John Meredith – guitars, vocals
Damon Smith – drums
David Schultz – bass, backup vocals
Ft. Collins is home of the Blasting Room Recording Studio, Owned and Operated (O&O) Records, and a number of bands including ALL, Drag The River, Armchair Martian, and Wretch Like Me. In that musical family is Someday I, who recently released their second album, REF 4, on O&O.
After four years, Someday I has continued to take a very distinct path away from the norm, one that is fogged with complexities and mood swings that keep you continually baffled and intrigued. REF 4 starts off with punk melodies, but the vocal style is more emphatic, emotional, and somewhat disturbed on tracks such as “I Already Quit” and “Someday I Will Ruin My Life”. “Live for the Moment” whips up jangly bass lines, catchy melodies, and riffs come closer to the sound of a Roland keyboard than an actual guitar. Then the mood changes into a darker and more intense theatric presentation on tracks like “Concrete”, presenting a complex mixture of early ’90s Feelies or Flop style and a sinister Tool progression created through the use of layered samples and synthesizers.
The band’s songwriting methods and moods are rarely found on your average pop, punk or emo brainy rock albums. It’s even a departure for Someday I, who released its first album, Look Up and Live in 1999, portraying the group’s art rock stylings, but with a lighter, more floating tone and popish persona.
John Meredith, the lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for Someday I has spent a good chunk of the last few years of his life writing and producing REF 4. As a result, it really portrays a musical diary of what went on in his mind at that time, an ode to his own internal torment and passion for everything from rock influenced by Shiner or Jawbox to the electronic producers of our day, and his frustration with making those musical notes and ideas into something that made him content. Amidst the emotion, on tracks in and around the album such as “Live Through This Record”, one can also pick up hints of sarcasm and his ability to not take things too seriously all of the time.
This interview was a long time coming. We’re talking a couple of months. But I was able to track down John as he waited to play along side his band mates, Damon Smith on drums and David Schultz on bass and backup vocals, for a show at 15th Street Tavern.
KB: It’s been a real challenge to nail you down John. What’s been going on?
JOHN: I’ve been on the road on and off since April. I also do sound for Shiner and just got back from two weeks in Japan with them. It was a fuckin’ good time.
KB: I just interviewed another group, Ming & FS, who were talking about touring Japan. How was that for you?
JOHN: It was fun. I think we might head over there next year in the summer. The promoter was really into us and he wants to bring us over there.
KB: The Gamits were just in Japan, probably around the same time as you guys.
JOHN: Oh yea? That would have been cool. I didn’t see many Caucasians. There are a lot of Japanese people in Japan.
KB: That’s funny you say that, ’cause that’s exactly what Ming said.
JOHN: It sounds like a dumb statement, but it’s so homogenous over there. Any place in the U.S. there’s blacks, Hispanics, or whatever. But in Japan – it’s ALL Japanese people. It’s weird being a minority too.
KB: How has touring with Shiner impacted what you’re doing with Someday I? You had mentioned you were on the road since April. Has that been with Shiner or Someday I, or both?
JOHN: It’s been a combination, and touring with Kip Nash. I don’t know if you know who they are. But that’s a different band I’m in.
KB: That’s the band Robin from O&O is in, right?
JOHN: Right. The Shiner tours have been pretty educational as far as how [tours] work. As far as meeting people, it’s been good for me. I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with clubs, working shows and everything. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands. They’re one of the few bands that I would run sound for ’cause it kinda wrecks your ears.
KB: You don’t use earplugs?
JOHN: You can’t really mix with earplugs. You kinda end up getting blasted every night.
KB: I get blasted every night, but it’s with Vodka. Just kidding. That’s rough. God knows I’ve lost some of my hearing with all the shows I’ve been to and I’m sure bands have it even worse. How did you get into doing sound in the first place?
JOHN: That was just a natural thing when I started doing recordings on my four-track when I was a kid. I’d always sat in my basement and wrote songs, and that turned into a home studio with an eight-track and a computer. Then I started working at the Blasting Room doing sound. I hooked up with Shiner because they ended up putting their third record out on Owned And Operated. So we did some touring with them. I was willing to run sound for them dirt-cheap. They pay me pretty good now, but that was the main reason.
KB: So the Someday I CD, it came out this year. But I understand it was actually recorded a year ago?
JOHN: It was actually recorded about a year-and-a-half ago. It’s been a long time. I don’t know why it took so long. It was pretty obsessive. It took a LONG time to write and we spent a lot of time doing over dubs and mixing. Jason [Livermore] and I actually remixed it three times. We were ready to go last October. It never worked with publicity, so they wanted to wait until the Spring of Summer of this year.
KB: So it was a business decision more than anything?
JOHN: Yea, which was unfortunate. But we’ve kept ourselves busy. We’ve got some new stuff and have been playing around with the new record.
KB: I can tell that a lot of work went into it. It’s pretty dense in terms of layered sounds and effects. There’s a lot going on from song to song and within the songs themselves, and change ups in styles. You have some more punk and pop influences at the beginning on tracks like “Opener” and “Live for the Moment”. But on “Filler”, at least sonically, it almost sounds like something that would be a backdrop to a soundtrack where there’s some massive tidal wave going on. The depth of the keyboards seems to get muddled and then the treble is sharpened like it’s washing in and out of shore. How did you come up with ideas like that?
JOHN: I think a lot of that is just the influences I’ve had recently. I’ve been listening to a lot of electronica, like DJ Shadow, who I think is a direct influence on that style of songwriting and production. He’s definitely one of the most talented people working in electronica.
KB: Aside from the influence, how did you come up with the actual song itself?
JOHN: Well…heh. [sighs] That was a long time ago. The whole album is really somatic. “Filler” is based on riffs that appear in “Opener” and “Computer”. I was trying different things with the whole record-like we had the punk rock part of it, but the part on “Filler” that fades in and out, we actually recorded that first then wrote the rest of the song around that with the sequence drums, strings, and the rest of the…junk.
KB: You had that sort of intense style and then more melodic, popish styles on songs like “Live For The Moment.” It shows a lot of diversity. When you have some of your influences going like DJ Shadow, how are some of the other guys involved in adding theirs, or do they?
JOHN: Especially for this record, I got pretty obsessive about it and kind of did the whole thing. I’ll pretty much bring in songs finished then we’ll kind of work it out together. I guess this band started that way. The band I did before, we did a lot of writing together and it takes forever.
KB: What band was that?
JOHN: It was called Abaisser, a local band from around here that no one ever heard of. But I’d like to get away from that type of songwriting. I’ve been way more into coming up with stuff collaboratively as a band. It represents everyone’s influences better. Hopefully we’ll be doing more of that in the future.
KB: Do you have new songs that have been created that aren’t on the CD?
JOHN: Definitely. We probably have about an album’s worth of material that’s not on any of our records.
KB: And you’ve collaborated on those songs?
JOHN: Definitely. One of the songs we did right now that’s not on the record is a cover of a Deee-Lite song, which was really fun. I brought it into practice so we could learn to use our instruments in a different way. So we learned the song and it worked out great as an experimental project. We got some really cool effects coming out of our stuff that sounded electronic. We never intended to play it live, but now it’s one of [the crowd’s] favorite songs.
KB: Which song was it?
JOHN: It’s off of Dewdrops In The Garden. [sighs] I can’t remember it…it’s like track nine or ten.
Now this is something I am personally guilty of to a fault. As one who catches up on listening to music in the car, I always take note of the track number more than anything, unless I have the CD sitting right there. Then I’m trying to read the damn song name and drive at the same time. It’s like dialing your cell phone, which can be a little dangerous. So I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that. But I do know track nine on Dewdrops In The Garden is ” Music Selector Is the Soul Reflector” and track ten is ” Sampladelic”.
JOHN: I have much respect for Supra DJ Dmitry. He’s awesome.
KB: Talking about outside influences, I couldn’t help but notice the name of the track “Not OK Computer”. Was that a dig at Radiohead?
JOHN [Laughs]: It was a joke. We called the song “Computer” because the guitar noises I make in the intro that are kind of harmonic sounding like a computer. Then when we went into record it, Jason, the guy who produced the record with me, typed it up on the screen as “Not OK Computer.” I was just like, ‘That’s pretty funny.’ It kinda worked out with the theme of the lyrics and how the song was anyways, as far as production and using keyboards and synthesizers.
KB: Speaking of lyrics, you get pretty somber on a number of songs. When you’re going through the songwriting process, do you write the lyrics first and then the music around it, or in reverse, or does it change from one song to the next?
JOHN: In general I’ll have riffs that I’ve been working on. But it never comes together until I have a lyrical kind of idea of what the song’s really about. Once I have that, it jells around that. Both sides have to change as the song comes together-both the lyrics and the music. They have to work around each other.
KB: That makes sense. I supposed if you had some really dark lyrics you wouldn’t want some bubbling melodies going on around you, although that contrast would be interesting.
KB: What about “Live Through This Record”. Was that written when you were up a 4:00am and had writer’s block or something?
JOHN: The year that I wrote the record I WAS just trying to make it through it. It was a lot of work. It was definitely an experiment, and I’m ready to get away from that. It was good to do it. It was a time in my life where I was pretty depressed and obsessed with music, and NOT getting what I needed from music. That’s really what the record is about.
KB: So how are you now?
JOHN [Chuckles]: I feel a lot better now. I kinda got out of my funk. I started smoking cigarettes again. That helped.
KB: And that was a lot different from your first record.
JOHN: Yea, it’s a lot more pop. There’s a huge challenge in writing an interesting pop song that’s not just crap, you know? This record was a product of going in a completely different direction. I didn’t care at all about format or if anyone liked it. I’ve always been shocked when anyone does. The record was kind of a selfish thing. Have you heard of Aversion.com?
KB: Yea, I know the guy who runs it, Matt. I have interviewed him actually.
JOHN: He wrote a review that was exactly what I expected to get from everybody. It was pretty scathing. It doesn’t bother me at all. He definitely was not into the wallowing and self-depression. Then I was talking to Al from Shiner about it, and he said something that made me feel a lot better about it, which is, although it’s really specific and self-obsessed as far as the format like the lyrics and the themes and everything, there’s some sort of universal relation that people have to being obsessed about trying to do something, and having a passion for something, and not having it work out. I think that’s a theme that most people can understand.
Ironically, I found Matt Schild’s original opinion of the Someday I that was written after its first release in 1999. At the time Matt thought,”Someday I brings a background putting many of its art-rock compatriots to shame. This combination of youthful idealism and experience puts Someday I in a position to storm the gates of the art-rock community…”
Maybe it was the group’s loss of that youthful idealism that bugged him. Or maybe it was something simple, like Matt was irritated because he was supposed to be meeting friends for beers and instead he was writing a CD review (and I say that because I found that on the site as well). That’s cool. God knows I’ve been there before, showing up hours later than I said I would, complete fried, only to be met by all my drunken friends who have been enjoying themselves for hours while I was typing at keyboard.
Or, maybe it was the use of electronics that can sometimes turn a fan into a fiend when it comes to art rock or punk formulas that go astray, and dive into genres that are considered the enemy. Who knows? Matt’s a cool guy and a music journalist with his own opinions. But that is the beauty of music. There IS something for everyone, and in REF 4, the intricate complexities, thoughts, themes, and textures that appeal to those in that mindset are something to be admired amidst the angst.
The trio is heading out on the road, again, this time to travel with a enough inventory of cigarettes to happily make it through the mid-west, down to Florida and through to the east coast.
You can get a hold of REF 4 and Look Up and Live at most retailers, or online at www.interpunk.com. The www.somedayi.com Website was down when I last checked, but www.oandorecords.com has a section for Someday I along with their other artists.