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Meats Puppets Open Sound City Players SXSW Showcase

Local cowpunks ready another career high in ‘Rat Farm’
Jim Caligiuri, 3:07pm, Wed. Mar. 13, 2013

Don’t overlook the Meat Puppets opening for Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players extravaganza tomorrow at Stubb’s. Sure, they’ve been around more than 30 years, but next month’s Rat Farm, the band’s 14th studio LP, spins one of its best discs, psychedelicized country-punk with the gleaming melodies they’re semi-famous for.

I spoke to singer, songwriter, and Austinite Curt Kirkwood about how they managed to set up such a high profile gig. Maybe his South by Southwest experiences have finally begun to pay off.

“I greased the right palms,” he chuckles. “You gotta know how to work this thing....

“Honestly, I really have no idea. I know Dave, but I haven’t seen him in a while. I don’t think I’ve seen him since I was in Eyes Adrift with [Nirvana bassist] Krist Novoselic and [Sublime drummer] Bud Gaugh.”

Rat Farm seems like a pretty quick follow-up to 2011’s Lollipop. I was curious where his ability to remain prolific comes from.

“I never really have any goals,” he replies in typical slacker fashion. “I’ve felt really lucky just to be able to write. I hum something into my phone or strum some chords on an acoustic guitar. We fleshed out a lot in the studio this time. It’s always interesting to see what comes out.

“If I actually have an idea that’s not a straight-up musical idea, it’s a concept, which I don’t like that much. It kind of sounds contrived at that point and leads into Broadway musical kind of stuff. I think when my primary inspiration stuff is The King and I, Cabaret, or The Wizard of Oz, you can get too much of an idea there.”

Kirkwood’s 29-year-old son Elmo recently joined the band – bassist Cris Kirkwood and native scion Shandon Sahm – as a touring guitarist, fleshing their sound out even more.

“He’s technically better than I am,” offers Elmo’s father. “He’s more versatile from listening to whatever someone his age grew up on. He’s more disciplined and I admire that, plus he’s a great guy to play with.”

The Meat Puppets also make an appearance at Roky Erikson’s Ice Cream Social at Threadgill’s on Friday before heading to Europe to play a couple of festivals in Portugal and Spain. So the band appears as stable as it’s ever been and, as Rat Farm cleverly illustrates, beyond relying on routines or formulas.

“I always feel pretty lucky to put another record out,” he said. “It keeps going. It’s pretty cool.”

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