Dark Meat at SXSW. Kelly O

Dark Meat's publicity describes them as "Stooges meets Neil Young, meets Albert Ayler." I can get with Iggy and the Crazy Horse, but Ayler was a saxophonist. I like a saxophone about as much as I like a greasy chicken thigh from KFC. Dark meat? Yuck.

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But at SXSW, the Athens, Georgia, psych-rock collective played a Vice Records showcase, sandwiched between Canadian hardcore band Fucked Up and Tennessee garage punk Jay Reatard, and it was the most honest, raw, and excited performance of the entire fest.

The Meat hit the stage with a full horn section and 18-plus hippie crazy-heads. It was instant, brilliant mayhem. Headbanging! Dancing! Confetti! Some girls, let's call 'em Starshine and the Happy Bunch, ran around smearing neon paint on people's faces. Someone hit me in the head with a glow stick.

I should hate this hippie shit. Instead, Dark Meat's debut, Universal Indians, is the only CD I've purchased since that show. I interviewed bassist Ben Clack to figure out why I suddenly feel like learning to play the tambourine, joining Starshine and the H-Bunch, and jumping on Dark Meat's crazy magic bus, never to return.

How many members are on this tour, and have you ever accidentally lost anyone? Forgot someone in a gas station bathroom, maybe?
No less than 13, no more than 23. We've only ever accidentally lost one member, but quickly swooped her back up again, in Baltimore.

Was your 1972 tour bus ever a church bus? You didn't buy it from some Mormons in Texas, did you?
No. It was actually used to ferry passengers from Montana to Calgary. Later it was in We Are Marshall, a film about a football team that dies in a plane wreck. Hopefully that's not an omen.

Some of you live on a commune called Orange Twin. What's that about?
Orange Twin is a land-conservation community, built on an old Girl Scout camp in 1947. It's basically an ecofriendly farm. Check out www.orangetwin.com for more info.

You guys play all sorts of unconventional instruments—bamboo flutes, piccolos, beer cans. What's the weirdest instrument you've ever used onstage?
For a while we had a Celtic harp, then we dumped that shit. Now, probably the weirdest is the Raager (pronounced roger), who is our drone box from India.

You guys look like hippies but play like punks. Punks are usually mean to hippies. Has anyone ever been mean to you, thinking you're a stinkin' hippie?
There's no difference in my mind. We're just poor people with big record collections who are interested in internal exploration. I mean, Void doesn't sound like the Incredible String Band, but I love both of them. I just base my life goals, or visions, on visual expression.

Who do you think would win a stare down: Albert Ayler or Iggy Pop? Johnny Rotten or Captain Beefheart? Neil Young or Glenn Danzig?
Albert Ayler would nuke Iggy. Beefheart would take Rotten. And Neil Young would certainly win, because he's much bigger than Glenn.

What's the meaning of the song "There Is a Retard on Acid Holding a Hammer to Your Brain"?
It's actually a positive message. The song was written for a dear friend of mine [who was] going through a meltdown. Lots of dark things were entering his life and the decisions he was forced to make were becoming absurd. I thought the image suited the absurdity that drug addiction can bring into your life. The lyric "It's your life and you hate it, but it's your life just the same" underlies the whole thing—basically, finding the strength to make decisions to keep living.

Your live shows are incredible—what's the longest set you've ever played? And what's the craziest thing you've seen someone in the audience do during a show?
One of the best shows we ever had was totally by accident and ended up lasting about seven hours. It was in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. We played our normal one-hour set and then headed over to play an afterparty for about six more hours. We wound up back at the Bazaar, eating Cuban breakfast and smoking hookahs as the sun rose. The place got fucking wild. The people there were amazing.

As for crazy audience participation, that might be Diplo taking off his shirt and scaling the rafters and hanging upside down, throwing beach balls at people [at SXSW]. That shit was hilarious.

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Last question: Porn star Belladonna has a DVD series called Dark Meat—do you think that's going to cause you guys any problems?
Our actual name is Dark Meat/Vomit Lasers Family Band/Galaxy. It would be awesome to see someone make a porn out of that title. I wonder what orifice would be involved in the vomit laser. I hope she doesn't sue us. Our name is actually simple in origin. We liked the connotation of the physiological construction of dark meat—the meat near the bone, slowly twitching. recommended

kelly@thestranger.com

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