Karen Meat on Pussy Pop, Gastro Chic, and ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’

We’ve all wondered what it would be like to have a slumber party with the cast of Rocky Horror, and now I know the answer. It’s almost exactly like the Karen Meat performance at New Ground Theatre early this August.

Why am I just writing about it now? Because I spent most of that month mourning the death of my MacBook Pro, which had been with me since grad school. It was a process, but I’ve healed and moved on. So on to the Meat.

This May, Planned Parenthood announced it was closing four of its Iowa clinics, including its only location in the Quad Cities, which serves over 470,000 people. Of course, our favorite kind-hearted head-bangers at Safe Harbor Records & Promotions responded with a benefit for Planned Parenthood on August 12. Cuz that’s just what they do.

Over a dozen performers volunteered their time and talent to raise funds for the reproductive health clinics. Alongside sets by power duo Art Haus Eviction Notice and mighty newcomer Justice Oepping, Karen Meat delighted the shit out of everyone with their unique brand of vibrant vulgarity.

Lead singer Arin Eaton and guitarist Dana Telscrow wore sunglasses and what appeared to be rompers of original design, which, for some reason, signaled to me: slumber party. This idea was reinforced through Arin’s smarmy flamboyance; it was like Thom Yorke and Magenta had a kid who they then handed over to Courtney Love to raise. Oh my god. I just had the best idea for a horror-comedy.

9.16KarenMeatpic.jpg
It’s important to me that you read the blurbs at the top of this poster.

To be clear: Karen Meat is a band first. Arin says: “The theatrical element was never intended in Karen Meat. Dana and I got bored doing the same thing at every show, so we started doing stage antics to keep people interested and it has stuck with the set.”

The band’s name is appropriate. Their music is meaty – in terms of substance as well as sound. I can only imagine how big they seem on the occasions when their fellows John Huffman and Brad Turk join them; and the topics they tackle are more weighty than their waggish attitude suggests.

Dubbing their genre “pussy pop” – a term coined by Arin a) in response to her frustration with trying to define the band’s genre and b) because, naturally, the band identifies with the obscene – the band gets most of its musical inspiration from mid-century girl pop (hence the pajama party à la Grease). While many associate this sound with superficial lyrics, much of Arin and Dana’s actual songwriting reflects experiences with depression, rejection, despair, and mental illness.

This is the crux of Karen Meat’s appeal. Sure, Arin and Dana are funny and silly and irreverent, but their material explores profound, heart wrenching subjects that speak to the parts of us we tend to hide away and and never mention; we conceal them because we’re afraid of what facing them might tell us about ourselves.

“I think if you face your fears, or you do something outside of your box, it challenges you and makes you a better person,” Arin says. “I hadn’t written a song in two years because I was busy being in a relationship and working a full-time job. The past seven years of my life were inspiration to help me write. It’s how I reflect on situations.

“Karen Meat has never intended to really be anything besides a solo project and it keeps adding several layers… it’s forever evolving.”

That’s exciting news for fans – of the band as well as of mayhem in general.

And speaking of layers, I’m sure there’s some sort of psychological or philosophical analysis to be had in the band’s identification with meat. It’s not just the name; head on over to KarenMeat.com and check out their aesthetic.

KarenMeatAndThecomputerOnThecouch
“The universe is a meat grinder and we’re just pork in designer shoes…” Richard Kadrey

Interestingly (or not), not too long ago, people with too much time on their hands decided that “gastro chic” is a thing; like, if you wear a sweater with a hamburger embroidered on it, that’s gastro chic. Pair that with a French fry necklace and matching shake earrings? That’s more gastro chic. Pizza print leggings and Heinz-inspired kicks? Omg, so gastro chic.

Though this was not a conscious decision by the band (Arin’s reaction was: “Sounds like some fucked up fetish”), the notion that we are all essentially meat puppets (another great band) speaks to the project’s overarching absurdist attitude.

It’s this attitude that leads me to believe we have a lot more to expect from Karen Meat. While the band’s current projects include two full-length albums, I believe I’ve successfully planted the idea that they should do a cartoon series. The next move is to convince Cartoon Network’s Mike Lazzo that this is his next big thing.

“I love Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” Arin says of Lazzo’s work. “I pictures us in a series like that: late night cartoon character talk show, talking nonsense to each other.”

It practically writes itself! Let’s do it!

Check out upcoming tour dates and keep an eye out for Karen Meat in your town. The band is based out of Des Moines AND Iowa City, so they’re generally in that area. Want to book the band? Scroll all the way down and send a message to the email address at right.

 

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