Maybe it was fitting that things got all echoe-y and whooshy and hard to make out. I was interviewing the members of the band Dead Meadow, who were driving from Albuquerque to San Antonio, and they put me on speaker phone. That's when the sound went psychedelic. I could still hear what they were saying, but my voice got funneled back at me, in a hall-of-mirrors effect, smeared and reverberated and washing over everything. Who was saying what became an open question at times.
It's fitting because Dead Meadow, formerly from D.C., now stationed in Los Angeles, is a stoner rock trio fond of distorted, murky textures, heavy echo, blankets of reverb and other kinds of molten effects that generally turn it sound into something like what you imagine a smoldering flow of lava would sound like if converted into music. "Extreme echo is awesome," says frontman Jason Simon, unrelated to the quality of our phone connection.
The band plays the Spaceland Ballroom in Hamden on Feb. 16. At the end of last year Dead Meadow just released its most recent record, "Warble Womb," which finds the trio back to its roots with original drummer Mark Laughlin. (Laughlin quit the band in 2002 and rejoined just a few years ago.)
The Dead Meadow balances both maximalist and minimalist impulses. The sound is totally saturated, with lumbering bass, flickering snarls of shrill strobing guitars and droney vocal harmonies, but there's something clinically pared-down about it. Particularly in the drumming. Laughlin — unlike a lot of drummers — does not play when he doesn't need to. He often avoids cymbal accents and those steady time-orienting pulses on hi-hat or rides. He's not a show boat. The wallop of kick and snare anchor everything, with the occasional boom of a tomtom or the reverberant wash of a gong-like crash.
If psychedelic and stoner rock seem like genres that invite excess, Dead Meadow doesn't entirely go in for that — though it's not like they're spartan monks or anything.
"We've gotten pretty good over the years at learning how to edit things," says bassist Steven Kille. That doesn't mean they avoid trippy frills like the organ-like drone of a harmonium, the polyrhythmic burblings of tabla drums or the disorienting effects of backwards tape, when appropriate.
When the band emerged in the late-90s, it seemed to harken back to the abstract guitar-centric blasts of My Bloody Valentine, and even farther to the blistering distortion of '60s rockers Blue Cheer.
"When we first started playing no one really knew what to make of us," says Kille. "Now you have a whole exploding indie-psych scene — drones and that sort of sound collage are more prevalent."
Dead Meadow got a kind of promotional boost back in 2006 when the band's music was featured in the critically acclaimed series "The Wire" (created by Simon's uncle, David Simon.)
Though there are mellow acoustic tracks on "Warble Womb," anyone attending the show should expect body-pounding volume.
"The live show's also about the energy of it and having loud amps," says Kille.
Volume is part of the deal. This music sounds best punishingly loud. But the decibels also serve as a kind of purification, says Simon. "Sometimes really loud music blows everything else out of people's heads."
DEAD MEADOW plays The Spaceland Ballroom in Hamden on Feb. 16 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $12. Information: www.manicproductions.org.