Meriwether was formed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2003 by guitarist/songwriter Drew Reilley. Their music is an infectious blend of potent, hard-hitting rock and smart, catchy melodies that maintain a special Southern honesty and rawness.
Meriwether released their debut full length, Make Your Move, in 2005 on GVE Records. The album sold over 10,000 copies and the band played over 300 shows in one year to promote the album. Their latest album, Plug in the Snakes was independently released in 2009 and they’re supporting that release.
VOX was able to grab some of Drew’s time to discuss his music and his VOX Virage.
VOX: So let’s take it back to the beginning. What got you into music and playing guitar?
Drew Reilley: Well, I hurt myself being dumb when I was about nine years old and was stuck inside for a few weeks during the summer. I decided to go digging around my house when I found an old acoustic guitar in a closet. I immediately fell in love. I had no idea what I was doing and I’m fairly positive it wasn’t in tune for about six months, but it was love at first sight. My mom played the piano and sang, and her brother could play every instrument that exists, I think…so, music was around me all the time. I didn’t really think anything of it until I found that guitar and started banging away.
VOX: How did you join up with the rest of the band?
DR: Meriwether started when I had just left my previous band and wanted to start something new. I asked a few acquaintances whose playing I admired and eventually we had a solid four piece. I had known the other guitar player for a few years, but had only just recently met the guys in the rhythm section at that time. The chemistry was there from the start, though.
VOX: So how does the writing process typically work for you guys?
DR: I usually have a piece of an idea in mind. It’s usually a chorus melody or something small like that. I’ll bring it to the guys and we will build off of it. Everyone brings their own identity and style to the band so there’s usually no formula or understood direction we tend to go with. So it’s pretty amusing at times to see what off the wall stuff we come up with individually for different parts. Other times, I’ll just write an entire piece, visualizing it in my head, and come to the room and show it to everyone, tell them how the arrangement should go, and we just play it. Sometimes, those are the best songs, the quick and easy ones.
VOX: Are there any recent studio sessions or live performances that stick out in your mind?
DR: SXSW this year was pretty amazing. We came with a pretty new line up and all new material. We were a little nervous of how it would go over. But after the first night, we knew it was going to be a good week. The crowds immediately got in to the new stuff. It was almost as if they’d heard it a hundred times before. Not to mention that every show was packed! That was pretty amazing. A few weeks before SXSW was my first opportunity to get into a real studio environment with my Virage. It was insane! We had about four different amp and speaker variations we were working with. Eventually, we didn’t need to use them. We just stuck with one amp and used the guitar’s pickups to change the tones. It was so easy and simple…but the sounds and layers we were able to create were so complex. It was a lot of fun being able to finally experiment with it in that type of setting.
VOX: Your sound has changed somewhat throughout the years…Would you like to comment on that and tell us a little about your newest album Plug In the Snakes?
DR: Well, our band has gone through a lot. Every band does. When I started this band, I was 18 years old. I didn’t have a care in the world and the music reflected that. As I grew up some, and we went through some **** with our label, and the industry in general turned out not to be this golden city in the sky we imagined and more of a cut throat, no holds barred, fast paced demon, our music changed to reflect that. We got heavier, faster, and angrier on Plug in the Snakes. We were somewhat known for our big ballads and powerfully epic songs, so for Snakes, we wanted to defy everything. I’m proud of the product, but I do want to get back to showing people the versatility of myself as a writer and that I’m not always this angry crazy person [laughs].
VOX: Any future plans or projects you’d like to share? Also- What is Discovery Corps?
DR: Yes! Last summer, our original bass player and guitarist parted ways with us and our drummer decided to go on tour with some other artists. So I had a decision to make- keep kicking or quit. I’ve never been much of a quitter, so I got a new bass player and drummer (my younger brother), and along with our keyboardist/guitarist Skip, decided to keep the train rolling. I put in too much of myself for too long to just let it go. The new guys caught on real quick. And the fresh attitudes and new vibes have only made things more positive! In October, I started co-writing some material with a friend of mine in a group called High Top Kicks. It was my bluesy, singer/songwriter style with him programming and throwing some electronics in the mix. Eventually, we were having such a good time with it, we decided to get everyone else in and see how it sounded with the full band. We had already written and demo’d 14 or 15 songs, so it was just getting into a room and seeing if it worked with big loud guitars and acoustic instruments. Well, it did! And we decided to combine Meriwether and High Top Kicks into the new project which we call Discovery Corps. There are a lot of outside sounds and styles we are trying to experiment with in this project. We’re really trying to think outside the box and fuse genres together in order to create something completely new and fresh. Currently, we are performing with both bands.
VOX: Shifting gears now, how did you hear about the VOX Virage?
DR: I’ve been on the VOX email list for years now. A while back, I got one, opened it real quick, and glanced over to see the Virage…and was awe struck. I had wanted to try something new for the new Meriwether music and the Discovery Corps stuff as well, and the Virage was exactly what I had been looking for, aesthetically. I wanted a big, semi-hollow body, but I didn’t want something bulky and heavy. I like to move around a lot live and I didn’t want to be weighed down. Once I read up more on the pickup system and specs, I just knew I had to play one. I made it the background of my phone screen and would just stare at it sometimes.
VOX: What are your favorite features? What separates it from other guitars you’ve played?
DR: First of all, I LOVE that it is light weight. But don’t let it fool you, it has a huge sound! The pickups allow for such versatile possibilities of sound…so if I want to be heavy, I can…and if I want a nice glassy clean, I can get that too. I’m also a sucker for looks. You really can’t get any sexier than this guitar. It looks good on a stand and strapped on. I love it!
VOX: Any favorite pickup setting for you?
DR: For the heavier Meriwether stuff, I usually go all out with both pups on humbucker and my toggle in the middle so I have both screaming at once. Sometimes, I’ll knock the neck pup back to the stacked single coil or the single coil position so I get a little bit brighter tone. For the clean tones in Meriwether and Discovery Corps, I really like to go all over the place with them. It’s so easy to switch on the fly that I really like to let the guitar do the work. For some of the bluesier tones, I like to put the neck pup on stacked single coil, with a lot of gain from my amp, and roll the volume knob down so I get this really badass glossy but beautifully nasty tone out of it. It has so much character, it’s undeniable. I don’t use pedals or effects at all. I use a one channel amp and keep the gain really hot. I use my volume knob for my clean tones. I like this purist approach, always have. It allows me to change the sound instead of relying on anything else. I think a lot of people forget that a guitar is a truly amazing instrument and you can do so much more than just plugging it into a ****-ton of pedals and cranking something up real loud to get some really amazing and versatile tones.
VOX: Anything you’d like to leave us with?
DR: The VOX Virage is the most versatile guitar I’ve ever played on. You can get any tone you want, just from the guitar. The pickup system will simply blow your mind. And it’s really good looking’ too!
VOX: Thanks, Drew!
For more info on Meriwether and Discovery Corps, check out www.facebook.com/Meriwether