“We’re better than all those bands … and also, we write real songs,” testifies frog-throated Mickey Melchiondo in reference to the plethora of “jam bands” to which his popular rock ’n’ roll outfit, Ween, is constantly compared.
From his hotel room in Burlington, Vt., Melchiondo takes a minute to discuss the inner-workings of Ween — a diverse rock band whose style and craft can safely be categorized as somewhere “between clever and stupid.” Hah.
Even through the haze of last night’s party and the tour schedule-induced sleep deprivation, it is easy to tell that Melchiondo is passionate about his art. In the realm of pop culture, the music that he and longtime bandmate Aaron Freeman create is definitely left-of-center. That is the whole point.
Their sound is a veritable hodgepodge of varying musical styles and their ethos leaves listeners perplexed. Somewhere in a musical labyrinth of Sun Ra, Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, Ween has carved out a contemporary sound that has kept it on the musical map for over a decade now.
“There’s elements of Ween that kids think that they can latch onto,” says Melchiondo.
Constant touring and a reputation for “playing ’til they can’t play no more” has brought out the minions.
“We have that in common with bands like the Grateful Dead,” says Melchiondo.
“But I think Ween has a really big cross-section of fans. There’s a lot of hippies, a lot of punkers, a lot of kids our age … the one thing that all these people have in common is, like, they come to get trashed and have a good time.”
But a good time isn’t exactly what the members from Ween were having during the recording of their eighth album, Quebec, on Sanctuary Records.
“It’s not a very happy record,” he says.
“Our drummer Claude Coleman had just about been killed in an [auto] accident right before we started recording,” he explains.
And while Coleman was recuperating from his near-death experience, lead singer Freeman endured a separation from his wife and a custody battle over his 5-year-old daughter. The tension and mish-mash of emotions felt by band members during recording definitely crept into Quebec — the songs leap from one genre to the next.
“Hey There Fancypants” conjures images of a 1940s Blitz Dance, while “So Many People In The Neighborhood” provokes that shimmy your 2-year-old niece does while watching “The Wiggles.”
“Zoloft,” a ticklish song named after the oft-prescribed anti-depressant, has Freeman tweeting numbed lyrics like “no longer pissed and you don’t bother me.”
For those who find Ween’s schizo nature too difficult to swallow, Melchiondo puts it all into perspective.
“We take everything on a song-by-song basis … we pick the best songs for the album and hope there’s some cohesiveness to all of it.”
The theme is “anti-theme” — take it or leave it.
Melchiondo, who has been writing music with Freeman for almost twenty years, explains that, “It’s one continuing thing.”
“We have bigger crowds, I think we’re better, somehow.”
Ween will be performing ’til they can’t perform no mo’ at the State Theatre (2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit). Call 313-961-5450 for more information. Mon., Nov. 10. (Please note that the date has been changed — Tickets for the Nov. 5th show will be honored.)E-mail Scott Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.