Fort Worth’s psychedelic garage rock band Mean Motor Scooter is back with a five-track EP due out on Dreamy Life Records just in time for this week's 4/20 celebrations.
The follow-up release to their well-received full-length album, 2017’s Hindu Flying Machine, the EP, TV Baby, is filled with a kind of tension — and at times paranoia — about the relationship between real life and technology. Even the EP’s title and cover art speak to the incongruity between the two.
On the side of real life, we see the body of a baby, and on the side of technology, we see that the head has been replaced with an analog TV stuck on a test screen. While this image may seem like a familiar reference to TV-partying or brainwashed youth, there is something more Black Mirror about the image than Black Flag.
“All the songs tell their own story and also share a common thread,” says singer and guitarist Sammy Kidd. “I think we all feel a little alienated and detached sometimes. I think we all search for meaning in our lives, but we have to create that meaning — which can feel very overwhelming and scary sometimes.
“We're all the main characters in our own story, and we all have our own versions of what we believe is reality.”
This kind of alienation and detachment appears over and over in the EP’s short list of songs, with titles such as “Organic Frequency,” “Robotic Centipede” and “Mechanical Man.”
“Organic Frequency” begins with a frantic guitar riff and frustrated scream as Kidd wails, “Nothing is left for me to need” and “Nothing is left of my identity / Thanks to organic frequency,” which has been “directly channeled to” our brains.
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While open to interpretation, this appears to be a searing comment about our tendency to let technology supplement physical desires and interactions, the result of which is to “feel crazy” and isolated.
That isolation grows and festers in “Gutterboy Blues,” in which the singer deliberately misses phone calls and other human contact, preferring to stay alone. It leads to a kind of waltzing paranoia in “Good Intentions,” where crawling thoughts become messages, which then become physical creatures in “Robotic Centipede” and transform the human that the EP begins with into the “Mechanical Man,” whom “organic people, they just don’t understand.” But don't ask Kidd how much to read into it.
“It's up for interpretation,” Kidd says of the songs. “They are different metaphors to help explain what cannot be said with words. Everyone will interpret them differently based on their own life experiences.”
Lyrical interpretations aside, the music is impeccable thanks to the band’s dedication to recording well-polished material that maintains a sense of live performance — a delicate balance to pull off, but one that perfectly aligns with the EP’s tension between the organic and the mechanical.
“We try to capture the same magic we feel playing live,” Kidd says. “So normally we just hammer the instrumentals out in a day or so and polish the rest later.”
Kidd's band mates elaborate further. “When we put together the bare bones of a new tune, we jammed through it at least 20 times,” drummer Jeffrey Friedman says. “After that, we focused on the details and changes to the overall tempo, time signatures and dynamics. That helped drive the live performances and prepared us for recording.”
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“When we finally got into the studio to record, we wanted to keep things as analog as possible,” adds bass player Joe Tacke. “Robby Rux and I engineered the session together, really focusing on capturing the live aspect of it. I think we did a pretty good job of mixing the power of the live set with some studio experimentation.”
"Gutterboy Blues" is the first video from the EP, and the band says more can be expected. “We're kind of constantly brainstorming and spitballing ideas whenever we practice or hang out,” keyboardist Rebekah Elizabeth says. Those plans could even include a film script. Friedman says he and Kidd have written a first draft, including the TV prop that's seen in the "Gutterboy Blues" video.
“With all of us being big film buffs," Elizabeth says of the video, "I'd expect us to start working on another one soon enough.”
To celebrate their EP release, Mean Motor Scooter will be playing Saturday, April 20 at Main at South Side in Fort Worth with Vorvon, Chillamundo and Henry the Archer; and on Friday, April 26 at Spinster Records in Oak Cliff with Upsetting and Sub-Sahara.