of the article, and catch him around when you get a chance.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

RH: I started playing music in 2002, when I was close to turning 17. My family had moved to Pueblo, Colorado from Houston. I danced in Houston and imagined that I would continue dancing once I moved to CO, but that wasn’t the case. There was no dance program in that town (ed: like Footloose or something) I became friends with a kid at my high school who would bring his guitar to school almost every day. I asked him to teach me a riff on it and he taught me the opening line to “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. I was hooked after that! A few years after all that, and living back in Texas, I began heavily emerging myself around music and musicians, deeply seeking and consuming all sorts of music. I’ve always wanted to make money from doing something I love. It isn’t so easy making money at being an active musician but I am still pushing forward to do so and succeed at it.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

RH: To quote the Kindness’ instagram handle… “too damn funky”

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

RH: Jimmy Page, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, David Bowie, ELO, Claude Debussy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Quincy Jones, Timbaland, Pharrell, DJ Premier, Dr Dre, Erik Satie, Kendrick Lamar, Can-I-Bus, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Herbie Hancock, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and many, many more. I love all these musicians because they put passion into their music. They are extremely daring, sensitive, and thoughtful. I celebrate and try to employ those traits whilst creating music or performing it.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

RH: “Tasty Destination” immediately comes to mind. It was the first song I started writing for this project. I was writing “Tasty Destination” and learning how to use the program that I was writing it on, at the same time. That program is Ableton, by the way. Although, all the songs on You(r) Mine are close to my heart, it’s hard to beat a first experience.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

RH: If I could open for any artist, it would have to be a tie between Michael Jackson or Prince. I’d love to be part of a high level production like theirs.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

RH: Locally, I’m really into Squanto, iill, Sam Lao, -topic, Bobby Sessions. Not so locally: Anderson Paak, Vulfpek, the Stepkids, Shafiq Husayn

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

RH: I’d take the Astrud Gilberto album. It features compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim sung by Astrud.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

RH: I’m having a hard time writing a response to this because I am happy with the people I interact with so I feel nothing negative is going on around me. I fight hard to only allow good things to happen in my life.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

RH: I love the Bomb Factory. I’m a huge fan of huge stages and big crowds. The staff is sweet and professional.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

RH: See above

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

RH: I probably spend as much time listening to podcasts as I listen to music.

Thanks so much to Ronnie Heart for taking the time to sit down with us. Be sure to check out his fire new ep, You(r) Mine, and keep an eye out for tour dates coming soon.

Update: Ronnie will be playing a set at KXT’s annual Summer Cut event at Southside Ballroom on June 3, along with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, the Relatives, the Wild Feathers, San Fermin, Bib Bourelly, BKA Alum Claire Morales and Siamese.

Ronnie Heart – You(r) Mine

 

Better Know an Artist (Vol 24): Matthew McNeal

Matthew McNeal is one of those artists that seems to be more and more common in the Fort Worth scene, an artist who frequently gets tagged with the country tag, but rejects it, as his music, while rooted in retro country music, also has ties to the blues, rock music, and R&B. As one of the series’ strongest supporters, I thought it was time to get him in for his own round of questioning. You can check out his 2015 record, Compadre, and catch tour dates at the end. Alright, enough of the fanfare….

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

MM: I listened to my mom’s cassette decks religiously since I was a baby. I’ve always gravitated toward music-blame it on being an only child and being cripplingly anti-social as a young kid. I grew up in a small east Texas town and there was never much to do. I first picked up the guitar around 13 and started playing shows within a year or two. I was playing gospel tunes at the church pretty early on, but I jumped in a band at age 15 with some older guys from town and we started playing more and more across North Texas. I ended up starting my own band at 16 and we did pretty well for a few years, but I was writing and playing my own solo tunes that whole time as well. Though it may sound cliché, as soon as I found out that I could pick up a guitar and share music with people and make them feel the way that music made me feel, I knew that’s what I had to do with my life.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

MM: Always a tough one. I tend to get thrown in with the country bunch since I reside in Fort Worth and often wear boots and a hat, but I wear my pants a little too tight for people to think that way too long (haha). The band and I always try to bring something unorthodox to the table. We always go under the genre of “Americana”, but that’s such a broad term. I’d call it alt-country rock and roll with some groove to it.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

MM: My earliest musical obsessions were with old Motown and funk tapes that my mom used to have. And I had an unhealthy (but platonic) obsession with Michael Jackson’s early hits. I think that’s where a lot of my groove comes from. I listen to just about everything out there and my musical obsessions change daily, but I draw a lot of inspiration from the lyrical depth of the Avett Brothers, the musicianship and vibe of groups like Rayland Baxter, Daniel Romano, and Ray Lamontagne, and the weirdness of early Kings of Leon.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

MM: There’s a song off of my studio debut Compadre called “Imaginary Friend”. It’s about dealing with depression/anxiety/doubt and personifying those thoughts and feelings into something like an imaginary friend. I’ve struggled with that stuff for a while and this song was my way of coping with it and deciding to ‘be bigger’ than those thoughts. I think it’s something that a lot of people deal with, so I want that song to be able to resonate within people and give them something to relate to since that topic isn’t often covered in modern music.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

MM: I’ve had an obsession with the Avett Brothers for a long, long time and I think they put on the best live show in modern music. If I had to dig back into the past, opening for the Eagles or Bob Dylan when he was backed by the Band would be absolutely insane.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

MM: Denver’s Nathaniel Rateliff has been around for a long time, but his new effort with his backing band the Night Sweats is killer. It’s awesome to watch him finally get the worldwide success he deserves.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

MM: Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon will always be my jam.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

MM: North Texas is just a great place to be making music right now. There are so many insanely talented players up here. There have been so many killer releases in the past year and even more to be released within the next year – it seems like people are starting to recognize their hunger for good music in town. I really believe that people are starting to see how much great music is getting put out in their own backyard. There’s not much of a downside to it all. Since there are so many insane artists around here, it certainly pushes you to be better and better, but I see that as a strength rather than an intimidation or weakness.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

MM: I’m a fan of Three Links in Dallas and Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth. both venues tend to curate killer shows consistently and both have great teams working there. Hard to beat a show at the Kessler though. Cal Quinn, the man behind the board over there, is the best in the business.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

MM: There are so many. It’s an awesome time to be making music in North Texas. Daniel Markham and Birds of Night both melt my brain. Vincent Neil Emerson, Jacob Furr, and Bad Mountain are all insanely talented. The Quaker City Nighthawks dudes are burning venues down left and right. Kirby Brown (and his Texas Gentlemen Crew) is coming out with a game-changing record later this year. The Misteries are going to take over the world. Leon Bridges is on fire. The world should keep a close eye on what’s going on in DFWd.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

MM: I’m colorblind. Stoplights mixed with headlights/streetlights are tough. I have a history of wearing terribly unmatched outfits, so that’s why you’ll usually only see me in blue, black, or gray.

You can catch Matthew in a few spots coming up. He’ll be playing the Live Oak’s monthly Song Swap Soiree (4/13), opening for Aubrie Sellers (4/17) at Lola’s with Kevin Aldridge, performing at the EarthDayTexas (4/24) event in Fair Park, and opening for Moonlight Native (4/29) at Sundown at Granada. If you like to travel, he’ll be in Wichita Falls opening for the great Billie Joe Shaver (5/14) at the Iron Horse Saloon. So, he’s staying pretty busy, it seems. Get out and see some music.

Better Know an Artist (Vol 23): PJ Fry (Sally Majestic)

Sally Majestic is an old name in the Fort Worth music scene. With an energetic blend of pop-punk, ska, reggae and rock-n-roll, they’re one of the most respected live acts in the area. The guys will be celebrating 15 years together this week at Lola’s on April 9, along with Mean Motor Scooter. Lead singer/bassist PJ Fry sat down to answer the tried and true questions.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

PF: I first got into music when I was 7 years old. I had a friend named Chris Laskoski. He played piano like a fucking boss and sang in the Texas Boys’ Choir. It looked like fun, so I started taking lessons from the same piano teacher he had and joined the Texas Boys Choir. I didn’t know I wanted to try and hustle music until way later in life. We started Sally Majestic when I was 24 years old. If it wasn’t for the quality of musicianship Scott and Tim brought to the table, I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to play live shows.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

PF: This is one of those questions every musician says “ugh” to. I am no different, so I will go with the stock answer and say we play Reggae/Rock with a punk vibe.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

PF: Fugazi. First time I saw them live, I wanted to play bass like Joe Lally
Weezer. I have always admired Rivers Cuomo’s ability to write a hook.
Sublime. I changed my mind and wanted to play bass like Eric Wilson.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

PF: “Scottalicious” It’s the first song we played together as a band and I think it’s even more fun to play now than it was then.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

PF: The Clash. Because they are fucking awesome and it would be an unbelievable experience to play with such a legendary band.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

PF: Animal Spirit. I dig their style, they work hard and they are good people.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

PF: Pavement – “Wowee Zowee”

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

PF: My favorite thing is getting to meet other musicians and hear what other bands are up to. My least favorite thing is anything that has to do with the “music biz”, fuck that I’m out.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

PF: there are many solid spots to play in DFW but I am partial to Lola’s. I am from Fort Worth and Lola’s is the best spot in Fort Worth.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

PF: There is a band that is going to be playing with us on April 9 at Lola’s called Mean Motor Scooter that people should be looking out for.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

PF: I have an undying love for holiday music. If I knew it wouldn’t drive the people around me crazy, I would listen to Christmas music. Only the classics though, modern holiday is sketchy at best.

Shout out to PJ for giving us the info, and get your butts out to Lola’s on Saturday night to catch Sally Majestic’s 15th anniversary party with Mean Motor Scooter and some other cats (so many other cats…..event page). Should be a fun night of RAWK (and also roll).