“You don’t take care of me / you just get rid of me” – Interview with Rid of Me Guitarist Mike McGinnis

Grungy, loud, and volcanic, Rid of Me’s brand of molten-hot rock has been flowing through the streets of Philadelphia for the better part of four years. The quartet – singer and bassist Itarya Rosenberg, guitarists Mike McGinnis and Jon DeHart, and drummer Mike Howard – have crafted a portmanteau of modern punk with an impassioned sense of 90s alt-rock revivalism.

Their second album, Access to the Lonely, dropped at the very tail-end of last year. The album avoids the sophomore slump thanks to its ornate arrangement of sludgy riffs, manic drum fills, and pissed-off vocals that caterwaul like a hellbound banshee. Now on the cusp of recording their third album, I sat with Mike McGinnis to chat about his band’s origin story and sound.

Tell me a little bit more about this album. How did you get started with it, and what inspired you to make it the way you did?

It really was a continuation of the first one. Traveling being our first LP was definitely us finding our footing. I think Access to the Lonely is the result of us finding the footing on that first record, you know? And additionally, I think we had always written stuff that was guitar-dense but that didn’t totally come across on Traveling. We wanted to make that a focal point musically on Access to the Lonely. 

I think the subject matter lyrically was…I totally know I can’t speak for Itarya [Rosenberg], but there was a journey that led her to the subject matter of the record, and with Traveling you can see the journey leading to that point. We had dual guitars on Traveling, but I think we really achieved what we were trying to do on Access. And the way that both records have since played each other, I’m happy there is a contrast there. We didn’t repeat ourselves, so we have two records that do their own things.

You guys are obviously inspired by PJ Harvey. I think I can even hear a little bit of G-to-D riff from “50 ft Queenie” on “Cut”, which is really cool. But what made you choose Rid of Me specifically instead of, say, To Bring You My Love or Dry?

Obviously the PJ Harvey album is highly influential to us. It’s probably a top 10 record for me, probably for my bandmates [Mike] Howard and Jon [DeHart], too. But it went beyond that. It is an homage, but the combination of words and the meaning you can take out of it…it’s not supposed to be just the PJ Harvey album or the song. That phrase is a very loaded phrase and you can put your own meaning into it.

Itarya brought it up as an option very early on in the genesis of coming up with the band. And I was like, “C’mon, let’s get a list going and see what else we can come up with.” And Itarya was just like, “No let’s just make that the band name because it’s really awesome when you think about it.” So I was just like, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” So that’s how it happened. We stand that it’s a name that’s transcendent.

Absent of all the PJ Harvey-isms, what does “Rid of Me” mean to you and the band?

Probably something different to everyone in the band. It’s extremely generalized and vague on purpose, but it is a phrase I think every human can understand. If PJ Harvey didn’t make that album, and you just said the phrase “Rid of Me” to someone, it means getting rid of you or someone, whether you want to think of it spiritually, or someone else getting rid of you, or you getting rid of your ego…we want people to put their own meaning into it.

Would you say that about your other album titles, like with Traveling and Access to the Lonely?

That’s all Itarya. Itarya’s methods with songwriting, vocals, and naming things is to make things relatable and human.

What does Access to the Lonely mean to you, the band, and your audiences?

It’s sort of the same thing where if you look at what it could mean, it’s – again, a very relatable and human thing. Especially in the day and age that we live in where we have access to the lonely through the phones we all carry around. To me, it reads something along those lines, but the person who would definitely know is Itarya, because that’s his title. To me, I think it’s a relatable, human phrase that’s not meant to be specific, but something that’s conceptual.

Some of you guys have been in previous bands. How do you feel Rid of Me differs from your past work?

Musically, I think the dynamics are the biggest difference. If you go from Low Dose – which me, Jon, and Itarya were in together – to Rid of Me, we played with some dynamics a little bit but we didn’t dive into them the way Rid of Me has. And then from Fight Amp to Rid of Me, those genres are so different. Fight Amp was big and mean and down-tuned and go-go-go at all times, and Rid of Me is so intentionally not that. Again, we want to emphasize contrast, so there is no loud without quiet, no fast without slow.

For the harsher feelings, what side of you best brings that out? The loud side or the quiet side?

I think some of the softer stuff can come off as more gut-wrenching. A lot of times the faster, the louder, the pissed off…it’s something easy if you just want to throw out your anger or vitriol. Whereas if you really dial it back or expose yourself, that’s where all the gut-wrenching honesty comes from.

You’re obviously inspired by a lot of 90s sounds, but are there any acts right now that influence your sound?

A record I’m really looking forward to is from this great post-punk band from the Bay Area, Marbled Eye. Some of our contemporaries that we play shows with like NØ MAN, and another band from Philadelphia you might be familiar with called Poison Ruin. I love the way they write music, it influences the hell out of me. 

“Libertarian Noise Rock” is definitely an interesting title for a song. How’d you come up with that one?

Please ask me this! No one else has! [laughs]

It’s a total thumb in the eye to the libertarians that have taken over noise rock. We are not libertarians by any means. At bare minimum we would call ourselves leftists, perhaps a few of us Communists. The noise rock scene just has this thing that happened where there’s now these bands that we jokingly call “libertarian noise rock.” 

It originally had a different title when we entered the studio. We recorded this Helmet-esque intro and thought it was a little bit cliche. It was kind of a noise rock-y guitar intro. And Jon was like, “yeah it sounds like one of those libertarian noise rock bands.” We all laughed, and I was like, “Well we should just call the song that. It’ll be funny.” 

And I expected people to ask us about this, but they never did. So you’re the first one to ask for clarification, so thank you for that.

It seems that you guys are on the up and up, so what can we expect from Rid of Me in the immediate and long-term future?

Since Access to the Lonely came out in November, we are just about announcing shows. We have a tour down the East Coast in April and May. We just announced a show on March 30th with NØ MAN in Baltimore, and it’s a benefit for Palestinian refugees. We’re also doing our first local show of the year with Metz and Gouge Away at Underground Arts on April 20th. But about a month ago, we started getting back together and writing material for the next album, which right now is in the early stages.

Support Access to the Lonely on Bandcamp and check out Rid of Me on the road. You can also check them out on Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify

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