You Suck Flying Circus makes its presence known with ‘Companion’

The shapeshifting band, which has members in Columbus, Cleveland and beyond, visits town for a free early show at Spacebar on Saturday, March 25.
Detail from the album cover of "Companion"
Detail from the album cover of "Companion"Courtesy the You Suck Flying Circus

During the pandemic, Wes Meadows frequently found herself with too much time on her hands, and she filled it by writing and recording at a breakneck pace, undertaking a series of songwriting challenges that found her experimenting with genres scattered far and wide.

“I did a 24-hour album, where I woke up and started writing and recording,” said Meadows, who wrapped that project before the sun rose the next day. “Then I joined an EP-writing contest, where you had three months to record as many EPs as you could, and the only rule was each EP had to have at least four songs that were at least four-minutes long. … So, I wrote like 12 or 15 EPs in those three months, and I made up different projects for each. I made a ska band. I made emo bands. I made hardcore bands. I made punk bands. I made a dream-pop band. … And I got really into the craft, and thinking about what exactly constitutes a dream-pop song.”

Following this comparatively academic exercise, Meadows pivoted, recording Opened Up, an internally driven, raw-nerve solo album that the musician described as the most intensely personal batch of songs in her extensive catalog. Throughout, Meadows struggles with the idea that she can be difficult to love (“Beginning of Breakthrough”), attempts to make an uneasy peace with the past (“Always”) and questions the legitimacy of any positive vibes that might surface. “Is it right/To feel this nice?” she repeats on the meditative, fuzz-caked “Process.”

“And I’ve gotten messages from people, including my mom, being like, ‘I’m happy that you’re happy with this record, but I think it’s too difficult for me to listen to,’” Meadows said. “And I was like, ‘Dang, that’s high praise.’ But, yeah, one of the songs is about how angry and then sleepy my dad got when he was drunk, and there’s a slide guitar on it, which I played with his class ring, and that’s why the song’s called ‘His Class Ring.’ … And even as I was doing it, I was like, ‘This is so on the nose that I’m not going to want to listen to this.’”

This pattern – releasing a project or series of projects and then following with an album that could rightly be categorized as a sharp departure – is typical of the creatively restless Meadows, who said she loathes the idea of making the same album twice. It’s a trend that carried over into the most recent album from Meadows’ primary musical outlet, the You Suck Flying Circus, which is set to follow towering black metal of /​/​/​/​/​/​/​-​/​/​-​/​/​/​/​/, from 2020, with Companion (Flowerpot Records), an album informed by 90s-era grunge and shoegaze.

The album’s title references the spirit of camaraderie found in music (Meadows said she briefly considered calling the LP Buddy), which started to return in the weeks and months after the vaccine surfaced, allowing the band members to resume semi-normal operations. “We added a couple new members, and we connected, and it really felt like they fit,” said Meadows, who will join her bandmates in celebrating the album’s March 24 release with a free early concert at Spacebar on Saturday, March 25, performing alongside local opener Hollow. “And it felt really good post-quarantine … to get back to working with our friends, to get back to connecting with our friends. So, even though a lot of the songs are dour and dingy and grungy, this album was a lot of fun to make. ‘Gaspar’ comes across like a spooky, post-hardcore song, but you should see the grin we all get on our faces when we [lock in].”

Meadows expects these grins to carry over into the pandemic-delayed run of shows the crew will play in support of the album – though her guard remains up with the musicians set to visit cities and states where legislators are increasingly passing anti-LQBTQ legislation and restricting the rights of people to appear in drag in public. (Meadows is a nonbinary trans woman.) In February, Meadows posted on Facebook, asking if she and her bandmates could potentially be in danger playing a show in Tennessee, which recently passed a sweeping anti-drag bill.

“I do not present femme outside of my house, or any house venue in an area that I trust, because I am personally terrified, and have been since the start of the Trump presidency,” said Meadows, who typically dresses in jeans and a black T-shirt outside of her home. “I stopped presenting outside of my house because I noticed a significant uptick in people mumbling about me behind my back, or people straight up throwing slurs at me and threatening to beat me up, and I just couldn’t take it.

"And I feel like I’ve crunched myself into a little hole, and I’m probably being too careful. … But I have bandmates who, unlike me, are not afraid to be themselves, and I don’t want them to have to crunch in a tiny hole to exist on this tour.”

While Meadows might shy from attention offstage, she’s determined to take up space once she plugs in her guitar, the band’s outsized sound serving as a means to loudly announce her existence to anyone within earshot.

“Even when I play solo, I’ve stopped playing acoustic, and I’ll bring an amp and a big fuzz pedal and a delay pedal. And there will be a moment in the set where ... I’m going to hit that fuzz pedal for two seconds, and you’re going to get shocked, and you’re going to spit out that drink,” Meadows said. “And I do think it is intentional, like, ‘No, I deserve to take up space.’ … I am using music to present my indignity. I will be noticed. I will be loud. I will be proud of what I do. And you can all shut up. And I’m glad it comes out that way, because it should.”

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