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Cali Garage Rockers Meat Market Talk Surfing, the Origins of Their Band Name + More

Meat Market
Motormouth Media

When Alex Shen and Jeff Cheung met at UC Santa Cruz, the two started jamming and figured they might have a future. After playing in a few different bands, they recruited Jake Freitas and Ian Tatum, and Meat Market was born.

Having been featured on Noisey and in Surfer Magazine, the Cali garage rock foursome is making a name on the local scene, building their fan base with each gig. They released a self-titled record last year and have announced plans to play SXSW next March — not too bad for these up-and-comers.

Diffuser.fm recently chatted with Shen and Cheung, and while Meat Market have been playing together for some time now, they showed the kind of shyness one might expect from a new band venturing beyond its home state. Despite their numerous apologies for being unseasoned interview subjects, the guys kept it real, revealing themselves to be West Coast indie rockers who like to chill out, have fun and go with the flow.

How did the band get together?

Alex Shen: Meat Market got together when we all met each other at Santa Cruz, when we were going to the UC over there. I met Jeff, who’s the other Asian guy in the band. Then we started playing music for a couple of years as Heroin Face. But when we came back from studying abroad, we wanted to start something new. We asked our friends Ian and Jake to form a band together and do something on weekends at school that was fun after studying and all that.

What’s the story behind the name Meat Market?

AS: The story behind ‘Meat Market’ is that we were really struggling with names. We had a ton planned out. I think Fish Market was an idea, and we thought about Fish Market. But I didn’t want to be associated with Phish, and then we realized that Fish Market was a really bad name anyway. And our friend suggested Meat Market because it had male connotations, but it’s not really that. We just agreed with it immediately and thought, “Finally, that’s going to be it.”

Even though the band name might not be directly related to meat, are you guys big meat eaters?

AS: I would say we’re all very balanced. One of us is actually a vegetarian. Oops — I mean, a pescatarian. Sorry. So one’s a pescatarian, and the rest of us lead a balanced lifestyle.

What’s the song ‘The Return of Prince Donathunn,’ about?

AS: We thought Prince Donathunn was one of the band names we’d go with. On our tape, we had a song called ‘The Ghost of Prince Donathunn,’ which was this little instrumental ditty that Ian was fiddling on guitar with at the end of the tape, and it was kind of an outro. For ‘The Return of Prince Donathun,’ we never really had a name for that song because there were no words to it. We always called it “the instrumental,” and then we decided to call it that. It fit because it went along with the instrumental [theme] like the other song. … Sometimes, playing music at shows is too beautiful for words to describe. You gotta have that instrumental track to bring it altogether.

You also have a song called ‘Don’t Surf.’ Being from California, you must get asked if you’re always at the beach. Is this a song in response to that?

AS: I would say a little bit. Jake wrote it, and some of us have never surfed before. I’ve never been on a surfboard in my life. Ian and Jake both have. But yeah, we just wrote that about the whole “surf” word and that sound have been big for the past couple of years. For us, we’re just writing these songs to have something to do. It was poking fun, and it is a surf-y song. But we don’t want people to think to hard about it either.

You guys have a pretty big following in California, but now you’re getting your music outside the state. How do you think the rest of the U.S. will react to your music?

Jeff Cheung: They might not care at all.

AS: I would think that they react in a positive way. We try not to think about that. We focus on how we react to it after we work on it. Hopefully they’ll line up like people line up for the new iPad or iPhone. [Laughs]

There doesn’t seem to be one main songwriter in the group. How do you go about the songwriting?

AS: I will have to say that the four of us have very distinct tastes in music, and that kind of comes out. It’s a pretty democratic songwriting process. Ian and Jeff will come up with a riff because we’re a riff-based band. From there, we’ll all write lyrics and write the structure and give as equal input as we can. As long as we’re all happy with it, that’s what matters.

What’s your definition of success?

Jeff: I feel like we really didn’t have any ideas of where this was going to go. For me, I feel like we’ve already reached our goals and surpassed what we thought would happen. I would like to keep going and find a perfect balance between the tour-music-rock ‘n’ roll lifesytle and the personal at-home lifestyle, and basically not have to work that daytime job. That would be awesome.

Alex: Once we go on a tour to Japan or Asia or Europe and not on a farm in Eastern Europe, then we will consider ourselves successful.

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