Special to TheAdvocate.com
Being a rock band for almost a decade, Baton Rouge’s very own Meriwether has toured the country numerous times, been signed to a major record label and evolved through various genres of music.
The original members of Meriwether formed the band in 2003, and quickly found success rocking out at home and nationwide. The group was purely rock-centric then and drew a vast variety of people to their sound.
“Meriwether found a way to mesh and relate to everybody – people who like heavy music, singer/songwriter stuff, or softer catchier music,” Drew Reilley, creator and lead singer, said. “Everybody gets into different songs for different reasons. You might have this person singing every word of this song, and that person getting really into the next song.”
In fact, the band was so popular that they were signed with Suretone Records, a subsidiary of Universal, in 2006. Their new deal led them to grow very rapidly and they soon found themselves fast forwarding around the continent.
“We moved to Los Angeles for a year and recorded ‘Sons of Our Fathers,’” Reilley said. “It should have been done in three weeks, but it actually took eight months. As soon as it was released, we started touring—185 shows in a year—just going and going and going.”
For a while, there seemed to be no end in sight to Meriwether’s streak. Lately, however, fans have been left to wonder where the Baton Rouge boys have been hiding.
“We dropped off that label three years ago. Then we had a couple of the original members leave, so it wasn’t conducive to get back on the road,” Reilley said. “Now, a lot of the new guys have jobs, and I went back to school.”
Sounds like the typical scenario so many bands seem to fall into. However, Reilley is confident of the longevity of his musical project. Having taken a long sabbatical from the university, Reilley graduated from LSU this month, making room in his schedule for what he really wants to do.
“I don’t see us quitting,” Reilley said “We play twice a month as opposed to 16 times a month, but I don’t see us ever stopping, no matter what. It’s too much fun. When the first two guys left the band, I didn’t play for three months. I went crazy.”
Original members Stefon Bergeron and Joshua Barbier left Meriwether in 2010. Current members of the band are Drew Reilley (lead vocals, guitar), Skip Angelle (guitar, vocals), Josiah Menard (keys, guitar, vocals) Brent Armstrong of High Top Kicks (bass, vocals) and little brother Bob Reilley (drums).
Bringing in new musicians has breathed new life into the band. Two years ago, Meriwether collaborated with local electronic duo High Top Kicks and formed a new group called Discovery Corps.
“It’s got electronic movement, some synths going on,” Menard said. “It adds a different element to rock and roll.”
“We had so much fun doing Discovery Corps - finally doing something totally different,” Reilley said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s out of [Meriwether’s] genre. As long as we’re writing music and we’re happy, hopefully the fan base will receive it.”
Discovery Corps has released a digital album for free download on www.bandcamp.com. The group is writing new music for a show at SXSW next March, and Baton Rouge should receive a sneak peak around February.
Meriwether fans have new material to look forward to as well. The now independent band released a new EP, “Save Our Souls,” in May, which they’ll showcase live at their Christmas shows later this month.
“We’re constantly growing as musicians, learning new things and listening to new music,” Reilley said “We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into the late ’90s early 2000s sound. We want to experiment and have fun.”
Meriwether will play on Saturday, Dec. 22, at Hangar 13 in New Orleans, and Friday, Dec. 28, at The Varsity in Baton Rouge.