By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"For the most part, if you look at pop music in a grand scheme, if you take it up to what's often heard on the radio, most of the time there are not thoughts that are expressed," Romig says. "We're trying to make fun of all that, but pretty much by doing the same thing that they're doing. In a way, we're trying to parody a whole lot of things."
Adds Greer, "And at the same time, we're concerned with creating the most perfect three-minute pop song possible."
"I guess what Mitch and I are trying to do is have it be about the music, but also have it be almost about the situation being international, living life as an art," Romig continues. "Unfortunately, I don't think many people pick up on the symbolism of what we're trying to do."
The band formed almost accidentally a year ago, when Greer and Romig filled in as members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre for one show. Singer-guitarist-flake Anton Newcombe had chased off most of the members of his band earlier in the tour, so he was forced to find emergency replacements. Romig--who has performed with a handful of Dallas and Denton bands, including playing cello on Centro-Matic's Redo the Stacks--was asked to join because she was a friend of erstwhile BJM bassist Matt Hollywood. She called Greer, whom she had met a few days earlier, and asked him to help out on guitar.
A member of another band--O.E.D.--at the time, Greer had begun writing songs that didn't really fit into that band's more experimental sound. They were more like folk songs, and Greer felt they deserved a new setting. Shortly after the Brian Jonestown Massacre gig, he and Romig began playing these new songs as a three-piece, with drummer T.J. Prendergast in tow. The songs changed as they played them more, mutating into three-chord pop songs that were catchy almost despite themselves. Greer had never wanted to be in a pop band before, and it took a bit of adjusting once he found himself as the frontman of one.
"Most of the songs on the record, they originally started--in my mind--as like a sociological experiment, because I had never been in a pop band and I didn't understand all the scene-ishness that I was experiencing," Greer says. "It just kinda happened. There were some things that were happening in a lot of our lives that I know were making me a lot more pissed off. The climate of the band was just going at this pace. I mean, the songs are still the same; they can be played as folk still."
The songs were modified further as more members joined the band. Guitarist Michael Cullen and keyboard player George Jenson joined the fold as the band began to gig around Dallas and Denton (at the time, under the truly lame moniker She Only Thinks in Manchester), taking the songs further down the road to pop paradise. Tambourine player Mark Crowder, a longtime employee of Bill's Records who spins records weekly at the Liquid Lounge, was brought in around the same time, completing the lineup, though he has played only one show with the band.
It's not necessary to pick up on the symbolism of Go Metric USA's songs to enjoy them. The album--produced by Dave Willingham at his 70 Hurtz Studio in Argyle--sounds like the British invading the Summer of Love, bouncing from jangly, 12-string guitar workouts such as "Just Because Your Garden Grows" to tender, last-dance-at-the-prom moments, like "When I'm Around You." Songs such as "I Met Robyn Hitchcock and Nobody Cares But Me" and "Saints of the Morning After" are affecting musically whether or not you catch any of Greer's lyrical jibes. They're great pop songs, simple and catchy, with melodies that stick in your head like the slug from a .22 pistol fired at close range. It's a timeless record that would have sounded at home 30 years ago, but it sounds just fine now too. There's no need to understand the concepts behind the lyrics--something about how they are aware that they are a pop band, and you are aware that you are listening to a pop band, and how strange that is--for the songs to do their job. Sometimes, just writing a good melody is enough for the band as well.
"We want people to enjoy the music; that's why we make it," Greer says. "We don't sit around like Marxists, composing these songs in smoky back rooms, worrying about how to defame pop culture. We're not completely pretentious."
"Not completely," Romig adds. "But I think there is a lot more thought that goes behind our pop."
Go Metric USA's pop is an idea that is still evolving. The band is a side project that became full-time, and Greer and Romig have had to refine their themes as they go along. A target that has always been on the pair's mind is the image of the Hammer of the Gods-style rock star.
"It's so cool that Guided By Voices have had the degree of success that they've had," Greer says. "Well, I guess they've had a degree of success. But just the fact that that guy [Bob Pollard] was like an English teacher at a high school, I think that's cool. I think that's great. I would like to see the death of rock and roll as we know it, as it applies to Marilyn Manson and the fucked-up lead singer. I read somewhere that it's all Rimbaud's fault, like the French symbolists are still controlling rock and roll. I don't know if I believe that, but there's nothing that says that we have to be these fucked-up people on stage."
Go Metric USA performs on October 7 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Fuck headlines.