A Conversation With Messes
There’s always something special about music that comes from a place of love and passion. Throw some friendship and things get even better. All of those things come together in the new split being released by Somerset, Kentucky’s Messes and Leaving, out June 6 via Withdrawn Records and currently available for preorder. “After years of playing music together in the same small town as one entity or another, Messes and Leaving are basically family at this point,” says Messes’ Perry Wesley. “Both bands rely heavily on one another to make things happen.” Cementing this relationship even more, the two bands actually share a common member. This release is “more of a celebration of our friendship and shared growth than anything else, as cheesy as that may sound.”
As further proof of the bands’ shared bond, Perry has engineered and mixed everything that Leaving has ever released, including the two songs on this split. It can be pretty hard to be a musician in a place as remote as Somerset, with no dedicated recording spaces around, but these ever-resilient bands don’t let that stop them. “The Leaving split songs were recorded at my dad’s house in Berea, Kentucky while he and my stepmom were gone on vacation. Leaving paid me in bourbon. It’s always pretty fun to turn a nice, comfortable home into a loud, sweaty creative zone.” In Perry’s mind, this challenge to record is more of a positive than a negative. He believes that music recorded by the musicians themselves lends itself to an organic characteristic not found in a full-fledged studio. “It just seems more honest, more real, and different spaces make for some good strangeness. Records like Mansions’ ‘Dig Up the Dead’ and Museum Mouth’s ‘Alex I am Nothing’, as well as the Nouns discography really influence my thinking on that front.” Of course, there is always a time and place for more conventional methods as the Messes song, “Wampire”, that appears on the split was recorded in-studio with Mike Moschetto of the band Aviator to very positive results.
Speaking of the local scene, “Somerset has always been a hot bed for great music, but very few are lucky enough to do much touring or get exposure from folks outside of the state. The scene goes through a lot of violent ups and downs, dry spells and amazing runs of great shows – usually revolving around whatever all ages venue is functioning at the time.” Unfortunately, the community suffered a blow last year with the closing of The Loft, causing the majority of bookings to go now through an old high school turned community center. “It can be hard to make shows pop off in a town of 12,000 people that isn’t near an interstate or major population center, but due to the hard work of everyone involved in the Somerset music scene, things are going pretty well.” Somerset does its best to nurture those within its community, such as The Menagerie, Detainees, and Lost Swimmer, as well as bringing in touring bands who are loved and respected. It has even become a priority touring spot for some.
“Kentucky as a whole is also going through a bit of a low-key renaissance at the moment. There is some amazing art and music coming out of places like Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and far Eastern Kentucky. Bands like Cigarette Smoke, Mayweather, Frustrate, Xerxes, and the most punk band in the world – Globsters – are all making Kentucky proud.” Outside of this scene, hip-hop and electronic music are thriving as well, along with the up-and-coming inclusion of skate culture in an area where it would normally not exist (through the work of Drew Lance at Rain Damage Skate Shop in Lexington). “It can be extremely frustrating to be working hard on a creative endeavor in a place that isn’t always super supportive, but it’s great to be able to look at other creative people from our area and see how they stick to their guns and make something that’s truly theirs.” Julien Baker’s recent success has been especially inspiring. Perry credits one interview in particular where she asked something to the effect of “If everyone creative leaves the South to live and work in major population centers, who will be left to fix it and make it better?” He says, “We have the same thoughts about our area and Appalachia. I can’t help but admire anyone from here that’s working hard to make it a place that’s more conducive to alternative culture, art and lifestyles.” Of course, this is a category in which both Messes and Leaving fit.
Withdrawn Records, a label with a very interesting origin story, will handle the split’s physical release. Dustin Collins had always wanted to express his love for music in a physical way through a tape label and then one day “while he was working the Little Caesar’s drive thru he was given 100 or so free blank tapes by a dude that came through to grab a pizza.” From there he did a small run of tapes for another of Perry’s projects called Lonesome Pine Drive, which turned out well enough that Messes decided to work with him for this release. “The tapes are going to be really wild looking; we’re excited about them and where Dustin takes the label from here.”
Along with the tape edition of the split, the two bands will be releasing a photo ‘zine showcasing the interwoven history of both bands over the past few years. “The photos range from film photos that we’ve taken on past tours, to some stuff from our earlier days of playing music in Somerset. There might even be some high school yearbook gems in there, too. We’re not really sure if people outside of our Kentucky circle will care about it at all, but we wanted to make something physical and lasting that documents this time that we’ve been lucky enough to spend together.”
Never dwelling on the past for too long, Messes is looking forward to hopping on a leg of a summer tour with The Most as well as finishing up the demoing stage of a new release. “It started off as a short EP, but has kind of morphed into something more than that. Nathan and Dusty recently moved to Lexington for better work opportunities, and I just finished up college and am moving back to Somerset so we’ve all three been in a bit of a weird transition stage in our personal lives, which I think always makes for interesting music.” Beyond that the goal is simple: touring, touring, and more touring.
Preorder Messes/Leaving Split via Withdrawn Records