For Inauguration Day, A Kansas City Rocker Writes His First Political Song
The band: Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds
The song: "Destination Revolution"
The story: Before the November 2016 election, Chris Meck says, "I was running errands and listening to the radio in the car and it was sort of song after song of sort of bland, vaguely happy stuff. It was like synth-pop bands that sound like it’s 1984 and they’re the Thompson Twins, only their song’s not very good. And a little sensitive acoustic songwriter guy — literally the chorus was about butterflies."
Meck wondered why young songwriters weren't angry.
"Their futures were bought and sold by their parents and grandparents, and they’re not angry. Where’s the MC5? Where’s Bob Dylan – not 75-year-old Bob Dylan, but where’s the 22-year-old Bob Dylan? So I just wrote an angry song.”
Meck says he started out with a simple, minor-key, crunchy guitar riff that was driving and repetitive.
“And then, out of that, I just came up with an equally insistent and repetitive sort of rhyme scheme, where every single line is a rhyme.”
He didn't want the song to be “artful or flowery," Meck says.
"I really wanted it to be as direct and as straightforward as possible, and then do it very loud and very hard.”
Each verse has a feeling of “sound bite, sound bite, sound bite, sound bite," Meck explains, "because there were a lot of things that I thought were worthy of mention. I’m probably not going to write a whole record full of political songs about each separate issue that bothers me. Maybe, but probably not. I just wanted to spew it out in my three-minute block and get on with my life.”
His fellow band members, Calandra (Rene) Ysquierdo, who plays bass, and Michelle Bacon, who plays drums, both sing harmony.
“The girls really like the rock stuff. They’re a lot of times less excited when it’s some sort of tender ballad. They like to turn it up and rock, so they loved it,” he says.
Though it's his first political song, Meck says, “I’m certainly not afraid of being political and having a political statement. I kind of think that’s part of your job as an artist to comment and reflect things around you.”
Though he repeats the word "revolution" throughout the song's chorus, Meck says he's not sure what that will look like.
“I’m not very optimistic. I think we’ve kind of taken this thing in such a direction that I kind of think maybe the best-case scenario for the next four years is we don’t nuke anybody and nobody nukes us and maybe we get some good rock and roll out of it.”
Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR 89.3 in which local musicians tell the story behind a song they have written or are performing. This is a special installment to coincide with a song deliberately released on Inauguration Day, 2017.
C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.