The Mammal Virus started out years ago as a psychedelic rock band playing all the usual haunts here (Lola’s Saloon, the Wreck Room, The Cellar) and in Dallas (Curtain Club, Three Links, Double Wide). From that time, frontman and chief songwriter Lance Sanders developed a bad alcohol addiction that sidelined the group seemingly permanently.
“It took me 38 years to become the man I respect,” Sanders said. “I grew up in [prison]. When I got there, I looked around, and I’m around guys that are murderers. It was really difficult. I made my first parole. When I got out, I had some issues I had to deal with personally.”
Sanders didn’t have much hope for rekindling the group, but after meeting new bassist Zachary Zanetich, the frontman said he was inspired. While Sanders said he still writes the same way, his subject matter has changed, has become more personal and heartfelt. Along with a new track called “Pandemic,” he’s also written “Foot on the Past,” about going all in on sobriety. The Mammal Virus’ new album, Nine Years of Medicine, will be feted at a sold-out release party this weekend at MASS.
In 2017 and after another nine months of hiatus in recovery, Sanders joined with Siamese Hips members and former Mammal Virus members Caleb Ditzenberger (lead guitar), Deven Kampenhout (keys), Rob Owens (bass), and Ray Villarreal (drums) recorded an unreleased five songs with Sanders carrying lead vocals and rhythm guitar. The songs were produced by Todd Pipes (Deep Blue Something, Flickerstick, Drowning Pool). Sanders said that in the songs he expresses his battle with alcohol after unfortunately having to spend a lot of time reflecting on his life and how he would get sobriety right.
Sanders is stoked about his new direction. Along with Zanetich, drummer Reggie Fine and guitarist Rodney Stoffer make up the rest of The Mammal Virus.
“I feel that this band is better than I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’m more happy than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
After Zanetich posted that he wanted to play in a new group, Sanders reached out to him a year ago this October. “I wanted to work with people who are on the same level as me,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ entirely new backing members pounded out two more EPs: The Vax in 2014 and Audio Ambulance in 2016.
“I consider this band to be a very versatile rock band,” Sanders said. “We’re not genre-specific. I don’t want to be tied down to any labels with the music I play but a Southern approach with psychedelic undertones and a straight rock ’n’ roll band.”
Nine Years of Medicine is a nine-track collection of some older material originally recorded by Ty Whaley at The Rechordium at EMP in Arlington and several new songs recorded at Cloudland Studios with Robby Rux (Ting Tang Tina, The Fibs, Big Heaven), with all the songs doctored and mastered with Pipes.
“I personally think these songs recorded with Robby are some of the best,” Sanders said. “Robby Rux was the best person I’ve ever worked with. He was the best music producer and music engineer I’ve ever worked with in 25 years.”
Bringing in new backing members all the time was inspired by Doug Marsh, who recruits new people for every Built to Spill album. As of now, the newly remade group is scheduled to record new material next month with Taylor Tatsch (Maren Morris, Summer Lane Emerson, Cut Throat Finches). The Mammal Virus hopes to release that EP by the new year.
“The songs are different lyrically,” Sanders said. “My songs aren’t filled with so much hate. It’s more of a powerful message from someone whose been to hell and back and made it on the right side of things.”