When I rolled up to MASS to interview them ahead of their gig on Sunday night, the five dudes that make up Meach Pango were horsing around in the parking lot, tossing a pock-marked Nerf football to one another. This was around 7 p.m., and they weren’t slotted to play until 11:30 p.m. Moving around and having fun is a marked contrast to the usual pre-show activities of most bands, which generally involves brooding over Lone Stars at the bar. Granted, a couple of Meach Pango’s members aren’t yet old enough to drink. But after sitting around with them for an hour in the office that often doubles as MASS’ green room, I got the idea that these dudes will maintain a youthful spirit well into their gray-and-golden years, or they will as long as they continue getting “meached.”
To be “meached” is a state of being in which the chances of having a great time are maximized. Spreading the gospel of getting meached seems to be Meach Pango’s primary objective. To that aim, the band pumps its audiences full of upbeat vibes via deftly performed genre-hopping rock – the kind of pop made by a punk band cast in a teen movie, who get four songs done at the house party before the scene degenerates into floated kegs and cop cars careening on the lawn.
In short, Meach Pango brings a party. While their debut album, Fresh Fruit (recorded last year at The Hang Studios in Hurst with engineer Ben Barnett), is ripe with earwormy hooks and good-time grooves, their live show is where they really shine, in part because their personality personifies the quest for meachitude. From the moment their amps buzz on, the guys in Meach Pango look like they’re having a blast. Burly and bespectacled, with wavy hair that threatens to go full-on Eraserhead, frontman Alex Mackenzie makes for an enthusiastic, engaging frontman onstage, jumping and dancing and working the mic stand like a hybrid of Patton Oswalt and Har Mar Superstar, if the former exhibited athleticism and the latter wore clothes. Mackenzie might be in the center of the action, but his stage presence is made possible by the energy generated by the guys rocking around him.
Now in their early 20s, Mackenzie and his bandmates have been friends since their early teens, and they’ve been playing music together for about that long. As such, they exhibit a musical telepathy a lot of local bands only ever dream of having.
“We’re friends from high school,” said guitarist Tony Coffman. “I’ve known [bassist and backing vocalist] George [Marquez] since I was in 8th grade.”
He and Mackenzie got their start as a band performing covers in high school. That band fell apart, but they started another one called The Influence, which later included current Meach Pango drummer Clayton Gaskamp and guitarist/trombonist Jared Loftis.
The Influence turned out to be a terribly generic name, but Marquez and Coffman had come up with the name Meach Pango while entertaining themselves during a high school anatomy class. After a night of drinking, they convinced the other band members to accept the new moniker.
As a name, Meach Pango has made a bigger impact on search engines, and as a band, they’ve made an even bigger impression on local crowds. Over the past two years, they’ve seen their fanbase grow bigger every show, and those fans are a lively bunch, unsurprising given that Meach Pango’s music is danceable. Their sound isn’t exactly easy to pin down, but it does draw from any genre that strikes their fancy – high-energy power pop that blends Elvis Costello’s melodic complexity with Deen and Gene Ween’s instrumental dexterity, filigreed with soaring vocal harmonies, punched up with hints of ska and punk.
Meach Pango recently become part of the family of Dallas-based indie label Hand Drawn Records (Cut Throat Finches, Henry the Archer, Un Chien), and they’re hoping to put Fresh Fruit out on vinyl later this year. And this week, they’ll be rocking a couple stages at South by Southwest (the Hand Drawn showcase at Threadgill’s on Thursday and Red Gorilla’s party at the Dizzy Rooster on Friday). It’s their second year to play the annual Austin music festival, and the band is hungry to hit the road more.
“People will see us and then tell me later, ‘I’m so glad I got meached,’ ” Mackenzie said. “It sounds dirty, but that’s kind of the point. We don’t take it too seriously. We just want to have fun and let loose.” l