Chad Ubovich of Meatbodies doesn't really know what to do with down time. He's been in basically every local garage rock band, from playing in Together Pangea (back when they were just called Pangea), to Mikal Cronin's touring band, to Fuzz.
He's been a go-to touring musician for about four years, switching off between bass and guitar in various projects depending on whatever opening needs to be filled.
“I will never not be down. It’s kind of a problem,” says Ubovich. “I only feel good when I’m playing music.”
Ubovich has been busy with bands since high school, when he was winning over the ladies with what he calls his “pretty boy band,” Thief, which he used to play in with middle-school buddy Cory Hanson (ex-Together Pangea, Wand). “It’s so ridiculous to think that we were, like, trying to be Radiohead.”
Then, he was winning Battle of the Bands at a skate park in Monrovia with his surf rock group, the Dead Eye Cells.
“One of the judges was from Dread Zeppelin. He gave us a huge score,” he says. “We won with a landslide thanks to that Dread Zeppelin guy.”
That was also the day Ubovich was approached by a Los Angeles booking agent. Or so he thought at the ripe age of 17. “I think in my head he was a booking agent, but he was really just a dude with a venue. But I was like, 'Hell yeah, man, Los Angeles!'”
Ubovich came to play in L.A. and ended up on a bill with The Epsilons, one of Ty Segall's first bands.
“I went home and looked them up on MySpace, back when that was the thing you did to find out about bands,” he says. “I said to my band, 'Dudes! They're guitar, keyboard, drums … and they’re way better than us! Fuck!”
The two lost touch after playing a handful of shows together, but reconnected a few years later when Ubovich recognized Segall outside of the Smell. Segall had just released Lemons (2009).
At the time, Segall was also playing in surf-thrash group Party Fowl with Mikal Cronin, who was roommates with Hanson, Ubovich's ex-Thief-bandmate. When 2010 rolled around, Cronin was about to set off on tour and needed a bassist. Ubovich was there to fill the void.
After a few tours, Ubovich switched to playing guitar with Cronin. Then, when Fuzz needed a guitarist, Ubovich jumped in.
During all of this, Ubovich had been working on his own solo project, Meatbodies (shortened from Chad and the Meatbodies). Meatbodies opened for Fuzz at a couple shows; subsequently, Segall pressed Ubovich to record his songs and send them to him. In 2013, Segall released a self-titled Meatbodies cassette on his God? imprint.
The tape sold out, which prompted Ubovich to go into the studio and record a full-length album.
Ubovich went to San Francisco to record with Eric “King Riff” Bauer, the producer behind psychedelic-garage rock behemoths Thee Oh Sees and White Fence, as well as Mikal Cronin and Ty Segall's projects.
“A big reason I wanted to record with him was because of Goodbye Bread,” says Ubovich. “That was one of my favorite of Ty's albums. I was really impressed. It was minimal, but powerful.”
“Minimalistic chaos” — which is how Ubovich describes the sound of The Beatles' albums — is what he wanted to achieve with the first Meatbodies release. “There's a minimal amount of instruments playing on there, but there’s a lot of stuff going on. The Beatles recorded on a 4-track and then dumped it on to a 3-track. I really liked Bauer's approach because it kind of reminded me of that.
“But you know, the moment I record with Bauer he gets a 24-track,” he laughs.
With the help of Bauer — who Ubovich calls the “controller master” — and a dream team of musicians including Cory Hanson, Erik Jimenez (Together Pangea), Riley Youngdahl and Ty Segall (who drums on tracks “Plank,” “Disorder” and “Gold”), Meatbodies came to be.
But the album isn't what Ubovich originally had in mind. “I think I set out to make this a very 'wow' first album. Like, fast. Fucking rocking jams and head banging,” he says. “A lot of it ended up being pretty personal. A lot of the subjects in some of the songs are pretty dark. And I was realizing that as I was recording it.”
Ubovich struggled with writing songs that were so dark, but considering his recording atmosphere — three weeks in Bauer's underground studio, sans windows or concept of time, in the midst of a San Francisco winter — it makes sense.
The experience was cathartic for Ubovich. “That environment got me to [tell] a lot of personal stories that I had forgotten about because I was always just touring and partying nonstop.”
He adds: “There’s a weird energy on the album, a supernatural feeling. I could feel it in the air, and in the studio, too. Just like a really dark force coming over me.”
Ubovich sent the album to Tatiana Kartomten, album artist for Fuzz's self-titled album and Segall's Slaughterhouse. “She came back with this crazy rainbow demon face and I was like, 'OK, you feel it too.'”
Don't be mislead though. Meatbodies isn't the kind of album that will make you want to curl up and cry; there's a fun, frantic energy that threads throughout. Lightning-fast, guitar-driven tracks like “Disorder” and “Gold” are mosh-pit ready, while “The Master” is a glimmer of '60s glam rock.
“Tremmors” — which Ubovich describes as “total ecstasy” to play — is about freedom from self-deprication. “It's about thinking of yourself as a certain way. Like, I am this person, and I’m angry, and I’m negative … this is who I am. And then you have these moments when you open your mind and say, 'Holy shit, I’m a really awesome person.' And things are beautiful, and everyone is beautiful.”
Meatbodies is out Oct. 14 on In the Red records. Meatbodies perform Friday, Oct. 10 at the Smell.