Monday, February 27, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings is one of the Twin Cities' most beloved artists.

Jennings’ expansive sonic catalog is plush with songs that pair simple instrumentals with profound lyricism. His albums have examined the gamut of the human experience, from coming-of-age tunes to heartbreak ballads. Themes of gratitude, spirituality, love, parenthood, addiction, and death are evident in all of his albums.

Personally invited by Jack Johnson to join the Brushfire Records label, on which he recorded 2006's Boneclouds, Jennings later returned to independent musicianship.

"I have come to the point in my life and my art where I just want to make music that I love and not mess with it," Jennings says. "If people dig it: cool. If not: cool. I will be making it anyway. I have to."

This song, "Well of Love", is distinctly bouncier than its piano-based counterparts on Jennings' latest release, Minnesota. The quirky combination of live action and animation in this video is a visual stunner. With its irresistible horn blasting beat, this tune is sure to get you on your feet. Goodbye winter blues!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more amazing local musicians!

- Erica Rivera

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In-Depth With Courtney McLean

Please note:  This interview contains profanity and mature themes.

Courtney McLean is practically the poster girl for a new breed of crooners on the Twin Cities' scene: the comedic musician. As if that title weren't brag-worthy enough, she's also a pioneer of naughtybilly music. Her band, Courtney McLean & The Dirty Curls, was the first of its kind locally, and the most sexually explicit in the U.S.  I sat down with McLean at Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis for the low-down on how she came to be such a genre-busting gal.

Originally an actress from California, McLean moved to New York to hone her stand-up skills, then ventured to the Twin Cities to perform at the Fringe Festival in 2006.  As someone who dreaded auditions, the Big-Fish-Small-Pond atmosphere appealed to McLean.

“I loved writing my own stuff and performing it onstage, but New York was overwhelming. I needed to remove myself. I came here and I felt like the bee in the Blind Melon video. I’d discovered my people! Artists were self-produced and toured on their own. It was hard work, of course, but so rewarding.”

Not long after making the move to Minnesota in 2007, McLean began fronting the misbehaving bluegrass band Courtney McClean & The Dirty Curls.  Though the first line-up fizzled out, McLean recently decided to try again.  A casting call yielded a revamped band including Anna Weggel, Anna Popinchalk, Samantha Harris, and Rachel Wandrei. The Dirty Curls' refurbished image is  “demure juxtaposed with the ugly and forbidden.”

McLean is taking her time to write new songs while the Dirty Curls learn the old tunes. Recalling one rehearsal, she says, “It sounded so good, I started crying."

I ask McLean why, given that she has such a talented group of musicians, she decided to continue on with the sexually explicit material, knowing that it would limit the group's exposure.

“Isn’t it as limiting as any other genre?” she asks. “I mean, unless you’re making Top 40 cookie cutter bullshit, I don’t think you can expect to get on the radio. I don’t need to be famous. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a wonderful by-product, but I don’t need that. This is just one of the many things I like to do.”

McLean's first love remains comedy, a passion she shares on stages throughout the Twin Cities regularly. She can't imagine approaching her music any other way.

“If it’s not sexy and funny, I wouldn’t want to do it. I’d just be another whiny chick with a guitar. I want to do what resonates with me and brings laughter to the world. We make people laugh about something that people don’t normally laugh about. Sex in our culture is confusing. We make fun of the foibles. There’s not a lot of shame in my songs. There’s pride and truth-telling. When I sing that I’m too lazy to be on top in 'I'm No Cowgirl', it hits a chord with people. If we can break through that ceiling, people appreciate it.”

McLean cites a woman “my mother’s age” who approached her after a show to say, “It’s so important that you are doing this.”

“Have you always been this sexually open?” I ask.

She has. McLean credits Monty Python for piquing her carnal appetite. “My dad always watched it and there are topless women on that show—in a crazy, artful way.”

Even from the tender age of 5, McLean remembers drawing naked women. As a pre-teen, “I used to dance in my room to Prince’s Batman soundtrack. I remember wearing spandex and fishnets and rubbing up against my bedpost. My Barbies were always doing it. I drew nipples on them. I identify as a heterosexual, but I have a fascination with the female body.”

Despite the seemingly precocious personality, McLean didn’t have her first French kiss until age 15 and didn’t lose her virginity until age 19.

“My friend and I made a deal in high school that as soon as one of us lost our virginity, we would call each other,” McLean tells me. “I left her a message at 3 AM one April morning saying, ‘I think you know why I’m calling you…’ ”

As for how her grown-up boyfriends handle her wild side, McLean says, “The man I’m dating now loves it. The man I dated prior to him seemed to think that if I was sexual onstage, I was obligated to be sexual offstage. He didn’t understand the separation of the art from the artist. He’d say, 'Guys are going to expect you to give them blowjobs if you sing about it.' ”

McLean admits there was a period of time when, while online dating, she removed the “dirty bluegrass band” mention from her OK Cupid profile because suitors figured out who she was before meeting in person.

“I didn’t want them to know that about me upfront,” she says. “I have no problem singing about sex in front of a room full of people—or even the fucking Grammys, were we to ever play them—but it is very hard for me to sit down with a boyfriend and say, 'I like it when you do this and this.' ”

When I ask if she’s had stalkers, McLean replies, “None that were permanent. I have suspicions where someone might have a boner for us, but nothing where I feel threatened by it. That might be because I give off a hetero-queer vibe. I don't consider myself 'girly.' The back-ups are super feminine. I'm butchy. I wear pants and the big belt buckle. It's not a weak persona. That's not to say strong women don't have stalkers; I mean, Jody Foster!”

McLean laughs and reconsiders her previous statement. “I guess I don't know what stalkers are attracted to. The past three minutes of this answer was bullshit.”

But surely McLean must have her share of haters, yes?

“No. The reviews have been positive. We’re not out there in the way that burlesque dancers or…you are,” she says, referring to this writer’s former blog persona. “Courtney McClean is a character. That person is a part of me, but she’s more outspoken than I am.”

In fact, the only controversy associated with the Dirty Curls was in 2010, when McLean called out a comic on a rape joke.

“I’m difficult to offend, but the comic put himself in the place of the rapist. I was super mad.”

McLean made a comment on Facebook to the tune of, “Rape jokes aren’t funny. Find another way to be edgy,” not realizing it would incite a lengthy Facebook “flame war,” in which neither side seemed willing to back down.

“I get that comedy is subjective, but you don’t know who is in your audience,” McLean says.  “You don’t know the secret things, the small things, that can trigger trauma.”

When critics cried hypocrisy over a naughty-billy band getting their panties in a bunch about a rape joke, McLean responded “All the sex in our songs is consensual.”

Ultimately, McLean and the comic in question agreed to disagree. Whether or not the comic will continue to tell the joke is unclear.

“Cringe humor is big. People love that shit,” McLean says. But in a society in which 25% of women have reported being raped, “It was important for me to say something. We [the first incarnation of The Dirty Curls] fucked ourselves, but it caused conversation.”

Later, McLean experienced what she calls a form of “Stockholm syndrome” and wondered if it was the rape joke that irked her or the fact that the rape joke was bad. “It’s good for us to laugh at what causes us pain,” she concludes. “Maybe I just want rape jokes to be funny.”

As far as politics and the new brood of Dirty Curls is concerned, it wasn’t McLean’s intent to combine them. Then she got riled up about Virginia’s vaginal probe debate and a friend suggested she write a song.

“I said I would, as soon as I found the comedy in it. My friend said, 'Write an angry comedy song.' ”

So that’s what she did.  “Yes, Virginia, There is an Abortion Clause”  joins other cheeky titles in the Dirty Curls' new repertoire, which includes ditties like  “When Baby Becomes Legal”, a song about wanting to get it on with someone's son after he turns 18.

Whether or not McLean will make politics a regular feature on her multiple social media feeds is still TBD. McLean likes the idea of posting a topical issue weekly on her blog; if music can be incorporated into that, so be it.

Public and political bru-ha-ha aside, McLean’s harshest critic may very well be her own mother.

“She once said, 'What would your future husband or children think?' I was like, 'Huh?' ”

McLean told her mother, “They’re silly songs about sex. Settle down.”  Then she unfriended her on Facebook.

It sounds like a reasonable reaction…but what about the people McLean can’t unfriend? Doesn't she worry about repercussions from her so-called soiled reputation?

“If I ever wanted to get a corporate job, yeah, I’d be screwed, but I don’t want a corporate job. It might be self-sabotage on purpose. I was always the older, over-achiever, good kid. Maybe this is my rebellion.”

And that rebellion shall continue. Next up on the Dirty Curls’ schedule is The Twin Cities' Comedy Music Spectacular at Bryant Lake Bowl on April 7. Nicole Kerry, Andrea Leap, Jonah the Destroyer, and Valley Meadows will all perform.  “I've told them they can be as dirty as they want. I'll put a warning on it.”

The Dirty Curls will also appear at this year's Fringe festival and are in talks with Goonie's in Rochester for a two-show, one-night engagement in August.

“There's more comedy music than we think there is,” McLean says in closing.  “I think it's more accessible than stand-up comedy.  It's easier to make people laugh with a song.”

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more underappreciated local acts!

- Erica Rivera

Monday, February 20, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Farewell Milwaukee

With a tender mix of melancholy and nostalgia, Farewell Milwaukee creates swoon-worthy country tunes. The Minneapolis-based band released their sophomore effort, When It Sinks In, in 2011 and has since exploded on the local scene. They sold out their recent show with Romantica at the Cedar Cultural Center, were featured on Minnesota Original, and have landed tracks on the MN Music For Kids compilation and Cities '97 Sampler Volume 23. Frontman Ben Lubeck was also a finalist in NPR’s 2010 Mountain Stage New Song contest. This song, You're The Cure, is a light-hearted, toe-tapping jam, filmed by Nathaniel Schmidt in somebody's living room.

- Erica Rivera

Farewell Milwaukee - You're The Cure from Nathaniel Schmidt Media on Vimeo.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Behind The Scenesters: Andy Sturdevant

Andy Sturdevant is a jack-of-all-trades on the Twin Cities arts scene. As an Artists Resources Manager at Springboard for the Arts, Sturdevant assists creatives of musical, literary, and visual persuasions to make living the dream a reality.

Sturdevant is instantly recognizable by his fiery beard and retro spectacles. You’re likely to see him out and about in South Minneapolis, scoping out the Art Shanties, looking dapper at gallery openings, or onstage in the monthly Salon Saloon variety show. In addition to regular missives at MinnPost, Sturdevant has penned pieces for Rain Taxi, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine,, and Walker Art Center publications.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more local noise makers!

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview With The Farewell Circuit

If you missed the on-air broadcast of Erica Rivera's interview with The Farewell Circuit on Live From Studio 5! here's your second chance to hear the band's Q&A:

On Deck: The Hummingbirds and The Farewell Circuit

Tonight’s show features a live, in-studio performance from Hummingbirds, a local band that calls the Powderhorn neighborhood home.  Hummingbirds specializes in “harmony-filled feel-good flowing music.”  Incorporating ukulele, banjo, and guitar, this all-female trio plays a range of tunes from funky to folksy.

Hummingbirds members Lynn O'Brien, Kestrel Feiner-Homer, and Sarina Yospinrom have honed their sound everywhere from backyard parties to cafés, from front porches to the Fine Line.  Community is as essential to the group as good jams are.

Also on deck is Erica Rivera's interview with Danny O'Brien and DJ House of The Farewell Circuit

The indie musicians discuss everything from their African mission inspiration to the cinematic source of the band's name to dreams of making it to SXSW.

Tune into Live From Studio 5! tonight from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI: 90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul, or stream online.

Poliça Wows First Avenue Crowd On Valentine's Day

It’s rare that a band sells out the First Avenue mainroom before their album officially drops, but such was the case with Poliça and their Give You The Ghost release show on “ValenTuesday” night.

While some of us saw this success coming since the initial listen of “Wandering Star” last fall, there must be a devil’s advocate or two who doubted another auto-tune influenced electronica outfit could get off the ground.

Well, get off the ground they did, and Poliça has proven itself to be nothing less than a sonic triumph.  Following substantial buzz on the local scene, Poliça’s video for “Lay Your Cards Out” was featured on rapper Jay-Z’s website, and Rolling Stone magazine recently gave the group’s debut album a 3.5 star review.  Grammy winner Justin Vernon of Bon Iver even gushed, “They’re the best band I’ve ever heard” after he himself took home awards for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album on Sunday evening.

Poliça’s hybrid of hip-hop, techno, and new wave indie sounds is indeed addictive.  The double-drummer set-up of Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu is astounding, as is Chris Bierden's tight talent on bass.  And we haven't even mentioned frontwoman Channy Leaneagh yet; hers are the kind of vocal chords that make hairs stand on end.  Together, Poliça is a powerhouse quartet whose jams demand attention.

Photo by Erica Rivera

The First Avenue crowd was entranced from the very first beat on Tuesday night and there wasn’t a lull in the energy for even a second during the hour-plus set.

“This is a show for the lovers…and for the lonely,” frontwoman Channy Leaneagh said early on in the evening.

Those extremes are what makes Poliça so endearing; Leaneagh has a deft ability to balance vulnerability with strength, tenderness with truth, and breaking down with breaking through. 

“You are my date tonight,” Leaneagh announced midway through the set list.  “I wore a dress for you.”

Though Leaneagh is the pretty face and sinewy form associated with the band’s name, what’s refreshing about Poliça is that it’s not about celebrity or even any one particular band member; it’s about the music.  And that music is thunderous, ominous, haunting, and heartbreaking all at once.  Doubly so if you know that Poliça was born, in part, from the dismantling of Leaneagh’s prior band, the much beloved Roma di Luna, and Leaneagh’s split from former husband and band partner, Alexei Casselle, with whom she has a daughter.

“This is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve enjoyed,” Leaneagh said as the performance wound down. 

We couldn’t have agreed more.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more amazing local music.

- Erica Rivera

Monday, February 13, 2012

Earworm Of The Week: Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten’s career began in Nashville and was formed on a foundation of rock, folk, and country music. Van Etten went more mainstream following her move to Brooklyn and the release of her album Epic, which was chosen as a favorite record of NPR in 2010.

Van Etten’s latest full-length, Tramp, continues the singer’s tradition of evoking bittersweet memories about love gone wrong, ambiguous relationships, and the melancholic artist temperament. The beauty of Van Etten’s sound is her simplicity and cutthroat lyricism; this track is especially heart-wrenching with its refrain “We all make mistakes/I do what I can.”

Van Etten brings her new collection of songs to the Cedar Cultural Center on Feb. 18.

- Erica Rivera

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Midwestern Musicians Win Big At 2012 Grammys

The Twin Cities indie music scene has reason to celebrate after the 2012 Grammy Awards were handed out tonight in Los Angeles.

Dan Wilson, the Minnesotan musician best known for the '90s pop rock band Semisonic, was thanked by Adele during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Solo Performance.  Wilson co-wrote Adele's heart-wrenching "Someone Like You" ballad.  Wilson later joined Adele onstage for her acceptance of the Album of the Year award.

Also on the brag-worthy award-winner list is Bon Iver, the auto-tuned effort of Justin Vernon.  While technically a cheesehead, Vernon's roots to the Minnesotan music scene run deep; there's nary a hipster in the Twin Cities who doesn't know someone who knows someone who knows him.  Bon Iver took home awards for both Best Alternative Album and Best New Artist (despite the group beginning, in earnest, with the release of For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008).

Here's hoping Vernon stays humble despite the accolades and doesn't become an overplayed outfit like the once endearing and now annoying 2011 Grammy Award winners, Mumford & Sons.  Let the record show that the Twin Cities loved you first!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio to ensure you don't wait for the Grammys to decide what constitutes good music.

- Erica Rivera

Friday, February 10, 2012

Behind The Scenesters: Jacob Grun

Jacob Grun owns The Sound Gallery, a state-of-the-art recording studio in the warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis.

Clients include Communist Daughter, Solid Gold, Fort Wilson Riot, and "Live From Studio 5!" guests The Como Avenue Jug Band, among many others. Grun has also opened up the funky, eclectic space to host parties (most recently on New Year’s Eve), to put on concerts, and to MPLS.TV for the filming of music videos.

Photo by Adrian Suarez

When he’s not on the soundboard, Grun is the frontman for Me And My Arrow. MAMA will be performing on "Live From Studio 5!" on Wed. May 30!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

- Erica Rivera

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Take Five: An Interview With ReadyGoes

Bryan Shackle, Tyler Jorenby, Patrick Gibbs, George Hadfield, and Mo are ReadyGoes, a rambunctious pop band of 20-somethings determined to get your booty moving on the dance floor.  I spoke to Bryan Shackle, the frontman of the quintent, in anticipation of the group’s EP release show at the Varsity Theater on Feb. 25.

Give me the spiel about how ReadyGoes got started.

Bryan Shackle:  It started four years ago, though we’d all played in different bands before that. Tyler and I were approached by a publishing company to work on some songs for TV shows.  We created a make-believe band and make-believe songs, but we ended up really liking them.  Half of the songs were used for the shows and we kept half.  We actually booked our first show at the Fine Line before we had enough band members to play the show.

And now you’re preparing to release a new EP, Like A Bomb.  What kind of sound and themes can fans expect to hear on it?

BS:  The sound is still us—dance pop—and it’s big.  We’re not apologetic about it or worried about what other people think.  It’s unlike anything else that the Twin Cities is making right now, which is a lot of chill, cool stuff.  These six new songs are monstrously big and sexy.  They are songs we feel good playing and we think fans will appreciate them and react well to them.

So your goal is to see the crowd dancing and going crazy during a show?

BS:  Going crazy—yes, that’s a reaction we want!  Hands in the air, anything.  The worst would be people or critics being neutral to our music.  I want them going crazy or hating it.  Some kind of reaction.

Talk about the band’s look.  Is it something that happens naturally or do you purposefully plan it?  Are you into fashion?

BS:  I wish we had the money to hire a stylist to plan it out.  For now, it’s natural.  I mean, before a photo shoot, we’ll say to one another, “Let’s not wear pink” or “Maybe iron your shirt” but that’s it.

And yet you went as zombies to Rock The Cause’s Phantasmagoria.  Not exactly heartthrob attire.

BS:  [Laughs.]  Of course we planned that.  It was so much fun. 

Photo by Mike Minehart

Has ReadyGoes played many shows for charity?

BS:  We haven’t and that’s because this album has been all-consuming for over two years.  We’ve been through the ringer with management and going between Nashville and L.A. and Minneapolis.  It’s not that we don’t want to play charity shows, it’s that it’s hard to play a ton of shows if you’re unsure about the songs.

But you did offer yourselves up for a bowling date for your Kickstarter campaign…

BS:  We’d been talking about what would be an interesting way to promote on Twitter and Mo, our guitar player, said, “Dude, let’s go bowling!”  We did a contest based on re-tweets.  A girl won and that’s coming up, so we’ll see how that goes…

In ten years, do you anticipate ReadyGoes will still be making the same kind of music or do you think it will morph into something else?

BS:  It’s always going to morph or we’d get super bored.  We’ll still be making music together in five years, ten years, but it will change.  ReadyGoes has already changed.  At first, Tyler and I were the ones doing the songwriting.  The rest of the guys help with the writing now; there are multiple hands involved.  George had a heavy hand in the six songs on the EP, and there’s hip-hop in his background, so that's a new influence.

Who would be your dream band to open for?

BS:  To open for?  I don’t know.  Who sounds like us?  Who do you think?

I wouldn’t want to insult you.

BS:  It’s okay.  I know we play chick pop. 

It’d probably someone you’d hear on KDWB.

BS:  I don’t know what they play on KDWB well enough to even name anyone.  The bands we like don’t sound like us.  I don’t think Ryan Adams would have us on.  Butch Walker…Fun…any band that has cool dudes or girls that would hang with us onstage and off.

Are there any legal substances that you guys rely on to get riled up before a show?

BS:  We’re whiskey men.  There’s usually a bottle of Jack Daniels or Jim Beam in the back.  Aside from that, it’d be jumping around, battle rapping, or wrestling tigers.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI for more great music from up-and-comers on the Twin Cities scene!

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On Deck: Venus DeMars

Tonight's guest on "Live From Studio 5!" is Venus DeMars. DeMars is a local glam-rock goddess who often invites a slew of talented musicians to back her onstage under the moniker All The Pretty Horses for 15 years. Tonight, DeMars delights our listeners with an on-air solo performance.

Tune into KFAI 90.3 FM in Minneapolis/106.7 in St. Paul, or stream online, tonight from 10 PM to Midnight (CST)!

- Erica Rivera

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Public Memorial Service For Son Of Honeydogs Frontman

Adam Levy, the frontman for the Honeydogs and mentor for many musicians on the Twin Cities music scene, suffered the loss of his son Daniel last month. The family recently released a statement about Daniel’s passing and has announced a public memorial service:

Daniel J. Levy died Sun. Jan. 15, 2012, after a long struggle with mental illness. He took his own life. He was 21. A 2008 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School, he was a talented artist, a loving brother and son, an avid skateboarder and an empathetic and kind human being. He is survived by his mother, Jennifer Delton of Saratoga Springs; his father, Adam Levy, his sisters Esther and Ava and his step-mother Victoria Norvell, all of Minneapolis; and many, many friends and relatives who loved him dearly.

A memorial service for Daniel J. Levy will be held on Sat. Feb. 18. at the History Theater (30 10th St. E, St. Paul). Seating begins at 1 PM with a program at 1:30 PM. A reception will be held afterward in the atrium. The memorial is open to the public.

RSVPs and condolences can be made through Facebook.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for other music news and events.

- Erica Rivera

Monday, February 6, 2012

Voting Open For's "Are You Local?" Competition

Voting is now open for's "Are You Local?" battle of the bands! Through Feb. 13, music lovers can choose their favorite Twin Cities acts online. The top three finalists will play a SXSW sendoff showcase at First Avenue on March 2 with Peter Wolf Crier, Astronautalis, the Blind Shake, Pink Mink, and Fort Wilson Riot.

Last year, "Live From Studio 5!" guests Pictures of Then made the top three.

PICTURES OF THEN at "Are You Local?" 2011

Perhaps our latest interviewees The Farewell Circuit will come out ahead, too?

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more amazing local tunes.

- Erica Rivera

Earworm Of The Week: Craig Finn

Craig Finn, best known for his role as the frontman for The Hold Steady, has embarked on a solo side project, the result of which is Clear Heart, Full Eyes, his full-length debut released on Vagrant records. This song, “Rented Room,” exposes a more vulnerable side of Finn, complete with island-esque waves of instrumentation. Finn played this, and other new tunes, to a sold-out crowd at the Triple Rock over the weekend.

- Erica Rivera

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bon Iver Plays Saturday Night Live

Though technically not "local," many on the Twin Cities scene consider Bon Iver's Eau Claire roots to be close enough to consider him one of our own. With humble Midwestern beginnings, an almost too-cliché-to-be-true "lonely man in a log cabin" recording story, and a dramatic rise to fame that includes multiple magazine cover stories, a collaboration with Kanye West, and four Grammy nominations this year, there's hardly a hipster heart string Justin Vernon hasn't pulled. Vernon doesn't seem to have let celebrity go to his head (yet?) as evidenced by his recent claim that "Rock n' roll should not be decided by people that have that job. Rock n' roll should be the fucking people with guitars around their backs." Far from a sell-out, Vernon may just be indie music's biggest hero.

This video is from his appearance last night on Saturday Night Live.

- Erica Rivera

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio for more of the best local up-and-comers.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Behind The Scenesters: Lily Troia

Lily Troia may appear petite, but the owner of Invisible Button Entertainment is a force to be reckoned with. The local music powerhouse represents some of the most respected artists in the Twin Cities including The Honeydogs, Liminal Phase, Hookers $ Blow, Molly Dean, Martin Devaney, Ryan Traster, Sleep Study, and Bunny Clogs. Over the past two years, Troia introduced listening parties to Kings Wine Bar, organized three Southern Songbook series concerts, and was recently named to the Board of Directors at Rock the Cause.

"Like" Invisible Button on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

- Erica Rivera

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Take Five: An Interview With Dave Simonett

Dave Simonett of "Dead Man Winter" and "Trampled By Turtles"

Dead Man Winter, a local outfit fronted by Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, is a quaint and quirky combination of bluegrass, rock, roots, and Americana sounds.  DMW’s debut album, Bright Lights, was released in 2011 and is packed with gritty, addictive tunes like “Nicotine” (Oh, the outside is shaking/Oh, the insides are breaking/And we drink to fall apart/But we are all fucked from the start). 

DMW, while relatively new on the scene, is quickly gaining cred with the in-crowd, as evidenced by their much-lauded performance at The Current’s 7th birthday party last weekend. 

I spoke to Simonett on an unusually balmy afternoon in what should have been the dead of winter.

My first question is one you’ve probably answered several times before: where did the name Dead Man Winter come from?

Dave Simonett:
 I haven’t answered it before because I don’t have an answer.  It just popped into my head.  It’s probably from years of freezing in Duluth.

I figured it had something to do with the Minnesotan obsession with weather.

It probably did, but it was not conscious.                                             

Is Dead Man Winter a continuation of, or a departure from, the music you were making with Trampled By Turtles?

 A little of both.  I hesitate to say it’s a departure because it’s not so different from Trampled By Turtles, but it's not hip-hop either.  It’s a continuation as far as song writing goes.  If it’s a departure, it would be of instrumentation.  Trampled By Turtles is string instruments and Dead Man Winter is electric guitar and amp.

For those who aren’t familiar with Duluth and its music scene, how does it compare to the scene in the Twin Cities?

I lived in Duluth for eight years and now I live in Minneapolis.  There are more similarities than differences, though one difference is the size.  Minneapolis has a wealth of musicians.  The Duluth scene is smaller, but both have an open-mindedness about them as far as genre goes.  You don’t find someone here or there who only goes out to see one kind of band.  That’s in part because of you guys at KFAI, The Current, and Radio K.  There are so many different styles of music being played and accepted.  What’s also similar is the support between the musicians and with the media.  It’s inclusive; it’s not clique-y, at least, not in my experience.

Outside of Minnesota, where have you felt most accepted?

That depends on what we’re talking about.  Dead Man Winter hasn’t really gone anywhere.  We went to Colorado and Alaska and that’s it.  [Laughs.]  It went over pretty well, though.  With Trampled By Turtles, it was a lot easier, early on, in the Western states.  Now we go to great places everywhere.  I think we focus energy where we connect.  We connected with Colorado early on and we kept going back, so we didn’t make it out to the East Coast right away.

Who are you excited to hear more from on the local scene?

I’m really digging Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps.  We also just played The Current’s birthday party with Night Moves and I’d like to hear more from them.

When you’re not making music, what do you do to entertain yourself?

[Laughs.]  That’s a good question.  What do I do for fun?  I try to keep my one-year-old daughter from hurting herself.

Your next opportunity to be blown over by Dead Man Winter is on Feb. 23 at the Cedar Cultural Center when the band takes part in the Real Phonic Radio Hour with Randy Weeks.  Trampled By Turtles' next gig is April 11 at First Ave--but it's already sold out!

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

A Musician On A Mission: 100 Videos, 100 Days

David LeDuc, bass player for local indie rockers (and 2010 "Live From Studio 5!" guests) Pictures of Then, has a new project in the works: 100 videos in 100 days.

"It's really just a kick in the pants to myself," LeDuc says. "It's to get myself in a better groove of writing music everyday, or at least learning a new cover."

The focus of the project is mostly musical, though there will be content included from PofT tours, The Less Complex in studio, and other fantastic randomness that LeDuc is known for.

LeDuc starts the clock today. See what unfolds on his YouTube channel, and visit him online at his official website and bandcamp page.

Tune into "Live From Studio 5!" on Wednesdays from 10 PM to Midnight on KFAI radio.

- Erica Rivera