The band’s evolution has come along with a little help from its friends
The members of Medusa’s Disco are quick to drop the names of all the people who help the band operate. It would almost be unfair to write a story about the group and not acknowledge some of them.
There’s Elizabeth Joy, the artist who contributed trippy artwork to all three of the psychedelic rock band’s releases. Then there’s Tony Okay – the occasional guitar tech and road manager. And don’t forget roadie Mitch Shultz and his parents, Tom and Dee, who provide a free rehearsal space for the band to make all those experimental sounds that eventually become songs.
“Mitch’s mom loves our music so much that there’s a room in their house where we just leave all of our equipment set up, and that’s where we practice,” bassist Tyler Smith explains. “Without them, we really wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
But a band isn’t built on kindness and favors. There needs to be solid grooves and sweat – and perhaps a few strategic bass solos. And passion. Don’t forget that one.
Smith and vocalist/guitarist Wynton Huddle are overflowing with the latter when they talk about their band and its music. Medusa’s Disco, which also features Hunter Root on guitar and Alex Aument on drums, has only been around (officially) since last year. Its members, however, have been jamming in various Lancaster County groups since they were youngsters.
Huddle is the centerpiece of the group. All of the members knew him prior to the band’s formation. The singer met Smith when their previous bands would cross paths on the local circuit, which, as teenagers, included everywhere from bars to libraries.
“When you’re 17, you’ll play almost anywhere,” Smith says. “If there were more than five people in the room, it was a good show.”
Distance kept the two from starting a band together for years because Smith lived in York and Huddle was in Manheim. But they remained friends until their early 20s, when Smith relocated to Lancaster for a job. As the story goes, Smith was roaming the streets of the city when Huddle drove by on his way to a gig with Root and Aument, who performed as the trio SEEDS.
Smith hopped in the car and attended the show.
“He saw us play and said, ‘You guys look like you could use a bassist,’” Huddle laughs. “So we gave him a little trial, and we all had such a blast. We vibed well together.”
“I’ve been in a lot of bands, and it fell into place a lot nicer than any other band I’ve been in,” Smith adds.
The group performed and wrote songs as SEEDS from 2012 until last spring, when they decided a name change was necessary. The Seeds – an iconic garage rock band from the 1960s – had just started to reissue its back catalog of music. And there’s a Christian band from the 1990s that used the same name as well. Huddle and the rest of the band wanted to get ahead of any confusion.
After weeks of suggestions, tensions started to rise over the decision to change names. The group would have to put in a lot of extra work to reintroduce itself to the same fanbase. Eventually everyone agreed on Medusa’s Disco – a previous song title that signified the group’s new sonic direction.
“On the first album [Live at Max J Variety Show], there were a lot more straight, up-and-cut songs, like verse-chorus-verse. And on the second album is where it started to get a little more weird and crazy,” Huddle says. “‘Medusa’s Disco’ was like the start of that. [We were] no longer musicians trying to feel things out. We started to understand each other musically.”
The name is also a proper introduction to the band. The imagery of the two words together is a bit chaotic, but it’s centered on music. Huddle and Smith are fine with the “psychedelic rock” label, but they understand that it only scratches the surface of their sound. (“At the end of the day, Spotify needs a tag,” Smith says.) There are elements of folk, reggae and grunge in their music.
Then there’s “Life Caused Cancer,” a peaceful rocker that’s marked by Robin Chamber’s violin and a few frantic moments when the vocalist lets out some staggered screams. The song, like the album, is full of intensity. “It’s one of our relatively relaxing songs, so it just felt necessary for me to get some pent-up aggression out at the end,” Huddle says.
There’s no set way the band comes up with a song, which is probably why no two Medusa’s Disco tracks sound alike. Sometimes there’s a written idea that the band builds upon. Other times a song’s birth is the result of one member toying with a riff. Most of it is pretty random, and, for a band like Medusa’s Disco, a solid jam session is essential to the creative process.
“It’s really mentally healthy for us to just get in a room and just lay something random down and just go with it,” Huddle says. “It gets us all in a good mood and ready to create.”
Huddle, Smith, Root and Aument are locking down bigger venues like The Legendary Dobbs in Philadelphia and performing shows out of state. They are planning to release three EPs this year. A live one – The Prava Sessions – is due out June 23, with an acoustic collection to follow. They’re hesitant to mention the third one, referring to it only as “the mystery EP.”
Huddle and Smith can’t talk all day about the group and jamming and mysterious releases though. It’s Thursday, which means they have to head to the rehearsal space in Elizabethtown with Root and Aument to treat the Shultz family to a private show.
“We make some really ridiculous noises,” Huddle says as Smith laughs. “I just wonder sometimes what they think when we do some of the things we do.”
You’ve got two chances to catch Medusa’s Disco this month:
• Catch a stripped-down performance at Mexitaly (2440 E. Market St., York) on Saturday, May 16. 8:30pm. Click here for details.
• Get the full Medusa’s Disco experience with Flower Garden at The MakeSpace (1916 Third St., Harrisburg) on Saturday, May 30. 7pm doors/8pm music. All ages. BYOB for 21+. Click here for details.