Written by Joe Kralovich (@KralTunes)
“Sometimes, I’m a pretty lucky dude.”
Music virtuoso Jason Achilles Mezilis has every right to consider himself lucky, ‘fore over the span of his decade plus career, not only has he played with some of the greatest musicians of the modern era, but he has also run and operated his own boutique analog recording studio in L.A., which has hosted several prominent musicians. When he is not behind the board twisting and turning the knobs, he can be seen touring with vocalist/bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Dan Dinsmore as the LA/NYC-based rock band OWL, whose third album, Things You Can’t See, is set for release July 28th via Overit Records.
The band re-emerged in early 2014 and began laying the foundation for what would be “Things You Can’t See,” a bold, experimental, and even more musically ambitious album than their previous two. Parting from tradition, the trio did not work off of completed songs – instead they jammed in the studio, honing and cultivating the music in the moment, a process that Mezilis found to be both challenging and beneficial. He said, “The bonus of course is you get wild ideas, new flavors, and moments derived purely from a flash of inspiration, that may have not been able to develop otherwise”.
This six track collection’s first single, the exceptional “Who’s Gonna Save You Now,” showcases Wyse’s raw lyrics encased in tightly structured hooks and overall top shelf musicianship at a level that only decades of experience can bring. Elsewhere, the band does a tremendous job of diversifying their sound; title track “Thing’s You Can’t See” is both heavy and melodic, “Witch’s Familiar” is progressive and heavy through a haze of psychedelia, and “Lake Ego” possesses an eerily irresistible groove. Said Mezilis of the new album, “It’s an exciting new offering with a lot of familiar elements they recognize, but it’s further developed than perhaps they’ve heard previous”.
Owl guitarist Jason Achilles Mezilis recently interviewed with Tonight At Dawn about the new album, touring life, as well as some other topics:
KralTunes: What can fans expect to hear on this new album? Is it a natural progression from the previous albums? Are you venturing into new unfamiliar territories?
Jason Mezilis: Things You Can’t See is something that fans of our previous work will really enjoy. It’s an exciting new offering with a lot of familiar elements they recognize, but it’s further developed than perhaps they’ve heard previous. I think you could fairly say it encompasses all the different facets of what Owl does best, from one extreme to another, but pushed to a farther degree than before. And in that regard yes it is a natural progression, although perhaps we didn’t realize that at the time we were creating it. A great example of that is the lead (title) track “Things You Can’t See”, wherein about halfway through the song you’re thinking you’ve digested everything this opening track has to offer, you’re feeling pretty comfortable with it…and then there’s a major gear change and it gets into some seriously crushing musical territory. I love that tune.
KT: The incorporation of various alien encounter footage in your album teaser video, along with the album cover, are certainly intriguing. Are those images a sign of things to come thematically on this record, or was it just cool shit to use?
JM: Hahah, well it certainly was visually fun, yeah. The concept behind the title of the record “Things You Can’t See”, the idea that just because things are obscured / out of your field of view or recognition, that doesn’t mean they are outside a sphere of influence, either towards you or perhaps others. It speaks a bit of an awareness of influence beyond the surface cause-and-effect, both on a personal accountability level (which I am a big fan of) and perhaps further, and certainly you can have some fun by extrapolating that into those areas you mentioned. I’m a big fan of Coast-to-Coast AM talk radio, and those out there that know what I’m talking about are nodding their heads right now. Regardless of what you ascribe to or personally believe, in those areas, you can’t deny it’s some cool entertaining shit.
KT: According to Owl’s bio: “For the first time, the band didn’t work off of completed songs – instead they jammed in the studio, honing and cultivating the music in the moment.” Personally, which method of songwriting do you prefer?
JM: It really depends on the situation, or in this case the progression of what project or band you’re involved in. For Owl it was the right decision for this record, based on the work and methodology we’ve applied previously. It was tough, sometimes that’s a manner of songwriting that can lead down a dead-end, and you have to find your way back. That can be a discouraging period, but we’ve got a level of trust that’s developed in this band where it just takes one voice to raise the alarm and steer the ship back on course. Our drummer Dan is really good at that. The bonus of course is you get wild ideas, new flavors, and moments derived purely from a flash of inspiration, that may have not been able to develop otherwise. But of course it takes a good producer to make sense of it all, and our frontman Chris did a great job of pulling it all home.
KT: Tracks ‘Things You Can’t See’ and ‘Witch’s Familiar’ are early standouts for me. While they are both great heavy rock songs, they are two different styles; one is a straight rocker with groove, while the other relies more on mood and atmosphere. When it comes to writing new music, which style do you feel you gravitate to more often?
JM: Thank you, that’s very kind. I think that’s part our signature, that ability to gel those seemingly disparate elements. Both Chris and myself are big fans of The Doors, and they did a fantastic job of the same. Dan is basically a rhythmic beast waiting to be unleashed at any moment, being in the room with his energy is shocking if you’re not prepared for it. So there’s always that energy seething underneath, even if you’re not hearing it a the moment and I think that’s the continuity that really allows it all to work. There may be atmospheric passages and moments, but you always can feel that energy lurking there, ready to cut loose.
KT: You band has played with several prominent musicians throughout your careers (Ace Frehley, Ozzy, etc.). What, if any, is some advice any of these people have passed onto you that you found valuable?
JM: Well of course I can’t speak directly for Chris, but I think he would agree that probably the best thing you can do is watch, take private notes, study the methods of those around you that you are fortunate to be in rather intimate company with, and observe all the little clues as to how they maintain that level of prominence and respectability. And to that end, on a personal note, the best thing you can possibly do in any of those situations is be prepared. Do your homework. It’s an assumed given that if you are in the room, you deserve to be there, and that can be a tall order, so you need to be ready to deliver. It’s expected.
KT: What is some of the gear you use to create the OWL sound?
JM: My consistent gear throughout all three records we’ve done together is my lefty mid-70’s Antoria “Les Paul” semi-hollow body guitar, to which I added a newer, more high output pickup in the bridge position and had some fantastic overall setup work done on by Greg Coates over at Future Music in Los Angeles. I also used my trusted old Ibanez Flanger which has this really crazy resonant sweep to it, and your typical Boss delay pedal. That’s the foundation of my sound – and as far as amps, on this album I had the good fortune of having an amazing studio backline of top-shelf amps provided to me by Pete Vroman, which was just a real pleasure in terms of being able to get creative and precise with all the different tones and attack. It was like a hi-end boutique tonal buffet!
KT: I’m sure you’ve been asked about your favorite spots to play…whats the worst venue you have ever played in? Was the experience so vile that no amount of $$$ would convince you to return?
JM: It really all comes down to the audience. I recently played an after-show party in an attic at a house party out in the sticks in Nebraska through the most low-rent craptastic gear you could imagine, that was way more pleasurable than some of the best back line and stage setup that you could hope for. Because the kids were into it, there were smiles all around, and it wasn’t just a “performance”, it was a party. When it comes to rock n’ roll…that’s the ultimate goal, the music of course is the focal point but at the end of the day it’s all about leaving folks with an experience, something to tell their friends about. And the best way to do that is to show them a good time. If they’re smiling, I’m happy.
KT: Follow up: Are there areas of the country/world that you are super excited to get back to on future tours, and why?
JM: I am personally most excited every time we reach into a new market, either domestically or overseas. Of course NY and LA are our two homes, and it’s great to see friends and familiar faces…and believe me those fans are SUPER supportive, it’s amazing. But what really gets me charged more than anything are the new audiences, the new faces. The new converts 🙂
KT: You run your own digital recording studio (Organic Audio Recorders). What can you tell us about your business? Who are some of the artists that have used your facilities?
JM: Well, actually it’s primarily an analog recording studio, or you could perhaps say analog / digital hybrid…there’s not a lot of folks still using tape, and for me it really is a special part of the process. I even love the way it smells (seriously), and taking a razor blade to a performance edit is certainly not something that gets old. To me it feels palpable, real.
As far as artists I’m working with, I believe this might actually be the first formal announcement of this, but over the past year or so I have been mixing a solo record for Dizzy Reed (of Guns N Roses). It’s his first solo release in 20+ years since he first joined those guys, and I quite literally just mailed off the final mix for the final tune tonight. Pretty cool thing to be entrusted with, for a guy on a level that’s basically seen and done everything you can imagine in the world of rock n’ roll. He’s got a crazy amount of musicians on the record, and in some cases I didn’t even know until after the fact that I was mixing performances by some friends of mine, on drums or bass or what have you. In fact one of those was Greg Coates, whom I mentioned earlier and also happens to be one of the best bass players around, a real monster. And I say this as a guy in a band [and very close friends] with Chris Wyse, one of the best bass players you’ve ever heard, anywhere. Sometimes I’m a pretty lucky dude.
KT: You have worn many hats throughout your music career (producer, musician, etc. I’m sure you didn’t need me to remind you of this). Which role do you find the most satisfying?
JM: Ha yeah…well, If I had to give up everything for one role, it would be that of artist / producer. There’s nothing to me more satisfying than cultivating a sound in my head and seeing that realized to satisfaction. I do certainly love working with other people, and I’m good at it, particularly the production role – getting the best out of people. I’ve always been fascinated with sound, and I’ve got a good ear…that was the blessing, if you will. But it was something I sort of fell into as a result of slowly cultivating my own recording studio over the years. At some point I realized I had a pretty good thing going, and certainly it’s good work if you can get it. But yeah, taking something from a flash of inspiration, through the writing & recording process and ultimately to the stage, and have it reflected back at you by the audience with the energy you felt the whole time…that’s really something, man.
Find Owl Here:
See Owl Here:
7/17 New York, NY @ Lucille’s Bar & Grill in BB King’s Blues Club
7/18 Saratoga Springs, NY @Putnam Den
7/19 Providence, RI @Aurora Providence
7/21 Los Angeles, CA @Whiskey A Go Go (with Philm featuring Dave Lombardo of Slayer)
7/23 San Jose, CA @Rockbar (with Philm featuring Dave Lombardo of Slayer)
*more dates to be announced