Don't talk to Meteorade about love. Well, at least not Nathan Schaefer. The guitarist for the local pop-rock five-piece has got a grudge against love songs.
"A lot of mainstream pop music today is really redundant; love songs have been beaten into the ground," says Schaefer, who also sings and writes songs for the band. "Real-life situations are usually more complicated and can involve a mixture of feelings, so I like songs that capture that."
While this perspective makes the 20-something sound like a bit of a sage, it doesn't make songwriting very easy. Once the Pandora's Box of political issues and psychological theories has been pried open, a pop song becomes much more than a catchy melody. It's a public statement of the band's beliefs, and as most of us with strong opinions know, this is likely to rub someone the wrong way or, at the very least, confuse the heck out of those expecting bubble gum.
Schafer unleashed these challenges early in his career as a songwriter, beginning a few years ago with the lyrics to "Thinking About You," a meditation on infatuation that includes a pithy statement about global warming.
"The overall theme of the song is that I viewed thinking about the girl all the time as an inconvenience instead of a blessing," he says. "I tried to make fun of a lot of the standard love-song clichés such as 'You're a star' and 'You're the sun,' but the lyrics don't all make sense. That's probably my fault for listening to weird music."
This "weird" music is largely '90s indie rock. Meteorade calls bands such as Weezer, Cake and the Pixies their main influences. While this isn't unusual for a band composed of 35-year-olds, Meteorade's members, all of whom are UW students, weren't even in preschool when Doolittle was released, so perhaps this fascination is somewhat unconventional.
Though they may be '90s revivalists, Meteorade's not married to a 100% retro sound. The band recently revamped "Thinking About You" to include the accordion-like sounds of a blow-organ in the chorus, a move more fit for a Beirut album than a Cracker cassette tape.
While the blow-organ worked out well in the end, it posed some of those real-life problems -- the kind that inspire Schafer -- during a recent recording session at Madison Media Institute. Krista Rasmussen, who plays synthesizer for the band, knew how to play the keys of the instrument but didn't have enough hot air to sustain the sound. The debacle led to some impromptu teamwork by the band.
"I ended up blowing air into the instrument while she played the chords," says bassist Tom Teslik, who also shares guitar, singing and songwriting duties with Schafer. "Every student engineer came and watched and laughed, and one person even took pictures."
An MP3 of "Thinking About You" is available in the related downloads at right. More songs by the group can be listened to on its MySpace page. Meteorade performs a show with One For The Team and Those Green Eyes on Tuesday, November 25 at The Annex.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.