Taking Meds are gearing up for the release of their new full-length, ‘Dial M For Meds,’ due out this Friday, 01 September via Smartpunk Records, and today they’re back with one more early single, ‘The Other End.’
Produced/recorded with Kurt Ballou at God City Studios (The Armed, Joyce Manor, NAILS) the album finds Taking Meds at their very best, leaning into college rock hooks while maintaining the energy and bite of their post-hardcore roots. ‘The Other End’ follows ‘Outside,’ ‘Memory Lane,’ and ‘Life Support’ (which garnered attention from the likes of Stereogum, BrooklynVegan, Uproxx, Upset, BBC Radio 1 Rock Show and more), and packs one of the catchiest choruses on an album full of catchy choruses.
Vocalist and guitarist Skylar Sarkis discussed the new track, saying: “‘The Other End’ was one of the first songs we wrote for this record. I’ve had the chorus melody in my head for a couple years. I’m really glad it came together the way it did. One of the main themes in this song is mundanity. When you have a vision for how something should go, or even how your entire life should go, it’s always going to get filtered through reality and come out looking pretty different. There is, of course, something wonderful about that, but this song talks about about how disappointing and empty that can feel.”
Since forming in 2013, Taking Meds have often been a band that don’t neatly fit into any one category. Now on ‘Dial M For Meds,’ the group have channeled all the inventiveness of their past work into the most direct and hook-driven songs they’ve ever written. The album manages to be instantly memorable and accessible while still having the teeth and eccentricity that longtime fans have come to expect from Taking Meds. Its ’90s-influenced sound makes for the perfect delivery system for Sarkis’ lyrics which provide cynical, hilarious, and deeply human commentary on spending your adulthood chasing the often intangible high of creative pursuits. The result is one of the most incisive and satisfying rock albums of 2023.
UPCOMING NORTH AMERICAN SHOWS:
30 Aug Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom *
02 Sep Brooklyn, NY @ Meadows *
03 Sep Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
05 Sep Ottawa, ON @ New Sodom +
06 Sep Montreal, QC @ Casa del Popolo
07 Sep Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar ^
08 Sep Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s ^
09 Sep Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen ^
10 Sep Detroit, MI @ Lager House ^
24 Sep Birmingham, AL @ Furnace Fest
27 Oct Gainesville, FL @ The Fest
* w/ Smoking Popes
^ w/ Born Without Bones
+ w/ Spite House
Punk’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.”