@ Pappy and Harriet’s, Thursday, September 22nd, 8 p.m. FIRST COME FIRST SERVE

“The most problematic times for the band were when we tried to play by the rules. When we just said, ‘Screw that! We’re just going to do what we want,’ like make a record about lesbian pirates and put on a vaudeville-like show…those ideas were limitless.” – Sally Timms

By Lisa Morgan

There are few bands who survive the music industry without bending to it, sacrificing integrity, authenticity, and pure artistry, in exchange for a piece of the proverbial “big payoff” or “deal.” And while ASCAP, BMI and musician’s unions fight seemingly to no avail for the monetary rights stripped from song-crafters, it would seem that artists in today’s music industry are becoming more and more powerless against the corporate machine. Yet, The Mekons have survived since 1977 with their tenaciously adoring cult following, and their love for their craft and each other. Mekons have been sticking it to the proverbial “Man” in true Punk Rock fashion since their departure from A&M. As long time member Sally Timms says, “Commercialism doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant.” They simply refuse to do it for the money or the fame. So while you may never see the Mekons accepting a trophy at the Teen Choice Awards, you will definitely be treated to a show that will be part of your own creative spark for a lifetime. These personable artists have been mastering their craft, reinventing and re-mastering it for over 30 years. The show at Pappy and Harriet’s this Thursday, is one of only ten shows they’ll be doing this year, and the one you will most likely regret not seeing the most, should you make such a fateful decision.

The Mekons are one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands in existence. The Mekons can be described as a post-punkcowpunk and/or alt country band, but they’ve also been known to experiment with dub step. I had the absolute pleasure of catching up with longtime member, Sally Timms. This incredibly well spoken and passionate artist, born in Leeds, England, had much insight as to what keeps the Mekons thriving, and what any tribe of minstrels should embody as they pursue their art.


CVW: “I imagine you are asked this a lot; after all, it is part of the inspiration for the documentary, ‘The Revenge of the Mekons’…but what, in your opinion, is the cord that has kept all of you individual artists working together in this particular project for all of these years?”

Simms: “You used the word ‘artists’… that is interesting and telling. That is the connection to why we’ve kept going. The band was initially started by a group of Fine Arts students at the University of Leeds who were also going through a punk rock kind of hiff. They left the University to be in the band and took a sabbatical from their degrees because the band seemed like a more valid way of making art than staying in school. It kind of informs as to what they do – they came from an intense, rigorous, intellectual art school background (I didn’t; I came later). So their ideas about making art were pretty interesting. It wasn’t just, ‘We paint,’ or ‘Hey, let’s get together and be in a band because we love playing music,’ for them. The thing that came first was the idea and the concept. So that’s what has permeated the whole ethos of the band, and why it’s managed to.”

“There were a lot of situational ideas in the punk movement back then. The era affected me in a different way because I was friends with all these people but didn’t come from that background of learning. I came from a different angle, which was Punk Rock; the ideal was that anybody who wants to, can make something musically, you can put out into the world, and it’s OK to do that. It was game changing for a lot of people. I don’t think anyone went through that movement in England without being in a band that I knew, or without being really affected by the ideas of it. That’s basically the reason we’ve stayed together this long; we all came together for a reason – it wasn’t for making money or even to just to make music. It was more of a community idea that you can make things and put it out there and it wouldn’t matter if five people were listening or 5000; you just did it – you expressed yourself.”

“The ethic of self sufficiency came from Punk Rock too. We’ve never waited for someone to give us money. We’re savvy. We don’t make a lot of money from the band (we don’t make livings with our music). We make it work within whatever context we have. So if we want to go on tour we make it a financially viable thing. We don’t go on tour and loose personal money. And we try and make it an exciting event for people who are interested and the reason we do that, is it makes it exciting for ourselves. And if it’s not exciting for us, then no one else is going to be excited by it.”

“We’ve always been quite careful of not over stressing ourselves. We have done that in the past. The most problematic times for the band were when we tried to play by the rules, which is what you do when you have a label and you try to make a record people will buy, make a hit, make a video… go through all the motions of how you typically behaved in the music industry at that time. When we did that, it was always really really hard. But when we just said, ‘Screw that! We’re just going to do what we want,’ like make a record about lesbian pirates and put on a vaudeville like show, or touring the highlands of Scotland, or doing a book, or an art show – those ideas were limitless and exciting for us as a band. It’s a long answer to the question, but those are the reasons we are able to keep doing this. ”

“The other reason, which is unusual, we all actually like each other. We’re not a band that came together just because each person had a role to play musically. We did meet each other through those things, but for the most part, we’re really happy to be in each other’s company and that is a great thing.”

CVW: “What do you account for the longevity and loyalty of your fan base?”

Timms: “I don’t think people who admire us necessary like all our albums or even like our music, but I think people really respond to the idea of what we are. The fact that we do things that challenge the way that a band on our level can function.”

“Each show charts a weird course, and it still works for us. Even if it didn’t, we would still do it, because we came from the background that commercialism doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. Obviously we need to make money; the band would exist very differently if people didn’t want to come to our shows or we didn’t get paid. But even then, I think we would still find a way around it. I think people focus too much on money. What I don’t think people should do is carry on indefinitely overstressing their lives in order to do their art… Like musicians thinking they can go out on tour 6 months out of the year making no money when they’re in their 50s. If you love it, do it, but you have to re-think that balance. We don’t tour often. We get together for about 3 weeks a year. We get nice breaks, and that works for us.”

CVW: “Are there plans for a new record?”

Timms: “We’re going to be recording in Yucca Valley after our show at Gatos Trail – Recording Studio, and write a desert influenced record. We decide to go out in the desert and see what happens. I’ve been to Joshua Tree before, but the others haven’t. I’m a big Gram Parsons fan – there’s so much history there and mythology around music there. The concept is this: we’re going to make a record in the day time, and we’ll do a mirror record in the evening while we sit outside at night and make a camp fire record. The first will be a studio based album and the other a more casual instant record. We’ll see how that works, and then release them together. We try to make use of ‘place.’ We start with concepts.”

The Mekons, known for their raucous live shows and one of the longest-running and most prolific of the first-wave British punk rock bands, will be bringing all 8 pieces to Pappy and Harriet’s, and play much of their old and new material. “We have great opening bands,” added Timms. “Sun Foot with Chris Johanson, who is also a visual artist, has quirky beautiful music, and Sam Coomes, half of the indie band, Quasi, will open as well. Both of them are very much worth seeing too.”

Follow Mekons on Facebook: www.facebook.com/mekons

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