If Meth Teeth sound like a Northeast Portland house show-weaned noise punk band that listened to a lot of those Mississippi Records cassette compilations of American folk music arcane, it's because they are and they did.
Originally a rebound solo project for guitarist and vocalist Mattey Hunter to explore his earthy side following the breakup of a few neo-no-wave bands he was playing in, Meth Teeth soon grew to include wunderkind drummer, designer, and audio engineer Kyle Raquipiso. At the time, Raquipiso had just moved to Portland from Kennewick, Washington, in order to pursue a degree at Pacific Northwest College of Art, aided by the funds he'd been awarded as the winner of the Sub Pop Loser Scholarship for culturally precocious Northwest teens.
The band, currently a trio with second guitarist Aaron Levy, has suffered enough setbacks in personnel changes and equipment failures that they dubbed their debut LP of signal-saturated, Pixies-by-way-of-Pussy-Galore, art-scuzz folk Everything Went Wrong. But enough went right that the album was released this month on Brooklyn buzz label Woodsist, home to Meth Teeth kinfolk Kurt Vile and Ganglians.
MERCURY: The Meth Teeth origin myth has it that you started writing these songs as solo acoustic numbers, and were only subsequently convinced to make them band pieces. Do you think of your music as coming from a folk tradition or does the electric trio setup ground it more in rock?
MATTEY HUNTER: I think it's very much folk based, in the sense that I was just writing what came to me with no thought of trying to make it sound like anything else, especially. The electric-trio part is an afterthought. Plus, us all coming from punk backgrounds it's really the only way we know how to present these ideas. At a punk show for a crowd of people who would normally never give a folk record the time of day, it's a strange band. Bummed-out folk songs presented for a sometimes-reluctant punk/garage crowd. But that's just how it came out.
One of the signatures of your sound is the conspicuous tambourine. What about that instrument made you all want to feature it more prominently than as just a percussive flourish?
We have a really thrashed drum set. It was stolen when I bought it. It has obviously been thrown off stages. The snare drum sounds like a trashcan, it doesn't even cut through the mix. But if you bang a tambourine on it, it becomes audible.
Now that your album is out, what's next on the Meth Teeth docket? Developing trench mouth or lockjaw or anything?
Tour in spring or summer for the Woodsist LP for sure. Kyle is playing a bunch with Meercaz these days. It would be cool to do a new record next year if the songs come. I really love this band but I don't want to put out a second record that sounds like a boring version of the first one so we might do things a little differently for the next one. Our two ideas thus far: more instruments and members, or just saying fuck it and totally go acoustic. We'll see. I think and hope ultimately that we can become more fluid and more of a band when we play rather than a recording project first and a live show second. We've been jamming a lot lately at practice and have even started to include Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" from Piper at the Gates of Dawn in the set just to try to loosen it up a bit.
Meth Teeth plays the Doug Fir on Sunday, November 22.