The Dead Deads are an interesting band. On the verge of releasing their new album ‘Tell Your Girls It’s Alright’, they’ve already picked up many a famous follower (Corey Taylor is a particular fan), and when we pin down singer-guitarist Meta Dead for a chat, she’s in her studio writing some children’s music for a new show on Amazon Prime. Versatile, right?
Hey Meta! Who are you all, when did you meet, and whose idea was it to form the band?
Meta on guitar, Daisy on bass, and McQueen on drums. Daisy and I met in college, and we met McQueen through our mutual friend Derry Deborja who plays with Jason Isbell. We started the band for fun, and it quickly became more when we got invited on our first tour with Halestorm. We recorded our first album live to tape in three days to get it done in time for that tour. It was mixed overnight and mastered the morning it had to be turned in!
You’re based in Nashville, right? What’s that like? It always seems like a supportive scene?
Nashville’s great! You can start a band by accident here. We see it happen all the time, just like it did with us. The scene is supportive and friendly, and open to newcomers. Modern rock doesn’t have as big of a stronghold here as other genres, but it’s definitely a place where anything goes. After the vaccine came out, we’ve seen all our favourite local rock stars get right back at it and the community coming out in full support.
What have been the highlights of your time together so far?
I think all of us really enjoyed meeting and playing with KISS on the KISS KRUISE. It was crazy to look over my shoulder and see Paul Stanley bobbin’ his head to our tunes. They also gave us some fashion advice we incorporated. We also met our friends The Darkness on that cruise which added to the fun. Getting interviewed by Matt Pinfield was pretty surreal- and then we interviewed him! Got some gooooood stories out of him, and his workout routine breakdown. Ha! Taking a few days off in Yellowstone together was very memorable—we played an acoustic show at the place we were staying to cover our bill, and were able to just spend few days exploring. The boiling river was a highlight we made sure to hit twice. The duet with Corey Taylor was a big moment. Getting to watch side stage for all the bands we’ve toured with… getting to know people all over the world… watching the Dead Corps grow… all just really fun and special.
You’re about to release your new album, ‘Tell Your Girls It’s Alright’ – how long has it been in the works for? What was your starting point?
This is our fifth album, but our first on Rumble Records. We generally have to slam through album creation. Like I was saying, that first record being recorded in three days, or the next one’s being written and recorded between tours. ‘TYGIA’ was the first record we got to take our time with, and then due to the cancellation of our North American tour with The Darkness, we were able to put even more time into it. We started writing for it a couple of years ago, and basically wrote for it up until the final mix. It’s hard to put down the paintbrush when you don’t have to.
It’s a super fun record, really interesting and eclectic – what’s your writing process like?
More often than not, we all gather at McQueen’s house to write together. Hot tip — for best morale, go to the drummer’s place. One person starts with a musical idea, and then music begins to form. Often I’m filling in melody and the beginning of the lyrics right on top of it as we go. Some songs take a few practices to form, and some come to us very quickly. Once the song has a structure, we’ll record a voice memo of it, and I’ll rock that in my car on the way home from the writing session to craft the lyrics. At the next writing session, we’ll review it with the singing and see if we love it or want to lose it or improve it. I think we tend to feel like if you have to beat a tune into submission over several sessions, perhaps it’s not for us. We release that one back into the ether for the right artist to discover.
Do songs find you, or do you have to find them?
I’d say we do go after them, but they often become more than what we were looking for as they form. We might plan to write a heavy doom metal song, but end up with a punk thing because we wanted to play faster, or the parts just fell in such a way that the direction of the song changed. That’s the great thing about being genre-neutral. We don’t have a set of rules we have to abide by to have a “good” song, and we don’t have a label that’s asking for “a hit” or a specific vibe. Bless Rumble Records.
How did you develop your sound into what it is today? Were you this broad and inventive straight out of the gate?
I think our latest record is really a return to the heart of the first record, but with the experience of hundreds of shows and thousands of miles to wisen our delivery. Our influences are so widely diverse, but at one point, we did do a short stint of trying to wrangle that into something more streamlined and radio-friendly. I think everyone should try that, but for us and for fans of this band, I think it really is and always has been about being authentic, silly, serious and surprising. Our sound developed by saying yes to every creative idea in our writing sessions and keeping the ones that made us smile or headbang. Haha. If it felt good to us, we kept it – even if it was in 7/8 or 5/4. I will also say, an odd time signature is the one thing we will bang our head against the wall to get right because the payoff of dancing while playing those oddy beats is crazy satisfying.
What are your favourite topics to write about?
For this band, I’ve found I favour earthy, fact-based metaphors. Historic events, storms, apocalypse, aliens, beasts, death, injury, space, oceans, trees, etc. Tangible stuff that has a little dirt or grit to it. In the same way, we like to write music that takes the familiar and gives it a slight shift; I like taking a very common feeling and assigning a strange world in which it can develop. I often get Daisy to tell me about the books she’s reading, and I will try to craft something that gives a nod to our discussion. A lot of it is an attempt to delight the band and make them feel proud of what we are putting forward. As the lyricist, you are speaking for a group in a way, so it’s important to me that what I’m singing is something they will vibe with as well.
What’s your experience with music outside of the band?
I’ve been writing music since I was 5. My mom caught me doing it, and I thought I was in trouble for “making up” music, but the next day she gave me a cassette recorder and taught me how to record myself singing. It’s been on ever since. I’ve been in many bands over the years and always enjoyed performing solo as well. Music is just part of life for me, no matter what. Currently, other than The Dead Deads, I write music for tv and film — mostly cartoons — with my husband and other composers in our collective we call Cake in Space. I just sang the theme song for an awesome new show called The Barbarian and the Troll on Nickelodeon, and I wrote all the songs for the season, so check it out if you like Shrek-style humour and silly songs. I write songs for lots of kids shows, so if that interests people, they can check Cake in Space for a list of shows we do.
What else have you lot got coming up?
The album comes out 20th August, and we’ll celebrate with a small hometown show with limited capacity. After that, we’ll be hitting the road this fall to support the record in the US. Bucket list definitely includes UK tour, late-night TV, and playing some of the wonderful European rock festivals I’ve been following since I was a kid. You know anyone that could help us with any of those?
Taken from the September issue of Upset. The Dead Deads’ album ‘Tell Your Girls It’s Alright’ is out 20th August.