Meds drop debut single on an “Unexpected Visit,” with mental health advocacy as prime directive

Words by Jason Lee
Album artwork by Ana Becker
Photography by Kylie Squiers

Meds is a project focused on mental health advocacy and on supporting and declaring solidarity with those affected by, surviving through, and/or struggling with trauma to quote almost verbatim from Meds’ main instigator Brian Cherchiglia who’s better known to friends and musical associates as Cherch with musical associates including the project’s (far from only!) co-conspirators Evan Berg (Roland TR-808 programming and multi-instrumental duties) and Jeremy Kolker (vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental duties) and for more on personnel see our exclusive interview with Cherch below…

..and it’s a pretty well-timed project too when you consider how study after study indicate that depression and anxiety are increasingly endemic in our society alongside a parallel rise in the types of harms (addiction, suicide) associated with chronic despair with one semi-recent survey revealing that 54% of American feel like no one knows them well and with the number of high-school students reporting “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rising from 26% in 2009 to 44% in 2021… 

…and in the face of such dire portents it makes sense how music has come to be nearly synonymous with music therapy these days given it’s power for evoking strong emotional responses and for making us feel connected to other human beings (even in their immediate absence) cuz who hasn’t felt that feeling where a certain song makes you realize someone out there gets what you’re going through and what it feels like while assuring others must “get it” too where the music in question serves to express, process, and navigate mental states either too difficult or too painful to put into words but where music makes these states palpable or even beautiful all while offering some measure of comfort or even pleasure in their midst…

…with Meds’ debut single “An Unexpected Visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum” checking off multiple boxes above with its visceral mashup of psych, indie, and post-punk crossed with elements of hip hop production—i.e., subharmonics, 808s and heartbreak—or as Cherch puts it, “we love to melt your chest, not just your face” and indeed the song gets straight to work on the heart chakra with its pulsating electronic rhythms and shoegazy guitar-driven ‘90s-ish atmospherics and the sprightly rubber-ball bassline by Chris Urriola tthat drives the whole thing forward and taken together it’s like a big sonic comfort blanket…

…draped over lyrics that are equally enigmatic and full of exacting detail (“I swore to the god that I don’t believe in / there’s no way that you’re getting me to Cleveland”) which hints at an involved backstory behind the titular “unexpected visit” to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (fyi the museum is located in Boston with its namesake patron of the arts once described thusly: “She lives at a rate and intensity, with a reality that makes other lives seem pale, thin and shadowy”) but with Cherch wisely leaving it up to the listener to fill in the missing pieces (or not) and to keep their own similarly detailed diaristic notes on daily happens and feelings and thoughts which is therapeutic after all:

And so you hit your journal with a mini golf pencil
about that time we saw the shadows in your window
about that package that your landlord thought was a bomb
about Zadie, Kingston, sex, medication, and dawn

so grab your golf pencil and get to writin’ cuz it’s so much better than staying silent or “[being] so afraid of yourself / that you’re too scared to ask for help,” and far from remaining silenceCherch was kind enough to share background deets and other assorted thoughts with the Deli on the Meds project and related matters (mental health, especially) so read on dear reader for there’s much to be revealed about the project and about “Isabella” and about Meds’ upcoming debut LP Night (Volume 1) due out in early 2024:


On the band & how it came together…

Meds was formed out of the ashes of The Bottom Dollars, which (like a lot of projects) found itself involuntarily on hiatus due to the pandemic. In fact, four of the six members of the recording ensemble are all members of The Bottom Dollars (Evan Berg – drums / guitar; Sean Spada – keys / backing vocals; Jeremy Kolker – drums / backing vocals; Chris Urriola – bass / backing vocals) with the other two contributors being Ana Asnes Becker (backing vocals / album artwork) who plays with Catty and Habibi and formerly Fruit & Flowers, and producer/guitarist Jeff Berner (Subs / grandpas guitars) who plays/once played with Catty, Ilithios, Psychic TV, Shilpa Ray) etc. Jeff also engineered and mixed “Isabella” and the rest of Night (Volume 1)

Berg, Sean & I were in Deathrow Tull for years; I produced a large chunk of Sean’s demos for his first solo record, The Wild Ride, and Sean and I had a nerdcore project called Schroederz Cat (Sean’s got bars, not kidding). So the short answer is we’ve actually been in several bands together over the past 10+ years before we all coalesced for these Meds recordings and it’s really wonderful to be in familiar company for a project this vulnerable.

On starting the project…

I grew up obsessed with hip-hop, especially Outkast (my favorite band of all time) and the Notorious B.I.G. and I try to emulate those guys as storytellers every time I write a set of lyrics, especially 3 Stacks and Kendrick Lamar. I love deep subharmonics, the art of sampling to unify generations of creation into a new sound unique to that moment (especially RZA with film, Ali Shaheed Muhammed with bebop & J Dilla and Madlib for their fearlessness and identities as beatmakers), the power of vocal cadence and delivery…But, more than anything, I love the community that exists within hip-hop as a whole—Berg and I have long been a part of the Freestyle Mondays crew; the “reach one, teach one” ethos is beautiful.

As a punk/indie musician we often make records formulaically—chasing aesthetics, catering for tastemakers, etc. So, when I was conceptualizing what Meds could become I wanted to begin each arrangement with hip-hop production elements such as authentic Roland 808s, 909s, LINN Drums, Subs tuned to chord tones, G-Funk Moogs and then let my inner J. Spaceman fly in terms of guitars and psychedelia. That ended up creating a lot of open space and giving us this unique, signature kind of sound.

On the importance of mental health awareness & advocacy…

As a patient who’s been in therapy for years (I’ve been diagnosed with Panic Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which has been at times, severe enough to cause instances of Syncope) I can’t emphasize the importance of seeking care and the impact of therapy enough. 

Even beyond the conditions you’re suffering from, the stigmas that come along with seeking help (or even just opening up about what you’re feeling / experiencing) are powerful, dangerous and very real. At times, I’ve even noticed some of my own friends recoil and cringe which is both confusing and hurtful to experience, but we have to remember that we’re all learning as we go and lead with empathy. And even when you’ve made it through the intakes, waitlists, and red tape from insurance and actually land a practitioner, the journey can still feel isolating and ostracizing. 

On how I ended up at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum…

I’m going to be honest, it’s actually so difficult for me to talk about that that’s kind of the impetus behind composing this material, kind of as a therapeutic conduit to help me open up about my experiences. So, at the risk of losing bandwidth or manna I’d just encourage anyone who’s curious to listen to “An Unexpected Visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum” (and the other upcoming singles from the LP: “30 for 30,” “Bah Gawd!” and “29 or Two for 50”) and delve into the lyrics like staring into a painting and see where the story carries you.

On future plans for Meds…

To quote a wise emcee from Atlanta, “we outchea.”

The first record (Night: Volume 1) is finished being tracked, currently being mixed and should be out in early 2024. I’m also almost done composing the second installment: Night (Volume 2) which we’ll start on soon as well.

We’re figuring out the live ensemble more and more each day and it’s really starting to get interesting. Right now, the parts are split between myself, Evan Berg and Jeremy Kolker, with everyone assuming a multi-instrumentalist role and with my fellow teammate Steve Sturrett from The 94 Knicks guarding the paint / offering rim protection with his 5 string bass.

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