Oye vey. Election day is upon us in America, and the waiting is the worst part. What to do until Wednesday? What better than to focus on than foreign policy... I mean, music. So I've come out of hiatus for a day to help you and help me. I present to you a small selection of my favorite non-American (mostly Canadian and Australian) indie bands and musicians with recent releases. Happy listening!
Dear Minneapolis, I’m not exactly breaking up with you. But I don’t know when I’m coming back.
To list a series of numbers, or names, of favorites, or experiences, seems inadequate to summarize what Minneapolis has been to me over the last five years. Yet somewhere there is the fact I probably went to more than 250 shows, saw at least twice as many bands, met hundreds of fans, musicians, and new friends, and paid a stupid amount in parking and drinks. At this point, the numbers simply culminate in a critical mass, a heavy feeling of satisfaction and few regrets.
My first night out in Minneapolis in the summer of 2011, I went to 7th Street Entry to see Maritime. I spent my 21st birthday at the Cedar Cultural Center, to see Kaki King. I interviewed Chris Koza on the spot in Peavy Plaza because I felt like it, after finally (finally!) seeing Rogue Valley live. After moving here in 2012, I fell in love with The Ericksons and The Farewell Circuit at The Southern Theatre Sessions, spent many an afternoon at The Acadia, and happily fell into the unofficial all-black dress code for Triple Rock. I gave up on The Varsity and Fine Line, but found a home at Icehouse and Turf Club a few years in. I said goodbye to bands at 331, saw old friends and new acts at Aster Café, and danced alone in the front row at the First Avenue Mainroom. I interviewed bands in coffeeshops, gorgeous studio spaces, and had the most candid and heartfelt of conversations about music with complete strangers. I ate slices at Pizza Luce with my favorite band, had brunch at Mickey’s with another, and hung out with local bands at The Depot. I got dumped and ended up heartbroken in the middle of the Electric Fetus, cried silently at Triple Rock, wept at Turf Club, and found love at Icehouse. And some of the best shows I've ever seen, I went to alone.
My life has circled around shows, local venues, and the people I spent time with every night of the week. I’ve tried hard at the end of every year to take stock of all my favorite shows and releases and memories, but I’ve always found the music impossible to separate from the fabric of my everyday life. The people and the music of Minneapolis are part of what I’m made of now. It's one of the greatest cities for local and live music in the whole country, and for a time, I've called it mine.
I can unabashedly say that 7th Street Entry was my first love. But I’ll miss Icehouse and Turf Club now the most. I’ll still miss everything in between – especially the people: friends, fellow writers, and musicians alike. And the moments that I will continue to chase: when it’s just me and the music, beating as one.
So Minneapolis, I may or may not be back. But I’ll always cherish the times we’ve had together. And I’ll always love you.
ROSES is the instrumental solo project of Brooklyn guitarist and composer Austin Mendenhall. Known for his work in indie band Snowmine, among other projects, ROSES departs in a new direction, using sonic soundscapes and wordless melodies as a guide. Its debut comes in the form of a gorgeous and entrancing 18 minute video; 4 songs blended seamlessly together to an equally abstract, but no less beautiful visual.
A myriad of musical influences make their place known on this ROSES EP, from jazz to classical to rock, and more. It's both something you'd never heard before and a sound achingly familiar. Reminiscent of dreams, deep breaths, and yet sudden flights of feeling, Mendenhall has crafted one of the most intriguing and delightful works of lyric-less music in recent memory. From the growling bass to the layered guitars and atmospheric effects, a through listen is truly a must.
KS: When did you start working on the material that would eventually become the Roses EP? I'm curious how long you've been working on these pieces, when you decided to make it an official solo project, and how the EP all came together.
AM: I started working on the material in April of 2013 when my daughter, Adeline Rose, was born. It was also the year that Snowmine really kicked into high gear with touring and recording our latest LP, Dialects. There was so much happening in my life at that time that all those emotions had to go somewhere. So it was very much a passion project from day one and something I did in my spare time, in the tour van, and nights that I felt I could function with less sleep the next day... I knew from day one that I would be releasing the material as an artistic statement (in dedication to my wife and daughter) but I had no idea what the final product would end up being. And there's something very pure about writing music in this way, with no preconceived notions or intentions, simply letting life and your experiences channel through to create something that is undeniably you.
KS: As a member of Snowmine, you get to make and perform some pretty experimental and modern music. But what does making your own music as ROSES allow you to do that being a part of Snowmine doesn't?
AM: I would say anytime you're in a collaborative music project (such as Snowmine) and you do solo work that is 100% your compositions, the freedom you have in the aesthetic and artistic decision making is very rewarding (albeit daunting and difficult as well). But I did have some serious help from Alex Beckmann who wrote all the drum parts and really made this music come alive.
KS: There isn't a lot of purely instrumental music being made these days, especially within the realm of indie rock or in that broad spectrum. Can you tell me more about why you chose to do instrumental only with this project, and what musical influences led you in that direction?
AM: I've always written instrumental music since the start. I'm not much of a singer and I come from a jazz background so it's very natural for me to write this kind of music. Playing in Snowmine really influenced the way I approached the EP in regards to intention and aesthetic choices. But I was definitely listening to a lot Grizzly Bear and Tortoise at the time which certainly influenced the sound and style.
KS: Is there a concept to the album, although it has no words?
AM: The concept of this record is kind of 2 fold:
1. I wanted to create a seamless body of music that takes the listener through a multi-sensory journey.
2. I wanted to make a sort of non traditional 'guitar album'. One that has the guitar as it's focal point but uses more subtle methods to create texture and atmosphere. A kind of 'each part makes the whole' layering approach.
KS: I'm curious what inspired the mesmerizing visual for this EP, with the music closely tied to the video through its release. How did the video come about in connection to the music?
AM: I knew pretty early on in the process that I wanted it to be both an aural and visual experience. Once I finished the EP and found a name and concept for it, I scoured the web for archived footage for about a week straight and finally stumbled onto this gorgeous footage that you see in the video. There were more than a dozen different pieces of this work at variable lengths and speeds, so I edited everything to the music and tried to sync the important dynamic parts with the right type of visuals.
KS: How do you plan to perform this music live? Will it be a one-man show with looping pedals and a computer, or more of a collaboration style show? I suppose that's one of the more common conundrums of modern music and solo projects.
AM: I’m currently rehearsing with a 5 piece live band featuring members of Snowmine and Violet Sands. No computers, no backing tracks, but there will be looping and 3 guitars involved[!] I will be playing shows in NYC starting this summer.
KS: What are your plans for this year after the debut release?
AM: I will definitely be performing in the city for the rest of the year with this project but I am also in the middle of writing a new EP under the ROSES name. This music is being written for vocals so it will be a bit of a shift from the current sound but I’m very excited about it. And yes, Snowmine is about to start the recording process for a new release.
That's TWO doses of good news! But until that new material is out, first get your hands on the debut Roses EP on Bandcamp (proceeds go directly to Austin) or Itunes (90% of the money goes to Apple), or stream it on SoundCloud or Spotify.
special thanks to Austin Mendenhall
Dear the great wide world, watch out: Wingman has taken flight.
Following 2015 singles "Drunk World" and "Gunman," they now release the first single off of their upcoming full-lenth release Honcho, a spirited tune with plenty of groove, by the name of "Giant Microphone."
The Minneapolis-based project of Con Davison and Dan Stewart, Wingman is an alternative rock band that lives at the juxtaposition of pop sensible and melancholy. Meeting as members of notable indie band Ancient Mariner, these two finally found that special (musical) someone to create both head-bobbing beats and sad, late night reflections with.
Stories of stolen money, losing faith, and fighting crippling anxiety will permeate Honcho, all while being delivered by fuzzy guitars and infectious melody. Self produced and engineered, the duo recruited Brett Bullion (Bad Bad Hats, John Mark Nelson) to mix the record and Huntley Miller (Low, Aero Flynn) for the master.
Honcho will be out on June 10th, and you can pre-order it here. Stay tuned for a full feature on the band in May!
In the meantime, follow Wingman on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Erickson is at heart, an artist: musing carefully over words in speech and lyrics, sculpting sentences that are as pleasing to hear as to say - although his quick wit and boisterous laugh might have you thinking otherwise. He immediately puts you at ease in his presence, and in that way, this music of his is a self-portrait. Inspired by Bob Dylan and other iconic folk types, Erickson's influences in music and life draw from a sense of exploring the wild unknown, and a desire to reflect upon those adventures through artistic creation.
A Piano In Every Home is the result of Erickson's 12+ year friendship with Pavek, started as kids in Hudson, Wisconsin, and almost 9 years of musical collaboration. They released Meridian in December of 2013, just the two of them. Wallenius and Kartarik joined for the release show, and then “we all moved under one roof," Erickson pointed out, and, "by the time we put out our last album, it was well, god, it’s interesting enough the two of us, but we should branch out a bit.”
The result of this doubling is two parts to one whole: North American Review Part I and Part II.
"For whatever reason, this came very early on," Erickson explained, "where I was wandering around the beautiful old book section of [the] Saint Paul Library, and I think it's Princeton, used to compile back in the 19th Century, a volume called The North American Review, which was a compilation of poetry from all across North America as the country was kind of developing and founding. I think it's been out of print for a long time... And that passage stuck in my head... whatever we do for the next album I'm going to position it as such that it will hold itself well under that name."
Yet, Erickson reminds us: "You can only have so much intentionally behind naming something."
"I know very much what I'm not good at. I think everyone in here knows what they're not good at. What we really know, we know how to do well." - Travis Erickson
The intentional choices are many on this release. One of those specific choices is in the genre and style of the music itself.
"I know very much what I'm not good at," Erickson reveals. "I think everyone in here knows what they're not good at. What we really know, we know how to do well. I know how to sit down and write a self-portrait... I can do that. I can do it well... Beyond that, let's not get silly about it."
This knowledge of self is integral to the success of the album, as its genuine nature is infallible. Its stories many not be one hundred percent true, as mystery is an attractive element in good songwriting. But knowing what, as a band, you can do well, and selecting those best pieces to present to the world, is not a form of lying by omission. It's common sense. As Erickson advised, "Let's only put forth publicly... the things that we know we're very good at... we know our limitations, and I think that's part of why it works."