Mike: We’ve talked a lot about how The Varsity Theater, a very beloved venue in this town, has changed a lot over the years. But let’s talk a little bit about how you’ve evolved over the years with your music, and just being able to create, perform, write, and record. You’ve worked a lot of great people in this town, among the facts that you’ve also added your loop station, you’ve upgraded your loop station, and you’ve worked with literally dozens of different people for your backing bands. So I’m curious to hear a little bit of your perspective on how you think your music has evolved over the years. Basically going from, really starting with those early Steak Knife gigs to where you are today.
Ari: When I first started the earliest incarnation of the “Ari Herstand project,” I was living in Middlebrook Hall at the University of Minnesota. It was my roommate Lucas Shogren as the cellist, and my RA at the time Anthony Brown—Anthony Lamarr, “Soundshaker”, he’s got like 15 different names—was the beatboxer. We started performing around at The Steak Knife and other coffeeshops as a trio initially, and then I found a female vocalist. So it was this kind of quartet; Lucas on cello, Anthony beatboxing, the female vocalist, and I played acoustic guitar and sang. That was my first band as a solo project. Before that I was in a band in high school that I played primarily trumpet in, plus a little guitar and sang backups and lead on a couple songs. So it was very different for me to branch out into a solo acoustic project because I wasn’t doing that prior. But I had been writing a lot of acoustic songs, and I knew that I wanted to start doing that.
Editor’s Note:Ari Herstand is quite literally one of the earliest friends I made and one of the first local artists I got into upon falling into the Twin Cities music community in 2005. He’s moving away to Los Angeles at the end of August though, so I only thought it appropriate to present a one-on-one reflection on how Ari and Minneapolis music in general has evolved over the past 5+ years.
Mike: I’m sitting here with Ari Herstand at The Meridius, which is a place of legendary significance in Minneapolis for those of you who know the music scene (Ari laughs). Ari is actually going to be moving to LA very shortly at the end of summer, and we’re all sad to see him go. So we had to sit down with Ari and talk to him at least one last time, just to sort of get a few words and talk about the history of what Minneapolis, the music community, and really the culture in general has meant to Ari being here. Really, speaking of where we’re at right now, we’re sitting on your patio at The Meridius, this house that you’ve lived in for the past three years. Can you tell me a little bit about being here?
Ari: Yeah, well I was living alone before this—right near the Electric Fetus—for a couple years, and I loved living alone. But a couple of the Roster McCabe guys were living here and they were using the basement as their rehearsal space. They needed to find someone to fill a room. I wasn’t really thrilled about moving in with other people again. I had kind of a not-so-fantastic experience in the previous place I was in with other people. But the guys convinced me that it’d be a lot of fun and I’d have a rehearsal space, which was a big plus. So I moved in, and The Meridius—the name given by our roommate Gabe [Douglas, from The 4onthefloor, The Fontanelles and more]—turned into the hangout, I guess.
The term “singer-songwriter” usually evokes visions of coffee-shops and acoustic guitars. However, Jesse Shaw is a songwriter of a different breed. While his primary focus remains “the song” the tools of his trade include sequencers and synthesizers. I recently had a chance to catch up with Jesse and find out where “the Muse” has been leading him on his quest for the perfect pop song.
Todd Millenacker: For my own reference, what’s your band name now?
Jesse Shaw: Ahh yes, the band name thing. My first electropunk band name started off as a complete joke and ended up running for almost 5 years- Uber Cool Kung Fu. From there the band names were adopted due to new collaborations.
Todd: So is Uber Cool Kung Fu dead?
Jesse: UCKF is a zombie. I wrote so many songs for that project and the band worked so hard on them that we are going to release a farewell album (digital only) to say goodbye. I’m almost finished polishing everything off. My big problem is I get bored easily. I usually learn something new that seems to transform how I write or where inspiration comes from and makes my former work uninteresting so I abandon it. My hat’s off to my friends and band mates: Shawn, Adam, Geoff, and Dan for all the energy they infused into the project.
Todd: What’s happening with IKKI and Bit Switch Symphony?
Jesse: As far as IKKI, there are two other bands of the same name and I’m not sure I like the collision. Expect at least one EP in the near future produced by Spray‘s Ricardo Autobahn.
Bit Switch Symphony was a fun spin off where I started writing Carter USM-styled songs, but it ultimately became IKKI when I started to collaborate with Ric.
Where I go from here, I don’t know. I’ve got a ton of songs that need a home.
The Burning Hotels of Fort Worth, Texas are in the midst of a Midwest / East Coast tour, slated to play Sauce Spirits and Sound Bar in Minneapolis this Wednesday evening, June 2. Lead singer Chance Morgan spared a few moments in his busy schedule to field some questions for Borangutan readers and listeners.
Skelly: The Burning Hotels have a new album out called Novels. Was there a concept to this album? Are you fans of great literature, or is there something else to the name?
Chance Morgan: We love playing music and the outlet that it affords us. Novels isn’t a stepping-stone to get out some hidden agenda, but more of a diary to our lives; individual and collectively. We have all had pretty turbulent lives from age 21-25, and I think Novels turned into an open discussion about aging and mortality. Those universal questions like, “what does it all mean?” tend to happen during those years and staying out way too late only intensifies that. It’s our first attempt into examining and entreating the idea that there are answers to such broad questions. We feel each song is like a chapter, creating a novel.
The Envy Corps headlines Friday at the 400 Bar with It’s true and Textonka (8 p.m. doors, $8, 18+).
I prepare the traditional set of questions for my interview with Luke Pettipoole of Des Moines’ The Envy Corps: influences, stories from the road, personal demons, etc.
But when I catch a video on the band’s Facebook page in which lead-singer/songwriter Pettipoole and his bandmates taste-test corndogs and funnel cakes at the Iowa State Fair using a rating system of “buttered Shawn Johnsons,” (i.e. Olympic gymnast from West Des Moines), I opt for the off-grid questions.
“So, who’s in your Iowa super group?”
There’s a pause on his end of the line, he debates the parameters (does The Killers’ guitarist and Pella-native David Keuning count?), an obligatory mention of his “own band” is made, and then he goes for the deep ball: “I’d love to have Joey Jordison…”
Background: Jordison is co-founder/drummer for Des Moines-based Slipknot and the guy who drums while wearing a hockey mask the color of turkey grizzle. My instinct is to localize Slipknot and their macabre scene mostly to junior high locker rooms circa 1999. But, Pettipoole makes it sound like the death metal renaissance had at least a good year or two of sustained fury and hell across the shelterbelts of Iowa.
Pettipoole’s musical taste has evolved. A couple winters ago in Omaha he was burrowing through thrift stores when he found an old Hammond organ for $25. He plugged in the organ at practice and started messing with the accordion-like pushbutton chords. The rest of the band picked up and the Ouija-board like result was “Screen Test,” the electro-buzz-rock anthem that the Current rightfully kept playing last fall.
Todd:Stellar Vector has been around for awhile. Could you tell me a little bit about the band’s history?
Charles Sadler: Stellar Vector was birthed from my solo project [space bar]. I was going through a sort of musical soul searching, where I had an idea for a particular musical style but wasn’t sure how to execute the process. I wrote a couple of really neat songs, but I didn’t sense that my passion was getting across in my solo efforts, so I asked Jamie Smith if he wanted to play guitar over some of the music. As Jamie started playing out his ideas, I had decided that Jonathan should program beats for the project (even six years ago Jonathan was the best beat programmer in town). Jonathan didn’t want to program drums though and so he started writing guitar parts as well, and then Don Carlson found me as I was putting this project together and asked me if he could play drums in something I was involved with.
We recorded a 3 song demo with Ev Olcott (formerly of 12 rods), who at the time was the guy I went to when I needed engineering work done. When I worked with him he had miraculous balance over when to take control and when to give control, I don’t imagine that’s changed at all. Around that same time I started to get into a fight with a band from Florida over the name Space Bar, I had no problems changing my name to Stellar Vector, especially after hearing the Florida rival’s music. So we became Stellar Vector, submitted a song into TC Electropunk Volume II, and kind of tried to develop some more songs based on some improvements I wanted to make after coming out of the studio with the demo.
Life started to get really difficult for Jamie Smith and so I asked Geoffrey Makousky to fill-in for Jamie while he tried to sort his life out. It quickly became apparent that Geoffrey was needed in a more permanent fashion and when Jamie came back Geoffrey took the position of bass player. We started working on tunes, but it quickly became apparent that the band was putting a lot of strain on Jamie’s life; so as his friend I let him go. At that time I had appointed Jonathan as producer of the band and me and him set out to find Daniel Auger.
You’re Not Included was recorded with Ev, 7 songs cut to 5. We decided we should always walk in with more and scale back. It’s even a principal rule in our writing style; start with a lot and cut back the fat. It was a grueling process, and a lot of things were happening internally with the band: My musical influences were shifting, Geoffrey’s main project – OBCT was really starting to flourish artistically, and Don was having tribulations. After the creation of the EP, I decided that it was best for all of us that I let Geoffrey and Don go and we try to find a new rhythm section.
We did find a new rhythm section and then I tried to create a genuine business model with them – the “right” business model. The line-up consisted of Mark Haider, Andy McClure, Daniel Auger, Jonathan and myself and – although there is a lot we don’t agree on – I think we would all agree that the business model is what crashed the line-up. After about a year of trying to make a go of it, I pulled the plug.
Jonathan didn’t want me to give it up; he was having fun on guitar and being the producer. So, Jonathan and I created a business model that applied support in all the areas where the previous model lacked and asked band Tasha’s Laughter if they wanted to write an album with us. They did, we did, and that brings us to today.