Garbage Greek leans into discomfort, emerges with ‘Quality Garbage’

The primal rock trio hits Rumba Cafe for a record release show on Saturday, April 9

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Garbage Greek

The creation of Quality Garbage, the new album from primal Columbus rock trio Garbage Greek, was rooted partially in discomfort. 

First, the musicians had to adjust to recording and performing as a three-piece following the 2018 departure of two original members, which left each bandmate feeling more exposed. “The biggest difference, I thought, was just how do we fill that space sonically?” said bassist Patrick Koch, who joined drummer Jason Winner and singer/guitarist Lee Mason for a chilly outdoor interview at a Franklinton brewery in late March. “We had more room than we were used to, and I think the three of us as players had to tighten up.”

With less sonic scuzz to escape behind, Mason also had to adjust to the reality that his lyrics could be more easily deciphered, which heightened the sense of unease that has existed within him since he first picked up a guitar with the idea of crafting a song. “I’m always uncomfortable writing lyrics,” Mason said, and laughed. Rather than shying from the challenge, however, Mason leaned into it, straying from the band’s yelping, bash-it-out early comfort zone on songs where he consciously dropped his guard, including “Over Again,” a disarmingly straightforward love song written for his wife, Rachael.

The genesis of other songs is less clear, however, owing to the reality that the earliest Quality Garbage tracks date back to 2018, with the band completing a bulk of the recording prior to the arrival of COVID-19, including “I’m Sick,” a viral number Mason penned while recovering from an illness. “Can’t dream no more,” Mason sings on the track, which has taken on dire new dimensions in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

“I worried so much about that, too, because we created it in 2019 and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘We can’t release that as a single in 2022,’” said Mason, who will join his bandmates for an album release concert at Rumba Cafe on Saturday, April 9.

Other songs are informed by the band's transition from a quintet to a five-piece. “We didn’t have a band breakup or anything like that, and we’re all still friends with everyone," Mason said. "But it did feel like a breakup, and I wasn’t feeling so great about a lot of things. Especially in 2018, I felt like there was a lot of unresolved shit.”

While Mason’s lyrics might, at times, dwell on unresolved matters, the music itself sounds more resolute, abandoning a degree of the band's past shag in favor of a more streamlined, boogying sound. Album opener “Move Along” sets the driving tone, building on Winner’s relentless drums, dancing bass guitar and an elusive snarl of a riff that sounds engineered to force a driver's foot down on the accelerator.

“As much as we dig and have done the Stooges, heavy chaos thing, we realized how much we all really, really, really like Neil Young and CCR,” Winner said. “It’s more clear, more mid-tempo, more backbeat groove. And it was kind of nice to tap into that.”

Now, two years after completing the final mixes for Quality Garbage alongside recording engineer Keith Hanlon — “I remember the second-to-last mixing session was when everyone was freaking out about toilet paper not existing anymore,” Mason said — the band is eager to bring the songs to life for an audience, hatching plans for a 10-day spring/summer tour.

Of course, the members of Garbage Greek didn’t remain idle during the lockdown, continuing to gather for weekly Downtown rehearsals and writing songs for another new album that is likely to tap into some of the frustration the three experienced while working in the service industry throughout the pandemic.

“We were all back to bartending, and it was [an absolute] nightmare, dude,” said Winner, who was fired from one job after unloading on a customer who repeatedly disregarded the business' policies on wearing a mask. “And it turned into this whole thing, and there was a bit of a delayed reaction, but two or three weeks later they were like, ‘You gotta go.’ And I was like, 'That’s totally understandable.' I mean, it wasn’t smart, and I wish I would have handled the situation a little better. But I also don’t regret it.”