Photo by Katie McGuire
Narco States are a five-piece band from Minneapolis, MN that just recently released their debut LP in late 2014 called Wicked Sun on Piñata Records. The record emits a unique brand of psychedelic infused aggressive rock n’ roll that sounds like it could have been played in a scene from the film Apocalypse Now. Narco States intensely weave melody, darkness, and agitation into a thick blanket that’s gently laid over your head as you sit back and start to spin around the room to their music. While so many bands these days are going around giving the term “psychedelic” a bad name, Narco States are here to repo it, rub some dirt on it, and throw it back to the masses the way it’s supposed to sound.
Interview by J Castro
Let’s start off with some introductions, who’s currently in Narco States and what does everyone do in the band:
Michael MacBlane-Meyer - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Ritual Sacrifices
Aaron Robertson - Lead Organ, Farfisa/Wurlitzer, Beard, Incense
Nate McGuire: Lead Guitar, Hendrix Riffs
Erik Johnson: Lead Druummz, Pomade and Black Rimmed Glasses
Nick Sampson: Lead BASS, Drugz
How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
MICHAEL: I posted one simple Craigslist ad that said "Looking for someone to play my Vox Organ" and at the same time decided to browse the ads and I came across a post from Nate that mentioned The Growlers and 13th Floor Elevators. Then the emails began to fly and samples were traded and it turned out we all kind of knew each other from other places and times so we got together and the rest, as they say...is mystery.
Your music has been compared to the likes of The Rolling Stones, the Stooges, Black Sabbath, and the Cramps. All of these bands had iconic and influential front men. Tell me a bit about your personal favorite front man/woman; when did you first see them perform and what you felt the first time you saw him/her?
MICHAEL: Phil May from The Pretty Things, Andy Ellison from John's Children, and Stiv Bators from Dead Boys have all had big effect on me but the most influential lead man was Stewart Lupton formerly of the band Jonathan Fire Eater. I had been going to shows for a long time and had numerous influences but he was the single greatest frontman I ever saw live. I had never seen anyone writhe around, straddling the microphone stand while looking so dapper and dodgy at the same time. It was like Patty Smith and Lord Byron had a child together and he was up there on stage.
With the way most of today’s contemporary culture is rooted in convenience and instant gratification, do you see rock n’ roll bands ever being as much of an influence to popular youth culture as they once were?
MICHAEL: I think you'd have to ask the youth that question. As I get older I can feel myself getting jaded and thinking no music or bands are as good or influential as the ones I have adopted as my favorites or experienced when I was younger. My gut reaction is to say that it doesn't seem likely, but that's the same expanding gut that wants those damn kids to "stay off my lawn," so I sure hope the answer is yes. The youth look like a bunch of virtual obsessed zombies to me. I hope there is a real and true underground scene boiling somewhere under all of this technology that will shake the foundations of passive rock fans and technophile hermits.
AARON: I agree with Mike. But it is hard to argue that rock has anything even close to the influence that it had in the ‘60’s/’70’s. It just seems to be more of a commodity now for most people, just another product. And these days most people don't even OWN music, they just "rent" it on Spotify. Maybe someday there will be a point where it's more important to contemporary culture, but I'm not counting on it. There's just too many other distractions today with technology.
Photo by Katie McGuire
With much of your obvious musical influences being bands that were in their prime decades ago, are there any current bands that inspire you?
MICHAEL: Although some may have broken up already, I am currently really digging on Summer People (especially Burn the Germs), Bits of Shit, Los Tones, and Japanese Motors.
AARON: Mount Carmel, Radio Moscow, Pentagram, The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Kadaver, Orchid, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Daikaiju (who I just discovered when we opened for them, amazing performance).
I was reading an interview with Keith Richards where he said that anyone buying digital music is getting short changed. Do you agree with this?
AARON: Absolutely. My belief is that digital music is good for the car or whatever, but for serious listening I think it's hard to beat vinyl. The sound, the look, the artwork, the ritual of playing records, the mechanical process, even the crackles and pops, it's all part of the experience. That's just me though, and I tend to be pretty obsessive about vinyl.
With that being said, what do you think of the whole vinyl revival: fleeting trend or a legitimate resurgence? There has also been some comments about record processing plants turning away small labels that have kept them in business for years with small runs, in favor of pressing major label’s releases with much larger runs, any thoughts on that?
AARON: Revival? I've been buying and listening to vinyl since I was a kid in the ‘80’s. To me it's something that's always been there; it hasn't ever left. I go to the same record stores that have been open since the ‘70’s in some cases, and most of my friends have done the same over the years. The only difference now is that it's easier to get new releases on vinyl and there are a lot of labels re-releasing older stuff (which is really cool for getting records that were previously really rare). It's cool that people are discovering how awesome the format is, but from my perspective, not much has changed. So as to whether or not it's fleeting or not, I don't know... I lean towards it being a legitimate resurgence because of how cool records are, and people tend to get very passionate about it (like myself). The downside to the hype is like you mention, plants turning away some customers. Even worse, the wait times to get vinyl pressed compared to the "old days". It's not uncommon to wait 6 months to get a record pressed, when it used to be a month or so. I guess the plants go where the money is, but there are definitely some smaller plants (Palomino records comes to mind) that are geared toward smaller pressings and labels, and in my opinion offer way better quality and service than some of the bigger, more popular plants that don't give a damn how many flaws are in your final product and take months to deliver.
What are the elements that you’ve felt all have fused together when your band has had a really good show? Can you tell me about the last show Narco States did that you felt went really well?
AARON: I feel like our last couple of shows has gone really well, because we have a stable line-up once again that has jelled over time. For me, it's simple, a good show happens when you transcend reality and let the music play itself. In my case, I almost go into a trance and just let it happen. When all of us are comfortable and don't have to concentrate on what we're playing, those are the BEST shows. Kawabata Makoto from Acid Mothers Temple said in an interview that I read years ago something along the lines of the musician not really doing anything more than tuning into the notes/music from the universe and letting that through via your instrument. I think there's some truth in that.
MICHAEL: We just need the right mix of medication and illegal drugs. It's all about balance.
What sorts of things influence your lyrics? Are there any subjects you purposely stay away from?
MICHAEL: Mental illness, Esoterica, Cultism and Existentialism compose the bulk of it. However there is some sex, relationship and self-deprecation salted in as well. I stay away from Politics, Cars, Stature, and Materialism.
Where are the best places to go or the best sites for people to find out more about the band, listen to your music and buy your records?
AARON: narcostates.com goes to our Bandcamp page with all of our music (most of it available to stream for free), and there are links to shows and our Facebook page there.
Check it out!
What does Narco States have in store for the rest of 2015?
MICHAEL: Well…Since Satan refused to let us sign a contract…we are shooting a music video, playing some killer shows and recording a new album this winter and doing some touring as well.