The Meridians
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The Meridians

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"Pittsburgh Calling: The Meridians"

Members: Erin Dragan (vocals, guitar); Josh Momper (guitar, keyboards, vocals); Phil Norbeck (bass, vocals); Chad Purnell (drums, percussion).

Sound: Remember Brownie Mary -- popular Pittsburgh folk-rockers from the '90s? The Meridians could be this generation's Brownie Mary. The group has a classic rock influence with attractive female vocals and standout piano work. "I think, as a band, we're most heavily influenced by Fleetwood Mac, the Gin Blossoms, Cream and PJ Harvey," Dragan says. "Basically, rock bands that channel the blues to some extent."

The allure of classic rock: "We're all drawn to that music, because, frankly, it was good," Dragan says. "There is something to be said for authenticity these days. The lyrics were better, the song structure was better, and you could tell that the singer really meant what he or she was singing. Everything's really fabricated these days -- meaning, you have to look for 'real' artists anymore. In addition, this music probably was the first rock music we ever heard, as children."

Background: It's a pure Panther band, as all four members are currently students at the University of Pittsburgh. The first spark was in August 2006, when Dragan (poetry, religion and women's studies) and Momper (pharmacy) started writing at the piano in the student union. They added Norbeck (information sciences) and a drummer who was later replaced by Purnell (medicine). All are 21, except for Purnell, the senior member at 24.

Dragan's favorite singers: "As a little girl, I was smitten with Stevie Nicks. I really liked how she phrased things in her work, both lyrically and melodically. So, she was my earliest influence. My current favorite singers are PJ Harvey, Tori Amos and Leslie Feist. They all have their own styles, and I love that -- I love the fact that they don't sound like anyone else -- their innovative technique, in essence. And, most of all, all of those women are strong, independent women. I can definitely identify with that."

Career highlights: "We opened for Brandi Carlile at Pitt's Fall Fest -- that was a lot of fun," Dragan says. "Then, we played a Halloween show at Garfield Artworks that was absolutely crazy. Everyone (including the bands) dressed up, and it was packed, and people were dancing and singing. It was truly a rock 'n' roll show."

Making the record: The band's debut, "Heavy Silver," was recorded in three locations -- in Momper's basement, at Duquesne University and Blackberry Studio in Lawrenceville. "By far our best studio experience was at Blackberry. It was really chill, and Eric Graf provided a comfortable environment conducive to recording," she says.

Release show: 10 p.m. Friday at Peter's Pub, Oakland, with Tim Dimond; $5. www.myspace.com/themeridiansmusic. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


"Meridians Take Debut Album to Peter's Pub"

A costumed Halloween mosh pit and a dive-bar sing-a-long in Elwood City are among the Meridians' top 10 highlights of 2007. But this year looks even more promising already, with a tour in the making, a new-and-improved microphone stand (no longer an empty six-pack) and the release party for Heavy Silver, the band's first album, 10 p.m. Friday at Peter's Pub.

The Meridians, with members Erin Dragan, Phil Norbeck, Josh Momper and Chad Purnell, express a shared excitement about the release taking place at Peter's, a bar they're no strangers to. The 21-and-older show costs only $5 for entry.

Though the album release is a first for the band, its members aren't exactly suffering from pre-show jitters, having taken in quite a bit of the limelight already. Last fall, Pitt students voted them worthy to open for Brandi Carlile at Pitt Program Council's Fall Fest. Not to mention that the members have all spent pre-Meridian time in trysts with other music acts. Their past experience ranges from school orchestras to solo gigs to garage bands.

It was more than two years ago that bassist Norbeck met lead singer Dragan in an elevator. The pair hit it off when he commented on the two guitars she was lugging into Pennsylvania Hall.

Dragan and keyboardist Momper started playing as a duo after Momper's response to her Facebook group, "Wanna Start A Band?" and when they decided to add some guitar, Norbeck, the Fender-lugging neighbor, came to mind first, an obvious addition after that fateful elevator ride.

The Meridians' first drummer left "for respectable reasons," according to Dragan, and the group picked up Purnell, now a first-year Pitt medical student.

With the band assembled, it was time to write and perform the hits - not a problem for Dragan.

"I don't believe in writer's block," she said in an interview with The Pitt News, "but rely on a constant ebb and flow of creativity." Dragan writes 95 percent of the band's lyrics, while the music itself is 90 percent collaborative, many times starting with a riff or a harmony of Momper's creation.

Dragan, a songwriter since age 12 and a solo guitarist before teaming up with this crew, is quick to sing an old Tracy Bonham melody while she's lost in thought, to let her fellow band members know about new advancements in their advertising and booking efforts - she's the manager as well - and to end phone conversations with "Rock and roll!" She lives rock 'n' roll, and describes The Meridians' band practices as "loud and unruly."

A senior religious studies and poetry major at Pitt, a P.J. Harvey fanatic, a part-Italian, margarita-loving musician, Dragan says of her music, "This is how I define my existence, there's nothing else I feel nearly as passionate about."

The boys tend to agree, even if their backup plans are more evident - they have belief in the music, their performances and the fan base they've been collecting.

What do they want in the future? Band? No band? While Dragan's ultimate future goal is singing with P.J. Harvey, Norbeck blurts out his own goal: "Two Ferraris!"

Purnell decides, "a house in Belize."
And since they're talking cars, Dragan adds "Princess Vespa" to her own future reveries.

With The Meridians' seriousness (most times), a collaborative approach to writing music and a shared true love for performing, The band is plunging toward its summer tour, although there are a number of variables to consider yet (like the van the band is trying to get its hands on).

On Heavy Silver, Dragan's vocals sometimes harken back to Stevie Nicks on "Days in Dust," and at other times sound more like power pop in tracks such as "The City Shows You How." "Two Sisters Talking" boasts guitar mastery, while Momper's rolling piano in the "Danu's Song" plays off sounds of a storm in the background - a juxtaposition sure to mesmerize listeners.

"A Ship at Sea" closes the band's CD with a slower ballad, a piano solo and the guitar's harmony for a dynamic, beautiful tune.

The band plays two sets on Friday: one with songs from Heavy Silver and another with favorite covers sure to keep the upstairs of Peter's Pub rockin' and rollin'.
- The Pitt News


"Locals The Meridians channel '90s guitar rock"

The Meridians aren't pushing something experimental, or novel, or horribly in vogue. But neither are they playing music that harkens to something old enough to be considered classic. What they do is simple: straight-ahead '90s-style guitar rock.

Frontwoman Erin Dragan, a Pitt student, is supported in The Meridians by three other students: guitarist Josh Momper, bassist Phil Norbeck and drummer Chad Purnell. While Dragan provides the strong lead vocals, the whole band supplies harmonies. Their first full-length, Heavy Silver, was self-released last month.

Young nostalgia and restlessness are motifs in Dragan's songwriting; the poetry major clearly puts work into setting scenes and exploring scenarios. The result is greater lyrical depth without sacrificing the accessibility of feel-good rock. Her deep contralto, which implies a maturity beyond her years, conveys the words confidently.

Occasionally, but rarely, the feel is dangerously close to cliché. ("The Neighborhood" could potentially fit into an Applebee's commercial.) And there are times on the record that the band's influences show through, especially Fleetwood Mac and the Gin Blossoms -- "Days of Dust" holds a sprinkling of "Gold Dust Woman," and one might wonder whether "Washington Road" intersects at some point with "Allison Road."

On the whole, however, Heavy Silver is this: a solid record of straightforward rock by promising young locals. It doesn't push the envelope or test boundaries -- perhaps that's still to come from this band. For now, a well-played and well-engineered recording of decently sensible rock songs is enough to ask, and that's precisely what's been delivered. - Pittsburgh City Paper


Discography

2008 - "Heavy Silver" - self-released, full-length LP
Available on CDBaby and DigStation

Single, "The City Shows You How," streaming on WXDX 105.9 Pittsburgh, and spinning on WPPJ, Point Park Radio, and WPTS 92.1 Pitt.

Photos

Bio

The four people that came to be known as The Meridians began as an idea on a humid August day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pitt students Erin Dragan, and Josh Momper, had been in contact with one another for over a month before then, sharing their thoughts and experiences of music. In the beginnings of the school year, Dragan and Momper agreed to begin writing after a short jam at the student union’s piano. So the duo began collaborating and working on the skeletons of original songs, like “Turn Around” and “He Said She Said.” Both Dragan, a Poetry, Religion, and Women’s Studies major and local musician, and Momper, a Pharmacy major and local restaurant pianist, knew that their songwriting chemistry was something that the Steel City hadn’t seen in quite some time. In order to fill out the band, Josh recruited lifelong friend and drummer Nick Violette. Erin asked bassist and fellow Pitt student Phil Norbeck, if he wanted to try out for the band, and after a short rehearsal, Phil was asked to join. Soon, a name, proposed by Josh, was settled upon: The Meridians. After nearly a year of performing around the Pittsburgh area Nick Violette respectfully left the band for various reasons. Shortly thereafter Nick was replaced by Chad Purnell.

Together, these four bandmates have fused an infectious blend of classic rock, blues and punk, but if you ask any of the members how they classify their music, they simply say, “rock n roll.” Their songs reflect anything from common topics such as love and heartbreak to more conceptual ideas, such as global politics and mythology. There is a mystical thread running through Dragan’s introspective lyrics, Momper’s driving guitar, Norbeck’s flavorful bass riffs, and Purnell’s rock-solid drumming. Their stage performance is dynamic, and the three-part harmony supplied by Dragan, Momper, and Norbeck remind the listener of bands from a bygone era. Think music with raw and intense emotion is your bag? Check out The Meridians.