Megative started out as a seedling,” Tim Fletcher says. It was an idea he and producer Gus Van Go had been discussing for a decade.
“We’ve known each other for over 20 years,” Fletcher continues, noting their mutual desire to bridge the “beautiful universes” of 1970s British punk, rock steady, Two Tone, reggae and dub. That, he says, was their initial inspiration. “We really wanted to put [all] that into a soup and make a band with it,” he says.
“We didn’t exactly know the details of what we were going to do,” adds Van Go. “It was only when we had the right people that we pulled the trigger.”
With the exception of Fletcher, who’s based in Montréal, Megative’s core members –Jesse Singer and Chris Soper (collectively known as Likeminds), Jamaican-born reggae vocalist Screechy Dan, and Van Go – are all based in New York City or Brooklyn. But both Fletcher (as guitarist/lead vocalist for The Stills) and Van Go (in Me, Mom and Morgantaler) cut their teeth in Montréal’s indie scene.
The resulting many-headed beast is a collective whose songwriting process derives as much from the individual members’ diverse backgrounds as by their shared experiences, influences, and lengthy tenures in the music industry. “That keeps things fresh and very ego-less,” says Fletcher. “Getting older and maturing as a person, too, you realize that your life and time are precious, and you just want to enjoy making music. And we’re all at that stage.”
Singer and Soper (Grammy-nominated producers in their own right), though younger, are equally knowledgeable “about the connection between reggae and punk… but also Gorillaz, Massive Attack, and modern dancehall,” says Van Go. Similarly, Screechy Dan brings a wealth of experience to the table, as do percussionist/MC/singer/DJ Jonny Go Figure, guitarist Alex Barbeau, and drummer Demetrius Pass, who round out Megative’s current live lineup.
The songs on Megative’s self-titled came from a variety of sources, Van Go and Fletcher explain – from previously-written tunes, to grooves generated in the studio, or full-on jams. “It’s really a song-by-song process,” says Fletcher. It was also a fairly relaxed one, says Van Go. “It was a process of discovery for us because we didn’t know what it was to write a Megative song.”
There was a core vision, however. “What we love about reggae is the apocalyptic heaviness of it. It’s not all fun, sunshine, hacky-sacks, and good vibes,” says Fletcher, adding that the band wanted to address what he calls “an increasing epidemic of a lack of meaning” – a by-product the cultural and personal traumas impacting society collectively and individually.
Megative was conceived in the mid-2000s, on a long drive to San Diego, during which Van Go and Fletcher bonded over a shared love of the almost-final 1982 Clash Album, Combat Rock. while it yielded perennial party favourites “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and “Rock The Casbah,” Combat Rock also dealt with a similar kind of alienation that Megative does – and did so at a time, not unlike now, when the sense of living in a society in decline was prevalent. Fletcher and Van Go both agree that the tone of the album, and their discussion of it on the road, was the initial spark, and the primary sonic and lyrical reference point, that led to them founding Megative.
“There’s a tremendous sense of abandonment and neglect and a lot of people are just grappling for meaning… The opioid crisis, addiction to ever more robust painkillers,” he continues. “It’s not some anomaly… People are in pain, and are unable to cope with this sense of isolation without help.”
Consequently, Megative’s music depends heavily on lyrical themes of paranoia and existential dread, while calling for brave living in dark ages. “This all sounds very serious and dark,” says Fletcher, “but there is a side of it that’s very absurd… so there’s humour, too.”
Onstage, that comes across loud and clear. “Halfway through our very first show, in this super-small town in Quebec, I’m standing on a table playing my bass, and Screechy’s hanging off the rafters. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re that kind of band,’” says Van Go. “But we didn’t know it was going to be this much fun, or what kind of energy the live show was going to have.”
And that’s as it should be, he adds. “I produce a lot of records, and bands always seem preoccupied about that, but I always tell them, ‘Don’t think about it. Start by making the best record you possibly can, one that excites you. That’s your North Star.’”