Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mean Creek -- The Definition of Sound

The best way to Mean Creek’s sound is simply to listen to them. It’s easy to forget the obvious as a writer, always trying to find whatever perfect key is going to unlock the correct feelings in a reader about music they’ve never heard. Back in August, I wrote about Mean Creek for an item in the Boston Globe’s Sidekick section. I got their debut album, Around the Bend, and three-song EP in time to listen through exactly once before I had to describe their sound. This is what I came up with – “Mean Creek's folksy Simon & Garfunkel harmonies anchor a sound that alternates between jangling and overdriven guitars.”

But once I saw them at the gig I had previewed, I realized there was a lot more to them. There is a hyper-emotive, atmospheric aspect that remind me of the Shins. There are droning guitars like the shoe-gazers, and elements pulled from a multitude of other sources that, taken together, make for an original sound. It seems Spin had to invent a word for them in their review of a show with Straylight Express. They called them “country-core,” which sounds to me like Gwar in overalls playing electric banjos. If you’re reading this on Tuesday, November 6, you’re in luck. You can go see them open for Sea Wolf at the Middle East Upstairs and describe their sound for yourself.

I caught up with Chris Keene (vocals, guitar) and Aurore Ounjian (vocals, guitar, harmonica) by e-mail about the show.

I never heard the term “country-core” until the Spin.com review. Do you identify with that? I hear elements of folk, especially in the harmonies, guitar-centric indie rock like Built to Spill, alt.country.

The term "country-core" is new to us. We're definitely influenced equally by folk music like Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger, as well as rock bands like Nirvana, The Pixies, and Buffalo Tom.

Are you a different band from gig to gig? Seems like you’d be equally comfortable on a bill with heavier bands or doing an acoustic set in a listening room.

I think we're the same band gig to gig. Live we get really excited about playing and it can get really loud and energetic. Our songs fluctuate a lot between being really soft and really loud. We hope the diversity is a good thing. We love playing with really heavy bands, and really soft bands, and will hopefully continue to be able to play with both.

Do you consider yourselves a political band? You don’t necessarily make that obvious, but you can hear it in songs like “Not to Dream.”

We definitely don't consider ourselves a political band. Songs like "Not To Dream" are really just personal songs just like all our other songs. Whenever we sing about anything that is remotely political its main purpose is to express how our environment makes us feel, and how it affects us, not so much trying to send some sort of political message.

Is the new EP part of a larger project you’re working on?

Originally it was going to be released as a 3 song EP, but we will be recording more new songs before the end of the year and we're in the process of figuring out the next step, and what makes the most sense to do with all our new material.

What kind of response have you gotten opening up for Straylight Run?

All our shows with Straylight Run have been absolutely incredible. They are a great band, and their fans are absolutely amazing. It's mostly a teenage crowd and they are unbelievably supportive of every band that plays. They come to the show early and go right to the front of the stage as soon as they get into the club. When we toured the UK with them we sold out of every copy of our album we brought with us. It's inspiring to see people that excited about music.

Do you think the Sea Wolf gig will open up a new audience for you in Boston?

We really hope so. That's the main reason we like supporting national touring bands in Boston, and just in general playing with all different kinds of bands. In the past its worked out well, so hopefully it will continue to be that way.

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