Back in May of 1997, seminal DC-based band Fugazi played a show at the University of New Hampshire which would serve as the gig the band needed to complete the feat of playing in all 50 of these United States.

Co-founder and bassist Joe Lally is set to return to the Granite State for what very well could be his first show back here since that UNH gig. In fact, the band heíll be playing with will also feature Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty.

But, the band is not Fugazi, nor does it sound very Fugazi-ish outside of the fact that itís got some grit around the edges. The band is The Messthetics, an instrumental powerhouse also featuring guitarist Anthony Pirog, a six string maestro who drives the band and its sounds in all sorts of interesting directions.

The Messthetics will make an appearance at the Press Room on Monday, July 15th Ė on the road in support of their eponymous debut record.

EDGE caught up with Lally to discuss music, the Messthetics, that Fugazi show, and what one might expect when venturing out on a Monday night to expand one's mind with a spell of music.

EDGE: Howíd the Messthetics come to be? Whyíd the Messthetics come to be?

Lally: Brendan brought Anthony over to his studio to play with us. I had played Brendan some music I made while I was still living in Rome, which was instrumental and had guitarists improvising on it. This music was not complete in my mind and was heading in a different direction from my solo music and it was intended to be instrumental. Brendan thought of Anthony, because heíd seen him play around DC in a lot of different guises as a guitarist and clearly improvisation was not foreign to him. After an initial get-together playing my solo music with me singing, Anthony asked us if weíd like to back him on a solo album he wanted to make. We became The Messthetics as that album was being written.

EDGE: Howíd you meet Anthony Pirog? What inspired you to want to work and collaborate with him? How does he inspire your own playing?

Lally: I met Anthony playing together that first time and I realized there was no need for me to be singing and that was good for me because I wasnít happy with any lyrics Iíd written in years. It was obvious that playing with him was a treat for both Brendan and I, and we jumped at the chance to work on a record with him. Playing with him raises my level of playing about 70%.

EDGE: Letís talk about the self-titled debut record. Did you guys have any goals in mind when you set out to make it, or were you feeling it out as you went? What was the writing and recording process like?

Lally: As I said earlier we became The Messthetics while helping Anthony work out his solo record. A lot of the song ideas came from him. Brendan and I would find ways to play comfortably to different time signatures and try to keep some groove and simplicity in it. We recorded where we practiced which was overseen by Brendan. Itís his space, so it was set up for him to record various instruments and he knew how the room sounded. Since he had all that under control, it was quite easy for us and some more work for Brendan when it came to mixing. Although most of it is recorded live so it wasnít that difficult for him to get to final mixes.

EDGE: You founded the label, Tolotta Records, many moons ago, which wound up putting out a number of heavy-ish instrumental records from bands such as Stinking Lizaveta, Orthrelm, Dead Meadow (not instrumental, but definitely showcasing long instrumental passages in their tunes), etc. Can you speak to your own interest in instrumental music and how this attraction (along with your past experiences with the music Tolotta represents) eventually led to the creation of the Messthetics?

Lally: I wouldnít say the two are related other than the fact that I listen to a wide variety of music. Probably my interest in free jazz and classic jazz helped me relate to Anthony better. One day I came to practice and tried playing ďOnce Upon A TimeĒ by Sonny Sharrock, and Anthony not only showed me how it was actually played, but he had played the entire record (ďAsk The AgesĒ) live before. Thereís a connection, Yanni from S.L. gave me ďAsk The AgesĒ years ago. I love dub music and classical. Itís not different to me because itís instrumental.

EDGE: Is it harder or easier to compose music without vocals? Is there still an active pursuit of some sort of message, or is it all about ďfeelingĒ? Whatís the power of instrumental music?

Lally: I donít see it as being so different and I suppose they are quite different, arenít they? I suppose I donít have an answer for everything. It is easier to have one less instrument. Our roles are clearly defined and it leaves a lot of room to work with. Itís easier for the sound man at a show. Sometimes you donít need a monitor or even a sound system. Iíve been listening to music pretty intently since I was about 9. I guess my relationship with it may be different from the average person, but good music doesnít have to have a human voice in it. A lot of information is passed between musician and the listener if you bring your full attention to the experience. I finally got to see Hamid Drake play after discovering him years ago and it was an amazing thing to take in. It canít be explained with reason, but why does it have to be? Iím still trying to process what happened that night and that was two years ago.

EDGE: In general, why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it?

Lally: I think itís something we return to because thereís nothing like the experiencing of it. Itís not a material thing like so much of what we deal with on a daily basis. To see a live show is to lose that feeling of separation that we feel as humans and blend into the ether of the collective conscience. I find it addictive.

EDGE: Youíre heading to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a gig at the Press Room on Monday, July 15th. What excites you about the gig? Do you enjoy driving from town to town to play your music for different audiences? Is it weird to step onto a stage to play to a room full of (predominantly) strangers?

Lally: I guess playing to a different audience every night is the payoff for writing songs. They donít mean much to me if I keep them to myself. In fact, I have a hard time investing in a song I am not going to be able to play for people. Itís just the way I am.

Weíd stay in the same city longer if enough people would come see us and fill a club two or three nights, but, surprise! - they donít.

EDGE: Fugazi played the University of New Hampshire a few towns over in Durham back in May of 1997. You remember that gig at all? (At the top of the show, Ian makes the claim that that show meant the band had performed in all 50 states Ė pretty cool.) Have you visited or played the Granite State since?

Lally: I remember that it took us a long time to play New Hampshire. We couldnít put together a five dollar show there. Sounds strange, right? Anyway, I canít remember getting back there. Iíll try to pay more attention this time.

EDGE: What can folks expect when they come out to see the Messthetics on a mid-summer Monday night?

Lally: Three lunatics playing the music they like whether anyone shows up or not.

Go & Do

What: The Messthetics with special guest The Huntress and The Holder of Hands

When: 8 p.m., Monday, July 15; doors open at 7 p.m.

Where: The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Upstairs, Portsmouth

Tickets: $12 to $14, 21-plus show

More info: Head on over to www.pressroomnh.com for more information.