She hates dubstep but we love her just the same: a chat w/ Carly Meyers (Mike Dillon Band & Yojimbo)

Carly Meyers in Yojimbo
Carly Meyers in Yojimbo

Carly Meyers first burst onto our attention span while at High Sierra Music Festival 2012 as part of the “backing” section of the Mike Dillon Band. She sat in on Skerik’s Horn-o-copia artist workshop later that weekend, and suddenly we realized that we would be seeing an incredible amount of this young performer in the future. She immediately stood out as someone that was giving her all on stage, whether that was part of Yojimbo (her other band from New Orleans) or part of Mike Dillon’s regular touring band. She also just took a quick trip to the Pacific Northwest to do three shows as part of Skerik’s Bandalabra.

She’s been making waves wherever she can, and thankfully Pete Merriman got a chance to sit down and chat with her while she’s on her rise in the scene. In the interview, they talked about her musical influences, songwriting, the city of New Orleans, her plans for 2014, even her thoughts on dubstep. Check it out. —Editor

carly stanton

LMB: 2013 must’ve been a whirlwind for you guys, having been on the road for 8 months straight. So when you’re touring for that long, how do you keep it fresh and get pumped for each show?
CM: I think its related to the artist’s pursuit of playing better every night, and thats what get us so excited. Mike’s always writing new music, so that keeps it fresh and then of course, the crowds! They’re excited, and even if there aren’t a lot of people there you have to work twice as hard.

LMB: So are there any specific shows or experiences that stand out from the past year?
CM: Our New Orleans shows are always a blast. The recent gig at Tipitina’s was especially memorable, and we did a string of dates opening for Fishbone last winter which was incredible.

LMB: Did you grow up listening to them?
CM: I didn’t actually, but I love that music. I didn’t grow up listening to them, it was a more recent discovery for me, and it was definitely one of those breakthrough moments, like “why haven’t I been growing up with this music, it’s amazing!” What they were doing was completely revolutionary. So that was cool to see this band that has this pure energy every night, and that definitely inspired us as well. I talked to Angelo [Fishbone’s lead singer and saxophone player] about that, he said “you know, I have to move every night because otherwise…” thats just who he is first of all. And if he doesn’t otherwise people will say “oh, Angelo is getting old, he can’t do it anymore”. And he’s like “FUCK YOU, yes I can! I’m still just as bad as I ever was”. So they were a huge inspiration.

LMB: So was trombone your first instrument?
CM: Um no actually, my first instrument was marimba, but not in the classical form. I played from the Shona culture out of Zimbabwe. I grew up in the Boulder area and there was this great community that would bring in musicians from Zimbabwe and my mom was really into it, so when I was 5 I started playing it. I was just really interested so I played marimba and mbira, the finger instrument for around 8 or 10 years, but while I was doing that, I picked up trombone in 5th grade. I just fell in love with it and knew what I had to do.

LMB: Ok, so on top of all that, you play the whistle and the vibes. Is there anything else you’ve been hiding from us?
CM: Not really, I’ve been singing more with Yojimbo now and I bought this really great sixties bass, so I’ve been playing that in secret and I’m having so much fun. Pretty much I just want to rock, so that’s been fun and I use that a lot for songwriting to get the base of a song. I also love synthesizers, we have these Taurus bass pedals that I play around with.

LMB: So you mentioned New Orleans, which is homebase for you now. Being originally from Colorado, how has New Orleans influenced you as a musician?
CM: Oh my gosh, tremendously! In Denver I was studying a lot of jazz and classical, combo forms, so smaller groups as well as big band. I loved all that, but then when I moved to New Orleans after high school, I was going to jazz school there but I wanted to start a band and writing our own music. It was just amazing going out to Frenchmen St and seeing these brass bands. I had always loved the full sound that brass can get, but in New Orleans there’s a specific trombone sound that doesn’t come from anywhere else. You hear it in Trombone Shorty and Big Sam and Corey Henry; they just embody the city and it’s just this loud, beautiful force. When I first saw that I was like “fuuuuuuck yes” and it just totally changed my way of thinking.

I’d already been trying to play that way but I think it just brought it out more, as well as just feeling so free on stage. That’s where I really started dancing more and it just felt natural. It’s one thing with these brass bands because you’re feeling this music that’s coming out in a physical way as well as a musical way.

LMB: You guys just went into the studio to record a new album after Bear Creek. What’s the songwriting process like? Do you all collaborate or is it mostly MIke’s songs?
CM: So with this band it’s all Mike’s music, but there will be times where I write the horn line to it. Like he had the basis, the chords and the groove and everything but he didn’t have a horn melody, so I wrote that. Thats what I really love about this music is that Mike leaves it open for us to interpret it how we want and how we are hearing it

LMB: Yeah, even just watching you interact on stage it’s obvious that there’s a lot of give and take. And he’s had a ton of experience, so he must be an incredible mentor for you guys. Is there anything particular you’ve learned from him?
CM: So much. I mean it’s incredible because Mike’s the one who got us on the road and obviously before that I was just learning a lot from the city, and just putting myself out there with all the musicians. And Mike saw our band Yojimbo play and that’s when things kinda started, and it just avalanched from there. Even in New Orleans, these clubs I was trying to get in touch with they’d say “I’ve never really heard you” so when I started playing with Mike it just opened so many doors. I’m constantly learning from him.

LMB: That’s great that you all just kind of dive in and go for it, and that’s another thing that I really respect: playing without a net.
CM: Yes, and that’s the thing. I mean, Mike can’t play any other way — I don’t think any of us really can. It’s one of those things where you just step on stage it’s like ARRR. You can’t control it, it’s an out of body kind of thing, so we really appreciate when people get it.

LMB: And the people that get it, they GET IT.
CM: Exactly! That’s the thing.

LMB: There’s no middle ground, you have a visceral reaction one way or the other. Either you walk out the door or you rock out.
CM: And I think that’s also a reflection of New Orleans on us, you know? In that city you either love it and totally understand it or it’s BLEH and freaks some people out.

LMB: So what’s on tap for 2014 for you with the MIke Dillon Band and Yojimbo?
CM: So we’re releasing this album we just recorded. We’re shooting for March and it’ll be called Band of Outsiders. It’s fun. I did the artwork for the album, and we’ll be doing a lot for that album. We’ll be doing our album release tour with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey on the west coast, which will be a blast.

LMB: Plus you’ve got your first Jamcruise coming up next month. Are you excited for that?
CM: Yes very!

LMB: Are you going to participate in the theme nights?
CM: Totally. I haven’t planned any costumes yet, but I’m all about it. There are so many New Orleans musicians on there, it’s like George Porter comes with the boat!

LMB: That he does. So who are some of your musical heroes and influences?
CM: Well definitely Mike Dillon, Skerik, and….gosh, so many. Growing up I listened to a lot of Duke Ellington for sure. J.J. Johnson and Fred Wesley are both HUGE influences on me. I worship Juan Tizol and Lawrence Brown, the trombone players for Duke Ellington. Barry Rogers from Eddie Palmieri’s stuff. And I also had that whole African influence. So Dumi Shoma is up there, because he’s the whole reason that I even got a chance to play this music since he’s the one who brought it over to America from Zimbabwe. I also grew up listening to a lot of country too and it wasn’t until high school when I really started taking the initiative and finding the rock that I like.

LMB: So you didn’t go through a punk phase?
CM: NOW is my punk phase! MInor Threat, Bad Brains, all those guys. Again, it’s like why didn’t this happen earlier?

LMB: Yeah there’s definitely some punk in your persona onstage. Part of that’s gotta be Mike D’s temperament….
CM: And a lot of that attitude I think also stems back from being the only girl and having to stand up for yourself. I remember in middle school sitting next to these two other trombone players and I would always be in first chair and they’d try to give me s*** as section leader. They put the responsibility on you, and after a while of them picking on me I just went “Let’s go. Let’s go. I’ll fight you right now!” It just made me SO mad, like “I can play just as well as you”. So I think it goes all the way back to that and that’s where I can really connect with it. You know, Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, all the Riot Grrl bands.

LMB: So my last question is why do you hate the dubstep? {Note: there’s a Mike Dillon Band song called “Carly Hates the Dubstep”]
CM: [Laughs] Uh, I just hate it, and I feel sometimes like a hater, which I probably am. Its a visceral thing like food where you don’t like the texture. I just can’t connect with it, but there are some people like Adam Deitch where they are really badass musicians, it’s undeniable. I just don’t like what its done to the scene; I feel like there’s a separation between people who are into DJs are only into DJs and they close their minds to other stuff. I can’t blame it on anyone but myself for the hate. It just feels brain melting to me. At Voodoo fest they had a dubstep stage and you could just hear it from every stage and it was so annoying.

It’s a funny story how that song came about. We had this woman Laura playing with us and she went into it and I just walked off stage. Mike said “that was awesome, we should try to do some dubstep thing” and I was instantly like “MIke, if you play dubstep I’m walking off the stage” so then we came up with it in the van. He just started singing it in the van and we should totally do this onstage. I mean we were just f***ing around, but people loved it.

Mike Dillon Band • Carly Hates The Dubstep / Bullsnake • LIVE In St Louis 2013-02-08 At The Pageant

LMB: Do you write a lot of songs that way? I mean, you certainly spend a lot of time in the van.
CM: Yeah, a lot of time in the van. I know Mike does it inside his head, going through lyrics and his experiences for inspiration.

LMB: Ok, last question for real this time. Thanksgiving was a few days ago….what are you thankful for?
CM: Oooooh, that I get to live my dream.

That seemed like a nice note to end the interview on. You can catch Carly and the rest of the Mike Dillon Band tonight at The Independent opening for Dragonsmoke, or their headlining show at the Boom Boom Room. The rest of their winter tour dates are below and look for the new album Band of Outsiders out on Royal Potato Family this spring:

Mike Dillon Band Tour Dates

December 6 | The Independent | San Francisco, CA*
December 6 | The Boom Boom Room | San Francisco, CA
December 7 | Jambalaya | Arcata, CA
December 8 | Crystal Bay Casino | Tahoe City, CA *
December 13 | Howling Wolf | New Orleans, LA #
December 18 | 320 South | Breckenridge, CO
December 20 | The Other Side | Denver, CO
December 21 | Fly Me To The Moon Saloon | Telluride, CO
December 26 | 9:30 Club | Washington, DC **
December 27 | The Starland Ballroom | Sayreville, NJ **
December 28 | Sherman Theater | Stroudsburg, PA **
January 3 | 1904 Music Hall | Jacksonville, FL
January 4 | Jam Cruise | Fort Lauderdale, FL
February 14 | Aura Music & Arts Festival | Live Oak, FL

* w/ Dragon Smoke
# w/ Quintron & Miss Pussycat
** w/ Clutch