Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Ripple Conversation With Jeremy And Justin From Mr. Plow

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Jeremy: I was always a fan of heavy music, beginning with Kiss when I was about 6. Growing up in a small town, the most accessible heavy music in the 80s was the glam or “hair” metal. Gun n’ Roses was a little different and exciting, but it was discovering bands like Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Nirvana in the early 90s that really grabbed me.

Justin: I was a bit of a late arriver to the rock/metal scene.  I was pretty much a new wave kid through most of high school.  Hearing the Cult for the first time—Love and then Electric—was a big deal for me.  I’d say they were the band that transitioned me toward rock, and I still love their stuff.  Ian Astbury remains one of my favorite vocalists.  I met Jeremy my freshman year of college, and he began turning me on to more rock and metal.  The real standout was Alice in Chains, although I love pretty much all the grunge stuff.  I think that prepared me for my real epiphany a few years later, which was seeing the video for Kyuss’s Green Machine on Headbanger’s Ball.  I was hooked immediately and have been a stoner rocker through and through ever since.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Jeremy: Most of the time, it starts with riffs. These days, Greg and Justin write the majority of the songs. I sometimes come up with riffs that get turned into songs when we all get together and collaborate. Occasionally, Justin or Greg will record rough Garage Band versions of whole songs that we will then collaborate on.

Justin:  I’d agree it mostly starts with riffs, although occasionally I’ll hear a vocal melody in my head first and come up with a riff that suits it.  Even when we have full Garage Band demos, the songs never really come together completely until the four of us are in a room together playing them at high volume.

How did the band originally get together?  The how did you reform after the long hiatus?

Jeremy: Justin and I met as freshmen in college and became friends. I had been playing guitar for a while, but not consistently. He was interested in guitar, so I traded my old first guitar to him for a bunch of comic books. Then we just started playing, and formed a band with some other friends I knew from growing up in a town about 30 miles south of Houston - Alvin, TX (one of whom, Chad Robinson, went on to form the band Dynamite Hack). I knew Greg from high school, also, and he would sometimes come to our practices. We eventually started playing together along with another guy from Alvin, David Obert, on drums. This was about 1997. In 2006, after we had self-released 3 albums, Greg decided to go to chiropractic college in Florida. Mr. Plow played a few shows with Ben Yaker on bass, but it slowly fizzled out.  Justin went on to sing in Sanctus Bellum with Ben.  Cory Cousins, a friend of Ben’s who had played in Ben’s other bands, played drums for Sanctus Bellum. Greg moved back to Houston, and after not playing for a long time, Mr. Plow got asked to play a show, and Dave was not interested in continuing.  So Cory played drums. We all had a lot of fun practicing and playing that show that we decided to write some new songs and keep it going!  We are having more fun than ever now.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Jeremy:  Popular culture usually.

Justin:  My actual life is pretty boring, so I typically look to novels and comic books for inspiration.

We're all a product of our environment.  Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

Jeremy:  Houston is a great place to live, but not somewhere you would really want to visit. It’s hot and humid most of the time. There is a lot to do, though, if you live here, and it’s relatively inexpensive for a big city. It has always been behind Austin and Dallas as far as music goes, but there is a thriving scene here now. There is really a lot of camaraderie, whereas in the past there seemed to be more of an air of competition.

Justin:  We spent a lot of years playing to pretty much nobody but family members and friends who were too polite not to show up.  I agree with Jeremy that it seems like the heavy music scene in H-Town is getting a more vibrant and engaged.  We see a lot of familiar faces at shows, but more and more unfamiliar ones as well.  That’s pretty rewarding, but I think our early experience taught us that if the music isn’t its own reward, it’s not worth doing.  It also taught us not to take things too seriously, which I think comes through in the music too.

Where'd the band name come from?

Jeremy: The Simpsons, of course. We were going through potential names. I can’t remember any others, but I can’t be serious about anything, so I assume they were all ridiculous.  This is the one that we hated least.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

Jeremy: Porky’s 2 or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (tie)

Justin:  I want to say The Big Lebowski, but none of our songs are as good as CCR.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

Jeremy: Maybe Outshined by Soundgarden. Badmotorfinger is a desert album for me, and this is a great song. I might be able to write 1,000 words on the drum sound alone.

Justin:  I’d probably go with Gardenia by Kyuss.  To me, it is the apex of stoner rock, capturing everything that is so great about the genre:  killer vocals, incredible drums, and down-tuned guitar and bass that are beautifully muddy and heavy, all meshing together in a magical way that is greater even than the sum of all these really great parts.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Jeremy: When we first started playing, none of us had tuner pedals.  We would usually make sure that we were tuned to the bass, because the bass rarely goes out of tune. During a show, Greg accidentally bumped his headstock and threw the low E string out of tune. But Justin and I thought we were out of tune. We proceeded to try to figure it out, tuning loudly in front of an audience for about 5 or 10 minutes, but it seemed like hours.  It was brutal.  Another time, we used so much fog during our performance that you could not see 6 inches in front of your face. The owner of the venue got pissed and pulled the plug on us.

Justin:  At a show years ago at Houston’s legendary Emo’s Lounge (which is sadly no more), I was rocking out a little too hard and fell off the stage.  Luckily, a couple of my friends up front caught me on my way toward the concrete and set me back up.  It probably looked a fair amount like Nigel Tufnel being propped back up after his epic guitar solo he performed on his back—although I’m pretty confident there was nothing nearly so epic emanating from my guitar at the time.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

Jeremy:  We love playing live and it’s always great to hear that others enjoy it. Expect it to be loud and foggy.

What makes a great song?

Justin:  It’s gotta be heavy, but it’s also gotta be catchy.  If the vocal or main instrumental melody gets stuck in my head, I take that as a good sign.

Jeremy:  A half-time breakdown gets you a lot of the way there.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Jeremy: It might be Right On, Gauntlet or Travis Bickle. Just your standard type of Fu Manchu – inspired songs. Lyrically, they are about space travel, eating very spicy chicken, and the movie, Taxi Driver.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Justin:  I’m pretty proud of Matchstick from our upcoming album, Maintain Radio Silence.  It’s inspired by my favorite comic of all time, Mage by Matt Wagner.  I put together the basic parts and structure of the song and vocals, but I was really excited with how Greg, Cory, and Jeremy built on that to create what appears on the album.  I think the final product sounds better than I ever thought it could.

Jeremy: I like when the main riff of Johnny Gentle (also on our upcoming album) kicks in.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Jeremy: There are so many great bands right now. A few examples off the top of my head are Truckfighters, Pallbearer, Red Fang, and Mastodon. They are the right combination of heavy, melodic and catchy.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Justin:  I have to confess I mostly go digital these days, just for the sheer convenience.  But I also like having a physical product.  I generally buy CDs so I can listen in my car, but I think vinyl is its own art form.

Jeremy: Digital for ease, convenience, and physical space limitations. Vinyl for fun and sound quality.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice.

Jeremy:  Beer, it tastes good and can be consumed in greater volume.

Justin:  Totally agree.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Justin:  Sound Exchange, Vinal Edge and Cactus in Houston, TX.  I’d check ‘em all out if you have the time.

Jeremy: What Justin said.

What's next for the band?

Jeremy:  World domination. Or at least trying to promote the new album, Maintain Radio Silence, by playing in as many cities as we can after the album comes out.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Justin:  Thanks for supporting heavy music!

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