Mad Meg
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Mad Meg

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Alternative




"Mad Meg’s Killer Debut Album Mashes Up Elegant Art-Rock and Creepy Phantasmagoria"

Being in New York is a mixed blessing a lot of the time these days. Musically speaking, it means that you miss out on all kinds of good stuff if you aren’t hooked into one expatriate scene or another . For example, Mad Meg have a devoted following in the Russian community, although they aren’t as well known outside that demimonde – and they ought to be. They’re sort of a mashup of all sorts of good, moodily carnivalesque acts – Gogol Bordello, Nick Cave and Botanica, just for starters. They’ve got a new album, the sardonically titled Puberty Tales – streaming at Bandcamp – and an album release show this Thursday, Sept 29 at 9:45 PM at Drom. Cover is $10.

The band played a tantalizing preview for this show with an expansive, theatrical set at the end of last week at Alexandre Gertsman Contemporary Art, THE go-to gallery for A-list Russian artists these days. Despite the fact that the band was playing practically all acoustic, they held a packed house rapt for practically an hour on an impromptu stage. Frontman Ilya Popenko swooped and circled out into the crowd: tall and wiry, decked out in a black suit, the Cave resemblance is unmistakable. But he’s the rare, distinctive artist who’s as adept at music as he is with visuals. His twisted Photoshopped tableaux – substituting his face for a series of twisted characters coiled up in corners, schmoozing sardonically around a holiday table or engaging in all sorts of sordid behavior – are as funny as his series based on the cult favorite Soviet cartoon Gena the Crocodile.

The album is as witheringly cynical as it is catchy. Over a frantic, horn-fueled circus rock pulse, Popenko explains that the Circling the Drain Dance is a global phenomenon. “Play whatever music that makes you less annoyed, say hello to people that you still don’t avoid.” It’s the prequel to Botanica’s Castration Tango.

With its flashy piano intro, Engineer is a mashup of Botanica art-rock and Tom Waits saloon blues, with a little Hunky Dory-era Bowie thrown in. Livable Lovable Life sets Jason Laney’s trippy, echoey Wurlitzer electric piano and a sarcastic horn chart to a furtive swing, the missing link between Dark Side-era Floyd and Botanica. Moscow Song disguises a classic Pretenders bassline – and coyly references another 80s new wave hit – underneath menacing lounge lizard piano.

Polish Girl switches between an organ-driven noir waltz and some neat counterpoint between growly baritone sax and accordion, the tale of a gold-digging girl “majoring in volleyball and all sorts of interesting games.” Scary People tales a scampering detour toward disco: “Sitting in the forest, drinking their PBR’s,” Popenko intones, trading rasps with James Hall’s trombone: “I’m not ever going out, never going out there.” Words of wisdom for anybody contemplating a train ride to Bushwick.

The piano-and-resonator-guitar textures throughout the surrealistic Sky Grows Taller are s psychedelic as they are plaintive. Sunday Nights takes an even more surreal turn toward psychedelic soul: “I’m just a little beat, not an alcoholic,” Popenko snarls. The Very Last Train is the sneaky killer cut here with its swirly organ solo and mix of noir swing, disco and Romany punk. And Torn follows a hypnotically nocturnal Jesus & Mary Chain sway. Blast this at your next party and you’re guaranteed to get at least one “Who is this?” or “Which Gogol Bordello album is this?” - New Yoork Music Daily

"Mad Meg @ Mercury Lounge"

Mad Meg – a hybrid of an orchestra and a contemporary rock band, writes and sings with an admirable directness and simplicity, gently but firmly commanding your attention from the first guitar strum and declarative line of verse. The stage of Mercury Lounge turned red on July 26, 2014.It was only fitting to make it lit with florid lights to match the crimson color of the trombone warming up before the show. The leader of Mad Meg – Ilya Popenko went down on one knee to tape the set list onto the floor of this Lower East Side indie bookings destination. In 1993 it was converted into a music venue, however for the previous 60 years it’s storefront housed a seller of tombstones.


At first sight the musicians appearing on stage had an impromptu look, until I caught a pattern on the pink sock sticking out from the raised pant of the singer’s cargos. The drummer pulled out a tie from his back pocket and started twisting it around his neck. “Where is the drummer from?” I head over the shoulder behind me. Ruslan Baimurzin (on drums) is from Kazakhstan. Many songs opened with an elegiac yet sensuous trombone solo (James Hall ) that floated freely over a cushion of piano keys (Jason Laney) and brooding guitar strings (Vero Medellin – bass & Igor Reznik – rhythm guitar). With time, the melodic intros of love themes grew into a neurotic poetry about the everyday life (Engineer).


Ilya Popenko:
The song engineer, is about 4 things that make up our lives. Daddy representing the thing that you do, your profession. Momma stands for the concept of home and sense of belonging. Little sister is sex and Engineer is god. The character asks the engineer to take him apart thus seeking death.


Parties – exploded with polka breaks in between verses (we gotta call the cops, somebody killed the DJ) Livable Lovable – places one in a blues bar, until Ilya’s deep voice with a thick russian accent interrupted and words like: real estate, cops and Warsaw University, which quickly brought you back to reality. The chorus sang: “I will survive!” The last song of the evening was sung in Russian. Moscow is an apotheosis of an immingrant’s visit to motherland. The story of the Russian everyman – a resident of a one bedroom apartment—is told through vague accounts of unnafordable prices for whiskey at a bar and walking home unable to scrape together enough change for a ride.

Ilya Popenko:
The russian song I wrote in Moscow, while catsitting in my friends awesome apartment. There is a video on fb of me singing it there the minute i wrote it.

After their show ended and instruments were packed and off the stage, one couple was still dancing, so keep your eye and ear out for their next show & read the lyrics to see if you can relate - Flowers in a Gun

"EXCLUSIVE! ‘Circling The Drain’ by Mad Meg"

Summer may be nearly over in the northern hemisphere, but tonight’s exclusive will remind you the sun’s always shining somewhere

New York-based and Moscow-raised photographer and singer-songwriter Ilya Popenko fronts revolving five to six-piece “punk chanson noir” act Mad Meg, a band who treat it as their personal mission to get your hips swaying.

Having released their debut EP Shake It Like You’re Dead three years ago, the sometime sextet are now ready to unleash their maiden LP Puberty Tales at the end of this week (Friday 29 September).

Circling The Drain features on Puberty Tales and Popenko says of the track: “Circling The Drain is medical slang used to describe a patient for whom death is impending and yet he continues to cling to life. The song is a call to action. It asks the listener to set aside all the petty grievances and embrace those little things that one still might enjoy no matter how imperfect they may be because time is limited and death is the next stop.”

They’ve been likened to Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello. We couldn’t agree more, especially with the later comparison, and believe that fans of Balkan Beat Box and A Hawk And A Hacksaw will love Circling The Drain too. As always, though, we’ll leave the final assessment on that up to you… - Song Writing Magazine

"Mad Meg, Puberty Tales { An exotic, enchanting record of rollicking, eclectic anthems. }"

Mad Meg’s second album Puberty Tales dropped last week and it is an enchanting, inspired record. Led by renowned photographer Ilya Popenko, Mad Meg deals in eclectic, exotic tunes with darkly humorous lyrics that spin yarns and tell tales as tall as the sky. While the raucous, stellar band deserves a great deal of praise for their impeccable work on Puberty Tales, Popenko must also be credited for his distinctive voice that is of a natural narrator leading listeners on far-off adventures in faraway lands (even if said lands are eerily familiar with some denizens drinking “PBR-Arr-Arr-Arr” as on “Scary People”).

The band’s cultural critique of the modern era appears throughout the album on tracks like “Circling the Drain” or “Sunday Nights” and it is couched in the giddy, propulsive style of the band as well as an outsider’s view of America which gives it a mystique and sense of fun that simply would not have read without the layers of Mad Meg’s theatricality. Even the most mundane and humorous concepts are heightened to indie film level drama, such as in the wistful “Polish Girl” which tells the tale of a man who once believed girls didn’t fart and he’d one day marry Milla Jovovich. Now, somewhat on in his years, that same man longs to return to the days and diner where a certain Polish girl worked. As jazzy and exotic musical influences flood into the song, the story continues and it becomes clear that the Polish girl has moved on and gotten married, but the unattainable still inspires and drives the tune which beautifully devolves into an almost spoken word/jazz scatting outro over ever softening cymbals.

However, Puberty Tales should not be reduced merely to its cinematic storytelling for it is full of masterful music such as the funky organ of “The Very Last Train” that eventually peels off into a jaunty, blistering solo over smoky horns and building percussion. The track’s opener, “Sky Grows Taller” spans a number of genres through deft piano work and unorthodox instrumentation. Whether it’s recalling epic tales of intrigue and transoceanic mystery or simply a rollicking polka punk rocker, the music of Puberty Tales accomplishes much through its melange of styles and tones.

Mad Meg’s Puberty Tales is available now. You can also follow Mad Meg on Facebook, Bandcamp, and on their website at - Impose Magazine

"Mad Meg – Puberty Tales"

Sky Grows Taller and Scary People are miles away from their general sound, but they represent a solid one-two punch on the Puberty Tales from Mad Meg. The slower tempo of SGT is a great way to introduce fans to Mad Meg, while the intense instrumentation and catchy punk/funk sound of Scary People ratchets up the momentum nicely.

Circling The Drain is a wonderful track that elicits comparisons to Gogol Bordello and The Pietasters. Livable Lovable Life is a favorite on Puberty Tales; the track has a shuffling, smokey jazz sound that continues into the lively The Very Last Train. Puberty Tales is an album that touches upon a wide variety of styles as listeners become familiar with this inimitable act. Check them out.

Mad Meg – Puberty Tales / 2016 / 10 Tracks / - Neo Futur

"New Music: Mad Meg – Scary People"

Mad Meg has been described as polka-punk with a Russian folk twist, the band’s sound has been compared to two of my favorites Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello. So I couldn’t stay away from this one if I tried. The debut track “Scary People” is from the upcoming album Puberty Tales which is set for release on Oct 1st. Mad Meg is definitely on our radar so be sure to keep checking in for more on this band! - For Us Not Them

"Yotaspace Review"

“... ‘Mad Meg’ revived the crowd, which was gradually filling
up the hall, and then charged them with energy of musical
eclecticism.” - GBR Magazine (Russia)


Shake it Like Your Dead EP
Puberty Tales LP
Kuklachyov EP

New Shirt 

Look Away 

Saving New York

Functioning Adult



Assembled and based in New York, the eclectic and hard-rocking band, with overtones of Eastern European existential anguish, have toured extensively in Russia and the former Soviet Bloc, including tours that covered close to 30 cities throughout the vast, frozen expanse of Russia, and in the course of which they shared the stage with such luminaries as Nogu Svelo, and Emir Kusturica and recorded a live album at a female prison in Lithuania, which was released in November of 2019. The band has also released one full-length studio album, two EP’s, two singles and is about to come out with it’s brand new 7-song studio record. In 2020, amid the pandemic, Mad Meg gained recognition in Mexico, while the band’s single “Functioning Adult” is in regular rotation on Mexico's Reactor 105.7 and other radio stations.

The leader of Mad Meg, Russian-born poet, photographer, artist, filmmaker, lunatic Ilya Popenko, is a towering and unpalatable figure, whose morbidly fascinating performance style and zombie-like singing does nothing to elucidate the profundity, charming self-deprecating irony, and expressive subtlety of his songs, written sometimes in English, sometimes in Russian. These qualities are further obscured by the clamoring instrumental accompaniment of his assembly of sidekicks, who play in an eclectic style they themselves haphazardly identify as “Punk-Chanson-Noir”.

Band Members