Mower


Mower of It All
Mower’s Brian Sheerin and Chris McCredie Reflect
On the Trials and Tribulations of San Diego’s Most
Explosive, and Most Electrocuted, Band

by Tommy Hough
photos by Derek Plank

Way back in 2003 Derek Plank gave me a CD to review by a band called Mower. With a simple but stylized, do-it-yourself black-and-white illustrated cover emphasizing the band’s twin-singer approach and larger-than-life connection with their audience, I was interested, but was in no way prepared for the sonically brilliant bludgeoning which followed, in which Mower relentlessly staked out dark, fascinating territory rooted in Pantera’s backyard, reflecting the best songwriting and well-honed metal ferocity of the greatly-missed, trendkilling Texas wrecking crew. For me, it was settled. Mower was geared and primed to assume the position of Next Great American Metal band. I felt I was in on the early end of a great secret hearing the first Mower album.

Fast-forward to 2006. The world has become a far more scary, violent, stupid, and unpredictable place than any of us could have foreseen even in 2003, certainly more than our callously crooked and mentally deficient leaders will ever bring themselves to admit to, and quality metal is in short supply. Derek Plank rings me up in the middle of wedding preparations and a now-abandoned career overhaul to ask if I’d like to meet up with Brian Sheerin and Chris McCredie, vocalist and bass player, respectively, from Mower, just days before they’re due to leave on a tour of Japan, to chew the fat about their soon-to-be-released Suburban Noize album Not for You.

Awesome. Sweet release. With domestic mania and wedding cake testings and George Idiot Bush and his spiraling descent into “stay the course” disconnect destruction abounding on TV and in the papers, a break in the action was due. I would go to the pre-determined location, the Waterfront Bar and Grill on Kettner, and watch the airplanes land and share a beer and conversation with two of the brains behind a band which continues to viscerally impress me like few have ever done.

The weather is right for drinking as we meet up, but it’s also chilly, and this has a calming if not embalming effect on our motor activity, leaving more room for questions, discussion, and evaluation. Looking back on their wild career in San Diego with a new album and tour in front of them, Chris and Brian agree they are at a point where everything is coming together for the band, hard lessons have been learned, and as two-thirds of Mower they’re only beginning to realize the depth of potential in their band by virtue of some recent line-up consistency.

“Do you know our story about our first drummer?” Chris asks. “He was like 14 when he was in our band, and he’s 21 or 22 now.” When Brian points out the drummer, Ryan Toth, is now 23, I ask if they’ve really been together for nine years.

“Nine, ten, too fuckin’ long, man,” laughs Chris as everyone knocks back a sip. “We were out of control, but I swear our drummer was only 14 at the time, he was such a little kid. I can remember he would have a crowd by his drumset, where all the people used to hang on his drums while we were playing. That’s how they would watch him while we were playing, he was such a cool kid, you know? He looked a lot younger than he was. We’re glad to have him back.”

With Ryan Toth back behind the drums, how did the band settle on guitarist Matt Wannamker? Brian explains, “we went through some ridiculous amount of guitarists when we lost the last one, and a lot of that was of our own doing, because we didn’t want to settle and have another issue, we wanted to get a solid person that was going to last. We had a pair of people come in, but one of them lasted. It’s difficult. We’ve been fortunate to have a core of three people that have lasted this long, and now we’re even fortunate enough to get one of our original people back. So we’ve got four original members out of five, and it’s pretty hard to do for a band that’s been around for a bit and hasn’t gone ‘huge’ and hasn’t had tons of money coming in. I mean, you do this on a shoestring budget. I lived on couches for three years, so you have to have a heart to do this, or it won’t get done.”

I ask if there is a drawback to the additional anticipation for the new album. “You hope on one hand each release is getting bigger,” says Brian, “but you’re always on the lookout for that point you can wind up at if you’re not careful…when you’re trying to produce a certain type of sound because there’s an expectation of a certain type of music coming from you. We really don’t have that on us right now. We can pretty much do what the hell we want, and to enjoy that in the moment, it’s hard to do a lot of times, just be stoked you’re doing things the way you want. I guarantee we’ll look back on this in a couple of years and think this was a really fun time, so we’re trying to enjoy it.”

“We built Not for You on what was good about the first album, and then took it all over the place. We don’t focus on one style or genre, we like everything. We can go from the obvious, Slayer-type stuff, real hardcore, but if you ask any guy on any given day what he’s listening to, you’d be shocked. I’ve got 8,000 songs on my iPod. That’s not all death metal, it goes all the way across the board.”

“We tend to focus on bands that are really strong live, like Jane’s Addiction or Snot or Slayer, something like that. You know when you walk away from a show mesmerized? That’s the kind of band we want to be. Those are the kind of bands we enjoy, and they’re not always working in one genre. I mean, Jane’s Addiction isn’t death metal, but when you walk away, you’ve got this incredible, hypnotic feeling like something amazing just happened. We build our songs around a vibe instead of a genre, and that’s why you’ve got five different, really blurred types of genres going on and there’s still this overall core attitude and punk feel.”

How about Mower’s mercurial career in San Diego’s incredibly fertile, talented, and competitive scene? “You know, it’s funny,” begins Brian, “our band’s been very cyclical momentum-wise, and we hit all these little peaks. I think any band’s like that, but fortunately we keep managing to re-build momentum. We’ve had a lot of shots. Derek knows the whole history of this group. There’s been stolen gear, missing members, it’s been like a soap opera…the whole nine yards, Spinal Tap and then some. Some of it was laughable, some of it was serious, a lot of it’s just heartbreaking stuff.”

“We should’ve broken up three times by now, easily,” adds Chris. “Any other band wouldn’t have been able to handle it.”

“We were very stubborn,” laughs Brian.

I ask Chris if the backing of a smaller label like Suburban Noize versus a large label has made a difference. “One thing I’ve realized over time is we’re kind of a high risk band to the majors, because we’re not a radio band they can sell and recoup their money just like that. It’s not an overnight thing with Mower. They would chew us up and spit us out, just like that, without us really getting a fair chance. We never really realized that. We thought ‘major labels, oh, this is what we need’ and the heck with this indie shit, but now I look at it, with the way Kottonmouth is doing and the way (hed)p.e. is on Suburban Noize, and they’re talking to Static X, I think this is the best thing for us right now. I couldn’t think of anything better.”

With record labels in mind, Brian clarifies Mower’s business end. “Right now our band makes money, but we’re a band that throws the money right back into the band. Where other bands go out on tour and they’ve got one t-shirt, we’ve got a bunch. You look around town, and you can’t go more than ten blocks without seeing four Mower stickers, you know? They’re all over the place, but that stuff costs money. Merchandise costs money. Recording costs money. Touring costs money. This isn’t particular or unique to our band, any band that makes records and tours and does well is going to have to re-invest in their own band. The Not for You album should cover it’s cost quicker than the last one, we should start seeing more money off the last one as the new one gets more attention, the shows are getting bigger, the merchandise is going, it’s all growing, so it’s just a matter of holding out and it really comes down to believing in yourself. It’s self-actualization. If you think you can do something, for the most part, you’re going to do it. We’ve been very fortunate: no one in this band has given up, and now we’re at the point where we’re just starting to see it pay off.”

I tell Brian he’s hit upon one of the weird secrets about the music business: you stay at it and suddenly you become a 10-years-in-the-making overnight sensation.

“Right,” says Brian, “most of these bands that pop and become absolutely huge have already been together for upwards of five, six, seven years already…for a lot of bands, it’s ten years, you know? Now, there’s always the time before a band pops, but five, six or seven years really isn’t that long in the life of a band. You may have a pre-fabricated band that’s been assembled and it pops quickly, and you know, kudos if you can do it. It’s a great gig to have. Some people can blow in the eight-octave range, whatever, cool, right on, roll with it. But for the average band, you’re going to have to lay some groundwork…because who cares about some band that comes out of nowhere with no history or story or even buzz? I mean, aside from a 12-year old kid, no one wants a band to pop that quick. They want a backstory, they want to get to know about them. When I was growing up I got into Jane’s Addiction, I got into Guns and Roses, because they had these gnarly backstories. Everybody in the band had this insane story.”

“They were hanging by threads at all times,” adds Chris.

“Yeah,” says Brian, “and that’s cool, you know? I mean, like those early Motley Crue tales? That’s radical. You know, that’s the kind of stuff…I light up just talking about it. I love that raw, ‘fuck this, this could be their last show’ type of thing. I want people walking away going ‘man, this could be their last show.’ It’s cool, I always loved that unpredictability about bands.”

“We’ve been amazed at that caliber of bands we’ve been lucky enough to play with too. What’s radical is, out of the band favorites, there’s only a few left on the list we haven’t played with. We haven’t played with Kiss, but we played with one of the guys in Jane’s Addiction who had a project going on. That would be my all-time, to open for Jane’s Addiction. We played with Slayer, which, you know, was amazing. Metallica, Godsmack, but the reality is, let’s face it, it’s all guilt by association. It’s a feather in your cap, but ultimately no one really cares. For bands that are starting up, here’s the most important thing you can remember and learn, and it took us a long time: no one cares who you’ve played with. They really don’t. It’s all about who you’re about to play with, or who you’re going to play with, or who you’re going out on tour with. No one cares about your last record. The minute it’s done and in a package, it’s over. You need to start thinking ahead.”

As everyone takes another drink, Derek Plank cuts to the chase on a story I’d heard about and asks Chris, “can you tell that story how you got electrocuted on-stage? I never heard that whole thing but it sounded pretty interesting.” (This is why I bring Derek along for interviews.)

Before Chris can say anything, Brian chimes in, “Chris is on the injured list.”

“I was going to bring that up as far as our stage performance,” says Chris. “I can’t move around a whole lot at the moment. I tore my ACL. Got electrocuted in Bakersfield. What happened was, first of all, you know, Bakersfield, shoddy club. It was cold there at night and they had these fog machines going on, the place was packed, and they had this garage door-kind of thing that was open behind the stage to let air come in. Well, every single thing on stage was sopping wet. You could see water all over the cords, everything. So these guys have piles of cords all around the drumset, and I’m standing on the cords, rocking out with the drummer on our last song, just rocking out and into the song, and all of the sudden I was like ‘what just happened?’ My whole body fell into the drumset, twisted my knee, ripped my ACL out.”

I ask Chris if he went to the hospital afterwards.

“I didn’t because I’ve twisted by ACL so many times, I was like ‘oh I know I didn’t do anything serious.’ So I just iced it, let it sit for like a month, finally went to the doctor and the doctor said ‘yeah you tore your ACL,’ which I’d never done before. It’s instant surgery for that. I can still function, I can still walk and stuff. I played the show at the House of Blues with Kottonmouth. Great fuckin’ show, but goddamn it was one of the hardest shows I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t want to take any pills before I went onstage.”

Brian bats a mischievous eye. “I took some pills.”

Mower are currently touring to support their album “Not for You” on Suburban Noize, which is reviewed further on in this issue.

© Thomas H.M. Hough II
© Krown Magazine, San Diego
Photos Courtesy of Derek Plank