Tragedy Processed Through Music, Supplemental Pills Ask the Tough Questions in Dark Times

Tragedy Processed Through Music, Supplemental Pills Ask the Tough Questions in Dark Times

“It’s about dealing with life when you didn’t ask to be here. You’re just born and you’re here…you try to gain consciousness and try to wade through the waters of life.”

“What is life worth? What does it mean? Why are we here? And how do we deal with tragedy?” are some of the questions frontman Ezra Meredith tackles in the Supplemental Pills’ sophomore album No Easy Way Out. Recorded and nearly finished before the still unexplained murder of the band’s bass player Aron Christensen, the record was already steeped in the questioning of life amidst the darkness that everyone faces at some point. After the tragedy, some re-recording was done along with a few alterations in the lyrics, but on the whole, it’s still part of Christensen’s legacy, and something the band shares with pride.

“Aron’s death makes the record carry a heavier weight…it hits harder when I listen to it. It’s our job to carry on his legacy…We want people to listen to it and think of Aron, because we love him and he’s all over it.”

Sonically, No Easy Way Out is a unique mix of roots rock with electronic elements and a thruline of psychedelic soundscaping. From the opening, “Judgement Time” and “Rest My Soul” capture the angst of someone who knows something is wrong in the world, but may not have the power to create the change they want. Feeling like a drunk in despair, the songs garner the emotion of stumbling out into the darkness from a dirty country bar, just looking for a place to rest awhile and sober up.

“We do a lot of things: heavy blues, psychadelic and atmosphere rock,” says Ezra of the album. “It’s not as psychedelic/ jammy as our first record. It’s more dark and brooding. It has some jams in it, but it’s far more focused.” What I noticed about the album is a very developed (and probably incredibly difficult to manage) balance between the earthy roots rock instruments and electronic elements. The title track “No Easy Way Out” is a great example of this, beginning with a strong electronic vibe, though keeping a simple tambourine for percussion along with vocal harmonies to ground us in the tangible. Then spoken word creeps in as the song continues, adding a grit and variety that maintains throughout.

“I’m not much of a lyric person, but on this record the lyrics are very serious, because I was dealing with a lot,” continues Ezra. Considering the chorus of “Bablyon,” Ezra claims, “it captures what people have been observing across America the past several years. Nothing seems to be working out, everything seems to be falling apart. There is certainly joy to be found, but if you’re like me, or a band like us, you get caught in the dark places of life and it’s easier to reflect on them.”

“God’s alive looking for soldiers

Satan’s on the come around

All day long looking for answers

While Babylon keeps rolling down”

From “Babylon”

It’s not all dark and serious, however, with tracks like “Starjourney” that call up that psychedelic drone rock that the band is known for, as well as “When You Were Young,” which has strong electronic elements in a drawn out soundscape. Of the band’s style and genre, Ezra comments, “It’s a form of music for people to get into if they want to be taken away to somewhere else.” And lyrically, “It’s about dealing with life when you didn’t ask to be here. You’re just born and you’re here…you try to gain consciousness and try to wade through the waters of life.”

The album takes it home with more of the roots rock/ electronic combination on “Truth,” again with this strange balance of groundwork grunge and ethereal high-minded reckoning that Supplemental Pills somehow does so well. This one made me want to see them live though, which you can catch by following their websites, linked to below. The current lineup features brothers Ezra Meredith and Joel Meredith on vocals/guitar and guitar, respectively, bassist Andy Foster, drums by Mark Folkrod and newest addition, RonJon Datta on keyboards.

“We were initially looking to fill out our sound with another guitar player,” Ezra says of the lineup, but then friend RonJon mentioned a keyboard might add to the sound, and before too long he was in. Originally the band had Aron playing synth on the record, and so while playing live, he would use foot pedals to play synth with his feet while also manning the bass with his hands. “The setup was quickly getting complicated for Aron and involved a lot of gear he’d have to carry to gigs…having RonJon in the band freed him up from that and made everything better.”

“Goodbye Reno” concludes this journey with somewhat of a departure from the rest of the album. It carries a spacey folk sound in the vein of someone like Sufjan Stevens, with a rare flavor of female vocals mixed in, along with the still grounded percussion and roots guitar. This one feels like that drunk who was staggering out into the unknown earlier has finally found a place to sit, rest and settle, having gotten out the angst and the questions. Nothing is necessarily resolved, but with any artist who has something to say, it’s always nice to just get it out.

“As far as the four of us are concerned, it’s the best thing we’ve worked on to date.”

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