After my somewhat impulsive purchase of The Weight of Whale‘s latest release, “We Became a Major Corporation,” Jeff Meyers Jr. hunted me down specifically to thank me for it. Initially, I was planning on just reviewing his band’s music, but after talking to him for a bit and learning about his local label, Spoonfeed, as well as his passion for independent film, I wanted to do something that would promote all his projects at once. What better way to achieve that other than an interview? You get to hear it all from the man himself! As always, enjoy the read and getting to know the man behind the music.
Being as how you're into several creative activities, do you tend to be partial to one than the others?
It's tough to say. I've been doing music for most of my life, but I'm also fascinated with things like film, visual arts, even puppetry. I'd say I get the most pay off from doing music, because performing something you've worked days on has it's obvious payoffs. However, I also get that same sincere joy from sharing music, arts, and other various talents coming from my friends and colleagues with other people. One of the greatest compliments I can receive is hearing that someone enjoys the things we're doing at Spoonfeed, or that they found a new band they absolutely adore through our site. So I don't know if that means I'm partial to one over the other, I think it's more of a weird obsession problem for all things creative-related.
As I see it, creating is a big part of your world so it's natural to me that you like to share things as well. Also, admirable. What's the creative process for you like and does it differ depending on the medium you're using to express yourself with?
Everything I do usually revolves around some sort of story or decrepit character. I cannot and will not write songs about myself, or relationships. I've tried in the past, and those are the songs or pieces I end up loathing the most. When it comes to music, I want to write something that takes you through a story arc, or places you in the midst of a characters thought process during a specific moment of his or her life. People are usually surprised to hear what some of my songs are about, but I need to be writing about those things. I probably do this because these are things people don't talk about, or people don't generally feel comfortable with. "Consuela," a song from a band I work with called The Weight of Whales is this tale about a brother and sister fisherman who are caught in the middle of a large battle between opposing countries war ships, and the brother sees his sister blasted with a canon ball. He then for the rest of the song, is hell bent on killing the kings of the countries waging war. That's the other thing, for some reason all my songs end up on the sea. I don't know why, maybe it's because more of the unpredictable can happen at sea? [laughter]
I Look for the same story elements in film, but with film I'm more of a realist. I love documentary film, my favorite being "It Might get Loud." I want to be able to catch real emotion, hardships or joy for along period of time, sit down with that footage, and then spin it into a story. All in all, I want to take you on some sort of ride, that you'll hopefully get something out of.
That's part of the reason why I liked The Weight of Wales. Before we explore how Spoonfed is related to all this, I want to get back to basics. You mentioned being involved with music for a long time. How did you get your start? What first inspired you to learn and create music?
I grew up in a house always playing greats like The Beatles, Harry Nilsson, Eric Clapton, so I was surrounded by a great base of music to begin with. Throughout elementary school, middle and high school I did choral groups because I loved the way sacred and gospel songs sounded. To get 133 people in a room to sing softly and beautifully really amazed me, as it should with anybody! It wasn't until high school that Scott Baker on a warm spring day introduced me to The White Stripes in his car. The song was "Black Math," the album was "Elephant," and from that point on I fell into a hole of obsessions. Blues music was, and IS where it's at. I didn't stop at current bands like The White Stripes or The Black keys, I needed to find out what kind of people inspired sounds like this. I started to fall in love with musicians who have become staples in my influences, more notably Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, BB King and Ray Charles. Because I grew up in a world where the internet and youtube was being developed, I was able to watch these musicians play songs from old footage spanning back to the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Watching these people made we want to feel the same things they were feeling when performing, so I started teaching myself guitar on my dad's Harmony electric, and climbed from there.
Playing music and being part of bands, I'm sure that there are some memorable ones. What experience influenced you during what I'd dub your "developmental" period. The time when you first jumped into playing with others.
I was in a dorky band called The Midnight Nice Guys in high school, and that band was great because there was no real pressure in the music making. There were 4 minds at work, and usually the ideas that were created or put on the table, everyone could relate to, or everyone loved. We were in it to play shows ad have a great time, and I think that really bled through in our music. We started playing shows outside of the high school and started playing in Downtown Columbus, a place called "The Basement." The basement is still up, and still a great venue. We tried to play there as much as we could, because we started to play with local bands that were a then a large part of the local scene there. I loved seeing other bands and other people passionate about the same thing that I was doing. One of my more memorable shows there was playing this song we wrote called "Snaked and Scatterbrained," and it's memorable because it seemed like at that moment, everybody was dancing, we were dancing, acting like fools, playing music people could enjoy,... and it was like I had finally seen what music could do to people, that this is what music is supposed to be.
I think in a way, that also brings to light your dedication for the local Columbus music scene. Where did your dedication for it originate from or is it simply because it's home to you? How did the dedication end up manifesting itself into what is now Spoonfeed?
In high school I hated Columbus, but in high school I think I hated everything. I shut myself away from everything because I was in HS, doing homework, and getting to that angsty stage where I just wanted to move out and get to college. But of course, it's not until you move out that you realize how much you missed while you were too busy being all hormonal and whatever. While in college at Heidelberg U (Tiffin, OH) i started to hear about friends forming bands. I started to hear their music, then more-so their accomplishments... every time I heard something new, I felt farther away from things that seemed to matter more than being angry or being defensive. On my breaks and returns home, I spent many nights going to shows and seeing my friend's bands play, which introduced me to other bands ... and the great thing was, these were not shitty bands! As I went to more shows, I started to ask more questions... like why weren't these bands signed? Wasn't there a local label in town watching these people do all these great things? Why aren't the audiences more passionate about the scene, and all the music that's here? In college, there was nothing I could do about it, but when I graduated in May and returned, i met others who had the same questions I had, and together we started the Spoonfeed idea.
The dedication came from a mutual love of local art and music that was shared between Julian Smith, Larry Doyle, Kate Sweeney and myself. Originally, we were supposed to be nothing more than just another music blog, filming cool things around the city to just spread the word and get residents to become more passionate and buy into the scene. Well, because we are all artists and musicians ourselves, we started to dream bigger with each week... what if we did exclusive filmed performances in our living room? What if we released compilation records showcasing bands big and small? What if we became a record label?
Did we have all the resources to become professional? No. I had a degree, Julian had a way with words, and Larry/Kate had great visual art talents. So we just started working, and developing content that we thought looked good, or content that would appeal to Columbus audiences. We got excited, which then got us to create more, which then attracted like minds to start working with us, which then eventually pushed Spoonfeed to be an official local label. We've been able to achieve so much with some cheap cameras, a sharp eye and love for local creativity. So i guess, it's just been a snowball rolling down a hill ever since our launch on October first, and honestly, I can't think of any better way to operate.
That's pretty awesome. It's nice to start out with a group of friends doing something like this for the community! Aside from Spoonfed activities, what kind of bands do you play in now? Any releases our readers should keep an eye out for?
Yea, my main project is a group called The Weight of Whales, last year we released our second EP online, "We Became a Major Corporation." That's been getting a lot of attention to our surprise and glee, so we're playing a handful of shows in April and May in Columbus to help that along. I've been working on a small handful of songs that I'll release as a solo EP under the name Bone Broke. That release should be out within a month or so. Finally, I'm working on pieces for a few short films for film students in OH. You can fan either of those acts on Facebook.
You're a pretty busy person and when that happens we always need down time. What helps you wind down from the inevitable stress that some of these projects do create?
I collect vinyl records, and actually love listening to vinyl records, no matter what the world labels kids who buy vinyl. There is a warm feeling that comes from listening to music in vinyl, and I have some GREAT vinyl. Some of my favorites include Fats Waller, DangerDoom, Jimi Hendrix and of course, Howlin Wolf. I also have family in town, so when I'm not busy I make time to be with my sisters who love video games, ice cream and potty jokes. Which, really, who can argue with that combination?
Ice cream and video games, my kind of girls. All in all, is there a certain goal that you are trying to attain with everything you're doing? Something that once you achieve it, you won't have to put out as much effort?
I think my goal is to just not feel stagnant. I can't stand feeling like nothing is moving, or nothing is going on. I need my life to be one long, weird adventure. I'll do crazy things if it means I can just experience something or some story that I haven't yet experienced. I don't want to feel stagnant, and I want to share. I want to see people smile when they see SF, I want people to get the same lift in their bodies when they hear some of the music I hear coming out of this city. I never want to get to a point where I don't have to put in too much effort, because then I'm not close to the project. I'm not invested at that point, and when that day comes, I'll either retire and own a milkshake shop, or live in the mountains at a nudist colony or something. I figure if I get to the point where I have to slow down or stop working, then life won't be worth living unless I've rendered it unnecessary for clothing, or drinking a milkshake.
I find it amazing how freeing nudist colonies can be. On that note, are there any last thoughts you'd like to share with us?
Yes, if you're reading this, thanks for your time, and please do something that will make you uncomfortable today. There's a 50/50 chance you'll hate it, but a 100% chance you'll walk away with a story to tell someone. Thanks Sarah!
Thank you for doing this interview with me, Jeff! Hopefully people check out all your projects!