The pandemic has caused some of the most confusing times in modern history. For example: Even though concerts are back, the virus is still around—so who knows if any given show will actually happen?
Meatbodies is a band that knows all about the shifting landscape of the music industry. Frontman Chad Ubovich has left his mark all over the garage-rock music scene, thanks to his work with Meatbodies, his bass-playing with Fuzz (alongside Ty Segall and Charles Moothart) and his work as a producer. Meatbodies’ sound is heavy, psychedelic, garage-y, fuzzy and eclectic. Songs range from a mostly mellow psych journey (“Fools Fold Their Hands”) to, well, an answer to the question: What if Devo went super heavy (“Mountain”)?
The band is slated to perform at The Alibi in Palm Springs on Friday, July 22.
“With how things are in the world with the pandemic right now, I think we’re realizing that a lot of time has passed, and we have to get out there,” Ubovich said during a recent phone interview. “Coming back into shows, it’s a little weird, and it’s been kind of a learning curve. Sometimes, shows will be amazing, and sometimes, people don’t want to come out because of COVID. The one thing that you have to do, especially if you’re in our position, is just keep playing. It’s not like all the shows are going to be sold out, and there’s really no way to gauge that for anybody, no matter how big you are. It’s really just about not stopping, and keeping going.”
Ubovich said most performing musicians feel like they need to work now.
“We’ve been cooped up in the house for two years, and since basically all of America is just opening up, the message is: Everyone, get to work,” he said. “We have to work; we have to go out there.”
That said, touring is more challenging than ever, Ubovich said.
“The problem is that there aren’t these mandates anymore on venues, or anything encouraging COVID prevention at all,” Ubovich said. “If the musicians get sick during tour—because, obviously, they’re going to be going from town to town in massive areas with massive amounts of gathered people—then there are going to be these COVID moments, and that’s what I’ve been noticing with a lot of bands going on the road. They’re out there, and then all of a sudden, they have to cancel. It’s this weird dance, and I would say no one really knows what to do. We need to get out there, but it’s kind of up to us to not get COVID or something—even though we have no control over that. We’re just there to play! I don’t think it makes any sense.”
It’s not just the smaller bands getting the short end of the figurative COVID stick, either.
“When Fuzz was touring America, we got lucky that most of our entire crew, and Ty and Charles, got COVID before we went out, so no one had to worry,” Ubovich said. “At the same time we were touring, so was The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and I was following their posts. We were kind of mirroring each other—they were on the East Coast, and we were on the West Coast—and we played a few of the same venues, but they were playing these bigger venues. Anton (Newcombe, founder of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) would be like, ‘All right, someone got COVID in our thing; we’ve got to cancel these shows.’ It was just kind of everywhere.
“I think maybe, if there was a little bit more of a precaution with mass gatherings, maybe something could be figured out, but right now, it’s settling all on relying on musicians to make their date to play—but then they’re going to get sick and have to cancel. I think we’re going to have to implement some rule about everyone wearing masks when we go into a venue, and that’s just all we can do.”
Of course, musicians have to deal with “normal” human illnesses, too—such as in early January, when Fuzz had to postpone the band’s tour after Ubovich contracted pneumonia.
“The beginning of this year was definitely one of the most interesting, new and psychedelic experiences of my life,” Ubovich said. “I got pneumonia, but essentially, it was from other things—which, most importantly, was the house that I was living in. It was condemned, and we didn’t know. I was living there for about eight years, and I ended up in the hospital. I was sick with pneumonia for two months prior, and finally, the doctors just kind of told me, ‘You’ve got to go to the hospital.’ I did, and a month later, I got out, and I’ve been in recovery since.”
Getting his health back has been Ubovich’s main priority.
“The moment I got into the hospital, a lot of family members and other people told me, ‘You’re gonna make so much art; you should write a book about this experience,’” Ubovich said. “I don’t know about that. Maybe people who have had hospital stays before can agree with me, but when you’re out, you’re out. I never want to look back. Maybe my new songs will sound more free, but I don’t really know what I’m going to take away from that experience.”
Meatbodies’ latest studio album is the psychedelically haunting and shifting 333, which came out last year.
“During COVID, everybody was kind of in the midst of having so much time on their hands since they weren’t touring,” Ubovich said. “I made an album; I think Ty (Segall) made, like, five. Every time he was coming out with something, I’m like, ‘Wait so which one is this?’ There’s a lot more time to write and get content and create when people are trying to avoid going out—but we have to go out; we have to play; and we have to tour. It becomes a standstill if you just kind of never tour.”
The album 333 was, in part, a product of a positive COVID test—and wasn’t the album that Ubovich and his bandmates were originally recording.
“We were demoing and writing this album, and then COVID happened,” Ubovich said. “I was literally in the studio, doing the last mixes, and I think that week, I got word that the guy I was mixing with got COVID—then, boom, everyone’s (stuck) inside their house. I was going through all the demos, and I was like, ‘Let’s just put this shit out. Everything’s weird; no one knows what to do, so let’s just put this shit out.’ That’s essentially what 333 is; it wasn’t supposed to be an album. That other album is still in the works—and once again, I just decided to move the mixing to my studio at my house, and I was working on that, and then I got sick, so I’ve been taking a big break from it.
“I moved, so I need to create a new studio, and then I need to fire things up, and we’re going to listen to (the songs). I did listen to some of it on this last tour, and some of it is pretty fucking good.”
Meatbodies will perform with Spoon Benders at 8 p.m., Friday, July 22, at The Alibi Palm Springs, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15 in advance. For more information, visit www.thealibipalmsprings.com.