By Troy Aldrich
Styles collided when Dana Telsrow and Arin Eaton combined to form the music group-turned-couple Karen Meat. The band headlined for Telsrow’s original group, Dana T, to perform a dual-album release party at Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., on May 12.
Karen Meat is a personification of the music that Eaton writes. Her music is a take on a bored generation that seeks laughter in even the darkest moments.
“Karen Meat is an exaggeration of who people think she is,” Telsrow said.
The new album, You’re an Ugly Person, was released on April 20. The original idea to release the the two groups’ albums together was abandoned when Eaton saw the opportunity to release her finished work on the iconic, sardonic date.
The two musicians have music educations, Telsrow at the University of Iowa; Eaton at the University of South Carolina and Middle Tennessee State University.
Eaton said her education has no influence on the music she makes now; Telsrow had a different take on the influences of his alma mater.
“She provides all the framework,” Telsrow said. “I get in trouble if I try to add any jazz chords.”
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Karen Meat’s creative process is unique; Eaton puts together all the drum beats and synthesizers before the guitar, bass, and vocals are recorded. The time in the studio is mostly spent recording strings and vocals.
“I write the lyrics musically. I want the focus to be on the music, not the lyrics,” Eaton said. “They are as detailed to my own ideas as possible.”
The separation of duties outside the studio is mutually effective. Telsrow’s bedroom poses the greatest comfort when devising how to best fit strings into Eaton’s rough drafts.
“Dana locks himself in his room and doesn’t let me in until he’s finished,” Eaton said. “Then I get to decide if it’s good enough or not.”
The time spent outside of the studio recording also allows the two to relieve some of the financial burden of recording. The band recorded at Flat Black Studios, where Telsrow works as an audio engineer.
“Our music scene has something for everybody,” Luke Tweedy, the owner of Flat Black Studios, said in an interview with The Daily Iowan in March while talking about Dana T and Karen Meat.
Karen Meat performed some of the songs on the new album during the Mission Creek Festival. The band played at the Englert, providing a large contrast to the theater’s customary acts.
The two’s release party provided a more natural setting for the somewhat-explicit on-stage presence.
“We won’t be two clowns trapped in a monitor cage,” Eaton said. “There will be lots of animals there.”
Dana T’s album release will be the first display of the tracks on its new record, Harsh Forever. The band is a group of 11 local musicians.
“Dana T: big band, little stage,” Eaton said.
The group’s performance will be an interesting prelude to the Karen Meat set to follow. Dana T’s first album was a stab at large social issues, trying to make sense of what was happening at the time.
“Arin writes lyrics that tell a simple story, with hidden, larger ideas behind it,” Telsrow said. “I write about large ideas in a very vague way.”
If Dana T’s second album has gathered any influence from the work with Karen Meat, it will bring an entirely different work of art adjacent to the first album, Tiny Mind Massive Soul.
Karen Meat’s and Dana T’s new albums were sold at the show, together and separately. Following the show, they embarked on tour spanning the Midwest and venturing to Texas and Florida.