Saturday night, what’s up? Well, if you’ve got nothin’, we got somethin’ for you. Not only is it a First Saturday, but a fabulous band called Tomato Dodgers, from the D.C. area, are coming to perform for you — yes, you! — at Cafe Nola. It’s a big band. It’s a crazy band. It’s an amazing band. We recently caught up with the group’s leader, Asher Meerovich, to ask him about how they came together, what his dream tour would be, breaking down in Louisiana, playing Japan and his perception of the Frederick music scene. The fun starts at 9:30 p.m., friends. You wouldn’t want to miss it.
First, how did Tomato Dodgers come together? Whose idea was it to start the band? How long have you been together?
I started Tomato Dodgers in my freshman year at the University of Maryland. I was in the habit of finding scattered musicians across campus and convincing them to all get together and play music. At first, we jammed in the university’s music school practice rooms, but we were kicked out by the staff when they discovered us. Our first show was at a school club talent show; we played three covers and won. I’m ashamed to admit that I wore a fedora at that show, setting a precedent for perplexing wardrobe choices at Tomato Dodgers shows forevermore. We recorded a terrible EP at the student radio station, and paid the engineer with a bag of gummy worms. After a period of initial chaos, I started finding bandmates who were serious about exploring the possibilities that the band presented. Our drummer, Pete, walked by me one day while I was playing guitar outside on the lawn. I met our keyboardist and vocalist Tera in a metametaphysics class. We’ve had a series of bassists who’ve disappeared into the ether or moved to Cleveland. The lineup has shifted over the years, but the current orientation is the one that has traveled the furthest and played the most shows together. It was meant to be that Dylan Hinds joined us on bass after years of running sound for us at house shows, and I found our trumpet player and MC Andrew on the glorious Internet. Others have come and gone, and may come again — I like to think that once a Dodger, always a Dodger. YOU — yes, you — you’re in the band, too, you know.
Who were some of your influences when you were beginning the project? Any band or artist you guys were trying to lean on?
We started off playing a lot of covers — Bill Withers, Cake, Disney songs — so we definitely drew from a combination of earnest rock bands and weirdo ‘90s humor. Pete and I share a love for rhythmic psychedelic music, a-la Phish and TAUK. Tera definitely brought a little more of a songwriter aspect to the table, incorporating a Beatlesy element into an otherwise-confusing musical persona. The covers were a big deal. They helped us stay self-aware and having fun — we never wanted to take ourselves too seriously.
As a player, personally, who are some of your influences?
Frank Zappa, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, John Frusciante. For a solid year, I wanted to learn to play the guitar like a saxophone. Still can’t figure out which part to blow into.
I know you guys do a lot of touring. Is there a crazy tour story you could share that comes to mind?
We started a full-on mud-wrestling fight between people equipped with giant papier-mâché alien arms that we passed into the crowd during our set at an outdoor festival outside St. Louis, Missouri.
Alternatively: We broke down on the side of the highway on the godless stretch between Houston and New Orleans, got towed over a hundred miles, and sought shelter in a tiny Louisiana rest stop on a scorchingly hot day only to discover we’d run out of gas.
Alternatively: We left Jeaux-Phred in Kyoto.
Along those same lines, where are your favorite places to play? Do you have certain cities or venues that stand above the rest?
We had a freaking blast at a festival in West Grey, Ontario, this May — we played in a ghost town in the middle of nowhere to a lot of people who were super ready for the weirdness. We’ve routinely had great times in North Carolina. RIP the Kosher Hut, an incredible DIY house. We love Blacksburg, Virginia. Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, Illinois, was very special this last tour. We played an incredible two-story wedding hall in Aoyama, Tokyo, called Moonromantic. It had a gigantic lit-up full moon on the back of the stage. We played there with a Japanese band called Owarythm Benkei that had 35 members and sent out dancers with trays of food into the crowd during their set.
What do you think is the perfect song and why?
It may be a cliche, but I really, really love “The Great Gig In The Sky” by Pink Floyd. In my mind, it’s the ultimate expression of emotion without words. It transcends lyrics. It doesn’t need them. It’s raw and spontaneous, and the chords are simple and beautiful. The instrumentation is dynamic without being overbearing; the samples are placed in just the right spots. It’s just … a perfect song.
Can you give us the name of some local bands we should check out, who we might not already know?
D.C. and College Park have some strong local music scenes, it’s incredible. Humbalaya are our forever homies. Marcus Moody is doing big things with The Hip Hop Orchestra. Box Era, 20NVR. Allthebestkids, Nag Champa, EMOTiO, XK Scenario, Wanted Man, Cat You Dog You (RIP, but dig the bandcamp). FuzzQueen and Black Masala, too. Also, Lies Kill and Canker Blossom out of Baltimore.
If you could book a tour with three other bands — any band, ever — what would that tour be and why?
Probably Prince circa 1985, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention circa 1988, and Snoop Dogg from any era except when he was Snoop Lion. And then us opening every show. Hunter S. Thompson as MC. Zappa, Prince, and I would have guitar-solo battles over “Black Napkins.” Tera and Prince would duet on “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Everyone would come out onstage and play Kiss together. That show would last six hours. We’d make $3,000 a night. You can wake me up now.
I know you guys aren’t from here, but so far, what’s your perception of the Frederick music scene currently? How have you seen it evolve?
Frederick has always been a home-away-from-home to us. Pete is from up here, and from early on he was bringing us to places like Cafe Nola or Vinyl Acres. We bonded with bands like Seaknuckle and Silent Old Mtns. over our mutual love for their music, which has since transitioned into our adoration for incredible local artists like DoubleMotorcycle, The Fun Boys and Time Columns. Frederick has always seemed like a community of hard-working artists who make things happen for themselves. They aren’t just skilled artists, but they represent themselves professionally, and they accomplish terrific things working with the city and media institutions. Few cities have shown as proactive a community as we’ve witnessed in Frederick. The townspeople are good-looking and good dancers. It seems like a dedicated music venue might help things, but hey, where wouldn’t one? The arts community is super supportive of touring acts and are consistently real friendly. We love it here.
And finally, if you could sum it up in five words, what will the Tomato Dodgers show be like at Cafe Nola?
HUMONGOUS. JUBILANCE. UBIQUITOUS. ABDUCTION. PARTY