Pattern-Seeking Animals began as an offshoot of the legendary Spock’s Beard but has grown into a vital component of the modern prog rock scene. The band is about to release their fourth album, Spooky Action At A Distance, which continues their streak of fun, unique prog rock. Bassist Dave Meros recently took some time to talk about this new record.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Dave Meros –
On what sets P-SA apart from other progressive bands – Well, I don’t know, maybe it harkens back to previous eras of prog. In the last few years, it seems like the more popular prog is a lot darker, a lot more shreddy, chops-oriented, and a little bit more, for lack of a better term, a little bit more metal. We just go a little bit more, I would maybe call it art rock. It’s just music, good songs are the focus, and we hope to just do well in that area.
On releasing records at such a quick pace – John (Boegehold) is just a writing beast. He writes all the time. He doesn’t watch TV. He’ll just go sit and start writing music. So he produces a tremendous (amount), he’s probably writing a lot more besides the Pattern-Seeking Animals stuff. So he’s got all this material all the time and it’s an outlet. As far as just the recording with us, that’s great. It’s cool to have stuff coming out all the time. It’s not necessary, people will wait a couple of years for an album. It’s just kind of the way it is, if you have all the material might as well get it out there…I hope it works. I mean, you’re right though, the whole thing is more based now on singles and there’s a lot of artists that only release singles, never a full album. We actually talked to Thomas at Inside Out about that during the Spock’s Beard days and he said, “No, prog is just a little Island of people will still buy physical media and they like whole albums and liner notes and stuff”. Maybe the younger artists don’t feel that requirement, or the younger listeners, I should say.
On if P-SA will ever do a full tour – I think it would probably require a little bit more action on the audience numbers. Touring now is a little bit more difficult for a lot of bands. It’s just hard to get the numbers to make sense and we’re in there with everybody else. I think we’ve kind of explored that possibility a little bit, but it hasn’t been viable. So, we’ll probably continue to do like the one-off dates here and there. It would be cool to go out and do a tour, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s going to happen just because of the way the music industry is now…The problem we have, and this is like really frank, totally honest, I probably shouldn’t even say it. I don’t think we can get so many people in to buy tickets to begin with, and promoters aren’t going to take that chance. It’s not just us, it’s a lot of the newer bands and even some of the legacy bands. The market just isn’t there as it was pre-pandemic. It just kind of never came back all the way for a lot of sectors. It is what it is. We’re kind of happy to put out the records and we don’t have to go tour. I don’t know if that would help very much. I just don’t know much about the way things work anymore. Some stuff works for some people and then the next person will try it and it won’t work for them anymore. It’s pretty random.
On not writing as much with P-SA – For me, I’m not a natural writer. I’m not one of those guys, like Neal (Morse) is, he’ll just notice things and they start processing into a songwriting part of his brain. For me, I have to really be like, “Okay, I need to start writing now and I need to start collecting ideas and I need to find some kind of inspiration”. It’s kind of a task for me, a duty almost. A few years back, I kind of felt like I wasn’t required to write anymore. It’s kind of a weird mentality. I don’t get into it because I have to. I get into it because I think it’s a job that I should be doing. I don’t feel like I should be doing that job now. It’s kind of different and I never really thought my stuff was that engaging in a way for a wider audience. Even some of the stuff that when I was writing it, I was going, “This is just so clever. I’m such a genius”, and then it came out on the record and there’s virtually no mention by anyone of the genius parts. They didn’t really work live but I just, I just kind of felt like there were much better writers involved than me. This is kind of like John’s project anyway. So it should be mostly or all from him. He really encourages us to contribute, but I don’t know, I lost the mojo.
On if his musical education and varied background prepared him for the eclectic nature of prog –Yeah, absolutely. That and I would add in even playing in cover bands because I’ve done a lot. I’d still do it. I did a gig last night. It was really far away and it was a lot of gear and I’m kind of fried right now, getting a little crispy around the edges. But all of that stuff adds to you because that’s what prog-rock is. It draws from a little bit here and there and puts it all together. Then you’re kind of required to try to pack as much of it in your brain as you can, and then go out and try to play it without train wrecking. So yeah, it all added to it. It’s all part of being a musician and being willing to dive into different genres and playing styles and stuff.
On if he enjoyed being a tour manager and the different aspects of his career – I kind of like it in the sense that I get to have my hands on it and make sure it’s done the way I like things to be done. On the other hand, it’s a lot of tedium and babysitting. So there are pluses and minuses to it. Again, it’s one of those things that I got into the tour managing thing just because we needed one. There was the guy that was doing it got canned, and Eric (Burdon) didn’t want to really just hire a guy that just did tour managing. At the time the budget wasn’t there for somebody like that. I just said, “Well, I’ve watched it happen for a long time. Let me give it a shot”. So I just kind of started doing it, but I didn’t dream of being a tour manager. That’s kind of my vibe in life is kind of a utility person. I’ll see a need to do something or fit a certain role or something, and I just think, “Okay, well maybe I should step in there and do that”. I did that in high school too. I went to a small high school and we had a small band and all of a sudden one year we wouldn’t have French horn players. So it’s like, “Well, let me try that”. I switched horns every year, almost. As we needed one, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot” I didn’t play bass before I got into my first band, a drummer friend that I grew up with was putting a band together and they needed a bass player. This guy goes, “Well, you can play a bunch of different instruments if you want to try?” and I said, “Sure”. So, it’s one of those moments though, that when I played, I’d taken a couple of guitar lessons earlier in life and I didn’t like guitar. It’s weird to me. It’s too small. My brain, as soon as I picked up a bass, it was like, “Well, I already know all these bass parts”. I realized that my brain had been a bass player the whole time, and I collect bass parts in my head, and that’s what I listen to mostly in music, It’s kind of a Neanderthal kind of thing, approach to listening to music, but I just love bass. When I finally picked it up, it was like, “Finally, why didn’t I start this when I was younger?” I could have gone through that whole sight reading and jazz learning and all that process. But yeah, just because once again, there was a need for that. So, okay, I’ll do it.
On how he first joined Spock’s Beard – When I moved to LA in ’84, soon after that, I met this drummer that we wound up playing so much together, all these different projects and stuff. He was roommates with John Boegehold and John and Steve both knew the Morse brothers and had worked with them a little bit. It started back in maybe ’85, ’86, or something. I met Alan and Neal and John and then they met the other guys in Spock’s Beard. So it just kind of went way back. They needed somebody in the band and they had another guy for a while and he didn’t work out. I don’t even know why, but they didn’t think I would do it because I was into different styles of music and a lot of funky stuff and R&B and they thought that I was like kind of this mercenary guy that wouldn’t just do band projects. I had been doing a lot of road stuff at the time. You do the same show every night and I remember thinking that I just really need something to shake me up a little bit and kick my ass to be challenging. Right around there, Al called and said, “Neal did this stuff and I played guitar on it and it’s pretty cool. Why don’t I send you a cassette?” I said, “Sure”. I listened to it and it was like, “This is really different, but it’s kind of cool.” He didn’t even say they needed a bass player. He just sent me this tape. Then weeks or maybe a month later or something, they asked if I wanted to try it out and see how I liked it. Sometimes, you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need. I just kind of asked for something like that.
What kicked my ass, even more, was back in the cassette days, they weren’t always at the correct speed. So between Neal’s cassette deck and my cassette deck, it was a full half-step off. So I put all this time into learning what was going to become “The Light”. I learned everything a half-step in the wrong key. I show up at this, at the rehearsal, it’s like, “I’m ready to go. Come on”. We start playing, it’s like, “Whoops, wait a minute”. In prog-rock maybe some people can, but I can’t just transpose a 20-minute piece of music in my head instantly. What I should have done is just detune and then go home and learn it all in a different key later. But I was freaked out by the whole thing. I tried to like transpose as I went, completely sucked the whole rehearsal. Talking about getting my ass handed to me, I said, “Well, you wanted this, dude. You wanted to get your ass kicked. Here you go”. I just felt like such an idiot and I relearned everything in the right key and came back the next time. It was weird. I talked to the guys about it later and they said, “No, we didn’t really notice it was that bad”. To me, it was completely a nightmare. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be perfect. I just didn’t do it right.
On the future of Spock’s Beard – Spock’s is kind of planning a tour now. We decided a couple of years ago, “Let’s just take things, not make plans, just take things as they come up”. So, it’s like a kind of a never-say-never thing. There are no plans, but I mean, we actually do have a plan for maybe early next year doing some kind of a UK, maybe Europe thing. Ryo (Okumoto) has kind of taken that under his wing and he’s been working really hard on that. So, there may be something there, there may probably will be that and maybe other stuff and, who knows? Not going to say no. In the meantime, John had all this material that wasn’t really fitting into Spock’s Beard and he had a lot of stuff that was kind of building up backlogging and stuff, and he just wanted to, I’m sure he told you the whole story of Pattern-Seeking Animals. It was just to kind of, “Hey, you guys want to play on these things I wrote?” And we said, yes. Pretty soon they started sounding like an album and sounding like a band, so we just kind of went with that.