ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 12, 1998
By Steve Newton
For the past couple of months I’ve been getting advance promotional copies of Three Seeds, the debut CD by a Winnipeg quartet called the New Meanies. At least three copies came across my desk at different times, making me think that either Virgin Records was very keen on getting this band heard, or they had too many promo copies cluttering up their own desks.
Each time the disc came by I’d give it a listen, and eventually a tune called “Letting Time Pass” crept under my skin. Starting off with a jaunty, almost ’70s-funk vibe before swooping into a magnetically melodic chorus, it’s an irresistible three-and-a-half minutes of hooky guitar pop. As the New Meanies’ Damon Mitchell explains over the phone from a Revelstoke pit stop, “Letting Time Pass”—the CD’s leadoff single and video—almost didn’t make it onto Three Seeds.
“It was the last tune that the band wrote before we went down to L.A. to record,” explains the 25-year-old singer-guitarist, whose band plays the Railway Club on Friday and Saturday (February 13 and 14). “It was just sort of a couple of riffs that we threw together, and when I wrote the tune I was reminiscing about some old friends that I don’t see any more, high-school friends.
“I dream about high school a lot; you know, those dreams where you’re in a place and it’s your high school—but it’s also your grandma’s house and it’s the mall and it’s the hockey rink—and you’re flying above it or something.”
Three Seeds was produced by Howard Benson, whose credits include Ice-T, Body Count, Motörhead, and “a bunch of bands from the ’80s that he refuses to talk about”. While Benson helped the New Meanies get dreamy on “Letting Time Pass”, his expertise with raunchier acts came in handy on “Hamster Wheel”, which is described in the record-company bio as “a raging vitriol against cocaine use in the band’s hometown”.
“Oh, really?” replies Mitchell. “I haven’t even read the bio. But ‘Hamster Wheel’ speaks for itself, pretty much. It’s just about how cocaine is stupid, how you get caught in the wheel, chasin’ after your own tail. I’m not preaching or anything, it’s just another song.”
The New Meanies’ ability to crank it up came in handy when the band scored opening gigs for Deep Purple in Chicago and New Orleans recently. Mitchell—who was born the year Purple’s Made in Japan was released—picked up a copy of the classic live LP in the Windy City and got all the current Purple members to sign it. As a teenager, he preferred ’70s rock to ’80s rock, and who could blame him?
“I was influenced by my parents’ records and not by my generation’s, ’cause my generation was a bunch of shit as far as I’m concerned. And it’s funny, ’cause the older I get, the farther back I’m goin’. Like, we’re drivin’ around in the van listening to [pioneering bluesmen] Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker and stuff.”