New Music

TAKING MEDS navigates through subcultural conundrum in “Dial M For Meds”

7 mins read

New York-based band Taking Meds has officially unveiled their forthcoming album, ‘Dial M For Meds‘, set for release on September 1st through Smartpunk Records. The new full-length effort, recorded at the famed God City Studios under the expert guidance of producer Kurt Ballou, showcases the band at their prime, expertly blending catchy college rock tunes with their signature post-hardcore vigor.

Celebrating the announcement, the group has released their catchy new single, “Outside“. Accompanied by a humorously tongue-in-cheek music video, the track closely follows their previous single “Memory Lane“, which received high praise from esteemed platforms like Stereogum, BrooklynVegan, and The Alternative, and will also feature on the upcoming album. The two-minute twenty-two-second track showcases Taking Meds’ flair for robust guitar playing and captivating melodies, serving as a fitting introduction to their forthcoming summer release.

Taking Meds, formed in 2013, has consistently defied categorization. Now, with ‘Dial M For Meds‘, the band has funneled the creative genius of their previous work into crafting the most hook-laden songs of their career. While the album is undoubtedly memorable and engaging, it still retains the biting originality that longstanding Taking Meds fans have come to anticipate.

Skylar Sarkis, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, weaves his lyrics with a potent blend of sarcasm, wit, and raw human experience, focusing on the elusive chase of artistic fulfillment during adulthood. The resulting album can be aptly described as one of 2023’s most incisive and enjoyable rock releases.

The tracklist for ‘Dial M For Meds’ comprises ten titles, starting with “Memory Lane” and “Outside”, and includes tracks like “Aftertaste”, “Life Support”, and “See The Clowns”.

Taking Meds
Taking Meds by Samuel David Katz

Additionally, Taking Meds have announced upcoming tour dates, with appearances alongside bands such as 7Seconds, Jivebomb, Smoking Popes, and Born Without Bones. The tour will kick off in Brooklyn, NY, on July 23rd, and includes stops in several cities across North America.

Over the years, Taking Meds has carved out a unique space in the punk rock scene, offering a distinct blend of complexity, wit, and stubborn originality that sets them apart from their contemporaries. With the upcoming ‘Dial M For Meds‘, they strike a delicate balance between accessibility and eccentricity, making it a must-listen for any rock enthusiast. For those who have ever felt like the odd one out in a crowd of supposed like-minds, this album promises to resonate.

Upcoming Shows:

07/23 Brooklyn, NY @ Meadows #
08/30 Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom *
09/03 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
09/06 Montreal, QC @ Casa del Popolo
09/07 Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar ^
09/08 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s ^
09/09 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen ^
09/10 Detroit, MI @ Lager House ^
09/24 Birmingham, AL @ Furnace Fest
10/27 Gainesville, FL @ The Fest

# w/ 7Seconds, Jivebomb
* w/ Smoking Popes
^ w/ Born Without Bones

Taking Meds biography:

Punk rock’s most stubborn band is finally ready to play nice. Well, not quite. But Taking Meds have written one of the best and most welcoming guitar albums of the year, without sanding off all of the edges that makes this obstinately singular band so compelling in the first place. If you’ve ever felt like a total outsider in a room of people who share your interests, a weirdo in a subculture that’s supposed to harbor the weirdos, or maybe you just really love loud guitars and big choruses–you need to hear Dial M For Meds.

Taking Meds have staunchly been themselves since forming in 2013.

Starting out as a twisting and technical amalgamation of mathy emo (Braid, Faraquet) and the most head-scratching signings of the ‘90s rock boom (Chavez, Jawbox, Polvo), the New York-based group often found themselves in unconventional positions like: The Poppy Band At The Hardcore Show, The Aggressive Band At The Pop Punk Show, The Shredder Band That Isn’t Metal–or most simply, The Uncategorizable Band. “We were coming out of being in [our previous band] Such Gold, and we were writing these weird sort of emo-tinged indie rock songs,” vocalist/guitarist Skylar Sarkis explains. “There wasn’t a lot of intention in it yet. I was so excited to have this new outlet, but I was also living in New York City, with a full time job, having problems with alcoholism and drug addiction, and falling into a bit of an identity crisis.” The band released their 2016 debut, My Life As A Bro, and slowly but surely Sarkis and Taking Meds began to change course. “I was miserable because I wasn’t doing more with music, so by the summer of 2017 I decided I was gonna quit my job and get sober,” Sarkis says. “I quit the job but didn’t get sober…first I burned through my savings and then a couple credit cards, but eventually I did get sober and we started touring more.” 2019 saw the release of their aggressive sophomore LP, I Hate Me, and the group’s reputation for imaginative riffs and Sarkis’ cuttingly sardonic lyrics began to grow.

In 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, Taking Meds released Terrible News For Wonderful Men, a more tuneful record that firmly cemented them as a cult favorite, an If You Know, You Know Band.

“That record was a bit of a shift for us,” says Sarkis. “It made me realize I wanted to try and invite more people to the band and hone in on what I think is our strong suit: having really accessible melodies over not very traditional chord progressions. I think we’ve always been really confident in our technical abilities and now we’re just as confident in the more classic songwriting sense and want to really highlight that with the new record.”

The result is Dial M For Meds, a Taking Meds album that manages to be instantly catchy and accessible while still having the teeth and eccentricity that longtime fans have come to expect.

“My whole life I’ve been thinking I need to be the guy who says he doesn’t give a shit about what anyone thinks and only makes music for himself, but of course I want people to like it,” Sarkis admits. “Actually connecting with people is a huge part of why I’m attracted to making music. I do give a shit.”

Recorded with producer/engineer Kurt Ballou (The Armed, Joyce Manor, Code Orange), Dial M For Meds finds Sarkis, guitarist Ben Kotin, drummer Noah Linn, and bassist James Palko stuffing every song to the brim with enough earworm melodies to make Bob Mould and Evan Dando proud. The ten tracks are crisp and direct but also pack a punch, and Kotin’s inventive leads are sure to intrigue anyone looking for a new guitar hero. And through it all, Sarkis delivers cynical, hilarious, and deeply human commentary on spending your adulthood in a fickle subculture where you’re chasing the often intangible high of creative pursuits.

“There’s an inherent conflict to being in a band and wanting people to hear your music,” Sarkis laughs. “You’re doing a thing that probably has some authenticity, that’s tied to who you are, that you put a piece of yourself into and you find enriching creatively—but then you’re in this field where the fuel is basically the validation, the approval, the desire to get some reaction from other people. It can be a bit of a paradox. It’s understandable that people start pandering and lose the plot. Regardless, at the end of the day I think part of being a musician should be writing what you want to hear, and right now I want to hear well-written, catchy rock and roll.”

Opener “Memory Lane” makes it clear that Taking Meds have accomplished that goal. The song careens out of the gate with a hook that’s stuck in your head by the time the first chorus is over, and laments the pull of nostalgia and the insidious complacency that can come with it. “A lot of the record is about chasing these things that you can’t ever really attain, trying to fill a hole that can’t be filled,” Sarkis says. “I think at one point nostalgia really fueled a lot of my addiction–trying to get back to a feeling that you can’t get back to.”

The album barrels into “Outside,” which somehow only gets catchier as Sarkis further explores the emptiness that comes from shallow pursuits, this time through the lens of subcultural minutiae and one-upmanship. “There is human connection that exists beyond ‘what’s cool,’” he says. “But we expend a lot of effort trying to arrive there. It’s a component of subculture that seems much more outsized than it is–as if it’s going to satisfy some actual human need.”

Sarkis’ lyrics are a nuanced balance between cutting humor, pessimistic honesty, and self-aware reflection, always ready with an eviscerating line and even more ready to point out his own participation in the musician cliches he’s sending up. It’s an ability that’s all the more impressive given his knack for fitting these ruminations into instantly hummable melodies, like on the ultra-catchy chorus to “Aftertaste,” where he sings about moving his addictive tendencies from drugs to band life. “I can’t wait til I get a taste / I can’t wait, I’m gonna be the guy that I hate.” “I’m not interested in melodrama, I’d rather be laughing,” Sarkis explains. “But I’m a 12-step recovery guy, I’m an addict, so a lot of the stuff that’s underneath that is emotional problems and I’m just one of those people who combats that with humor. I don’t go out of my way to be funny in my lyrics, I think I’m just drawn to absurdity.” That farcical element appears often on tracks like “Life Support,” “The Other End,” or “Something Higher,” where Sarkis weaves surreal fantasies or dream sequences in with stark observations about the often mundane indignities of an adult trying to lead a nontraditional life. “I think a lot of artists think they need to have a bleak life,” he says. “But it’s important to let go of that rigidity.”

Dial M For Meds feels like the work of a band that has let go of any preconceived constraints, internal limitations, or external expectations. But Taking Meds haven’t stopped stubbornly being themselves–they’ve just leaned into something that was always there. “Nobody has ever agreed on a classification for our music, so everyone has always just called us a rock band,” Sarkis says. “Now they can finally be right.”

Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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