Recommended If You Like: The Black Keys, Dorothy, Arctic Monkeys
Sometimes, one just wants to listen to pure, unabashed rock: The kind of fast and furious music that makes your hair stand on edge, that gives you a physical release in addition to an emotional one. Brooklyn’s Mean Siders give us the release we crave, delivering a relentless slew of unforgiving garage rock on “Fashioned Ribs,” the lead single off the band’s debut EP All Your Ugly Parts.
You want someone’s daughter, you want fashioned ribs
Bring her to the water, let her drown for it
Listen: “Fashioned Ribs” – Mean Siders
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“Fashioned Ribs,” which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today, introduces Mean Siders as a tight riff-based rock band with an eye for dark themes and an ear for catchy licks. Consisting of Katie Ortiz on guitar and lead vocals, Ian Crook on electric mandolin and vocals, and Nick Johnson on bass and with Shannon Minor on drums, Mean Siders are about as ‘indie’ as the term gets, and yet they are by no means your run-of-the-mill “Brooklyn” band (which, for some reason, has gained a negative connotation in recent years).
A mix of musical influences and interactions on “Fashioned Ribs” give the song a fresh edge. The exchange between the fuzzy bass guitar and the overdriven lead is reminiscent of the debuts from indie rock’s 2000s-era pioneers: Ortiz and Johnson’s complementary riffs create as much noise as they do harmony. They play off as chaos what, in fact, is a carefully coordinated musical conversation. Meanwhile, Ortiz’s vocals show a well-versed singer blending rock and punk: She cannot decide whether to snarl or shriek, and as a result maintains a steadfastness that exudes control in an uncontrolled environment.
As the band’s primary songwriter, Ortiz shrouds her songs in metaphor. At least three layers of meaning coexist on “Fashioned Ribs.” On the surface, the song addresses a man’s thirst for a woman. Digging a little deeper, the song’s biblical elements examine the way in which religion, particularly (but not exclusively) Catholicism engages with, and regards women. Rebellion and anger – a need to break free from judgment and assumption – are easily detectable in Ortiz’s voice. At its core, “Fashioned Ribs” takes on the concept and context of women in society, observed from a female point of view.
“Fashioned Ribs” is empowering and socially conscious, a rocker with a purpose. “Women are idealized as these holy, immaculate beings [in the bible], and when they don’t fit that image they are impure,” Ortiz says. “There are all of these cultural ideas about how a woman should sound, should behave, should present herself…. I want to be loud. I want to be ugly. I want to be vicious.”
I want to be loud. I want to be ugly. I want to be vicious.
:: Meet Mean Siders ::
It’s a special garage rock band that dares go to such depths, but the mix of ‘dark’ rock with heavy lyrical content seems embedded at Mean Siders’ core. The DIY (All Your Ugly Parts was recorded in Ortiz’s bedroom) spares no expense in pushing themselves and their music above and beyond the call of duty, crafting a driving debut single we won’t soon forget.
Get lost in the intense, concentrated energy of Brooklyn’s Mean Siders. Today they unleash “Fashioned Ribs” on us, and their All Your Ugly Parts EP is not far behind. In celebration of Mean Siders’ debut release, Atwood Magazine spoke with Katie Ortiz about “Fashioned Ribs” and all its intricate moments. Get to know Mean Siders as they begin their journey in the music world.
A CONVERSATION WITH MEAN SIDERS
Atwood Magazine: Why the title?
Katie Ortiz: The title comes from the lyrics:
you want someone’s daughter
you want fashioned ribs
bring her to the water
let her drown for it
The image of fashioned ribs comes from the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Adam is lonely in the garden of Eden and so God molds Eve out of one of his ribs to keep him company. I think it’s intriguing that Eve was created as a companion for mankind and as soon as she follows her desires for anything more than that she becomes the original sinner. I’m fascinated by how religion sees women. Women are idealized as these holy, immaculate beings, and when they don’t fit that image they are impure. I grew up with Catholicism and I think it teaches this really interesting false dichotomy about what women can be. There’s this combined fear and adoration of women in the old testament that gives them this mystical power. When a woman gains knowledge – when she follows her own motives and cannot be controlled – she becomes a dangerous creature.
What is your favorite aspect of this song?
Katie Ortiz: Nick and I co-wrote this one. He brought the riff to me and together we fleshed it out into what it is now. Nick’s got a real knack for writing these bass lines that are just savage and yet so, so simple. I feel like it really drives the song forward and gives it that sense of heaviness. It’s especially fun to play live because the riff just carries it.
Why put out this track before the EP? What stands out about it?
Katie Ortiz: We wanted to jump right in with something white hot. I think this track is a good introduction to what we’re trying to do with Mean Siders. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it’s fast. Lyrically it’s also very representative of my style. I use a lot of cryptic imagery in my writing.
What is it about the heavier influence that draws you in?
Katie Ortiz: Before Mean Siders, I was actually playing a lot of acoustic music. I toyed a lot with darker sounds and lyrics but it was an earthier kind of darkness. One day I just switched to electric on a whim and was completely hooked. Suddenly I felt like I had all this aggression behind my songs. It became an outlet. I think I’m drawn to it from a feminist standpoint as well. There are all of these cultural ideas about how a woman should sound, should behave, should present herself. There’s something incredibly freeing about cranking up the distortion and turning the notion of being ladylike on its head. I want to be loud. I want to be ugly. I want to be vicious.
There’s something incredibly freeing about cranking up the distortion and turning the notion of being ladylike on its head.
There's a snarl, I feel, in this song.. How did you go about capturing that on record?
Katie Ortiz: This was actually one of the first songs we recorded for this release. We had honed this on our own for a long time before attempting to capture it. In post production I kept in some of the imperfections because I liked the rawness they added. When I was recording the vocals, I did several takes right in a row, and tried to throw my voice out a little more each time. I really spat out the words too. You can totally hear my saliva hitting the mic. That’s real.
What, to you is the most significant lyric in the song?
Katie Ortiz: I would say the title lyric is most significant, but since I’ve already written about that, let’s go with:
buried gods are stirring
clawing out their tombs
dirt might keep your dead down
but it don’t stop the truth
We’re getting creepy biblical again here. This is a kind of imagined post-apocalyptic returning of the old Gods, the ones who demanded to be feared. It’s atoning for your sins with pain. It’s the kind of biblical justice taught to inspire awe and terror. I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods when I was writing this song and it planted all these images in my head of buried Gods returning to enact punishment on all of modern humanity who have discarded their old moralities. What would they see? Who would they punish? From there it just got twisted. I was drawn to the idea of these omnipotent beings who are dangerous and flawed. And they’re angry that they’ve been ignored for so long.