WAM-o-RAMA: Meet the bands

WAM Collective is greeting the new school year with great pleasure as we present our annual back-to-school concert series, WAM-o-RAMA, (TOMORROW!) Friday, September 6. With our smashing event being just a day away, we figured this would be a great time to introduce you to this year’s band lineup and give you a sneak peek at what to expect for this night in the museum.

After screen-printing your own t-shirt with Bohemian Press on the front plaza and grabbing a slice of free Mesa pizza, head inside to take your photo in the photo-booth, stroll through the galleries, and get a spot up front for the first band of the evening: Beasthead. Winners of last spring’s Battle of the Bands at Spring Jam, Beasthead is a local group with a truly unique sound that even they aren’t sure how to describe. Check out our recent interview with “the utility man,” Doug Deitchler:

WC: Tell us about your band. Who are you guys? What instruments do you play? How did Beasthead start?

DD: Beasthead consists of Harry on vocals and guitar, Paul on bass, Nick our guitar virtuoso, and myself, the utility man playing all the extra stuff in the back.

We make music together but we’re friends; music’s just a part of it. We live together, hang out together, give each other shit, make bad decisions together, get drunk together…regret getting drunk together. Stuff brothers do. We’re family.

We started making music together about two years ago when we asked Harry to sing for the blues/rock/jazz fusion/funk jam band that Nick, Paul, and myself had started with a drummer friend in high school called Mustard Bus.  Harry had not been a lead vocalist in his past two projects (the funk rock group Jay Walker and the Misdemeanors and the folk pop group, Foxtrot) and we had never had a singer that could keep up with us but we were pretty much able to create music from the first night we jammed together.  We just worked well together right away, without even trying.

About a 8 months ago, we realized our sound was changing and after losing our drummer, decided to continue in this new direction and change our name to Beasthead; which apparently means an icon that represents the devil…but we just picked it because it was the name of a song we had in Mustard Bus about a girl Harry knew that was a bass-head.  What we’re really trying to do now is draw from our various musical influences and embrace the unique diversity found in Minneapolis’ creative community.

WC: Are all of you students? What are you studying?

DD: Harry is the only one that’s currently a student.  He has a biology degree from the [University of Minnesota] but is currently studying Film at MCTC (Minneapolis Community and Technical College). Paul studied Graphic Design at The Art Institutes International Minnesota and I recently graduated from the [University of Minnesota] with a degree in Physics and minors in Astrophysics and Chemistry.

WC: How would you describe your sound?

DD: We try not to answer this question on principle because people typically have a different opinion or just flat out disagree with us, and actually, we usually end up disagreeing with each other.  We’ve heard that we sound like everybody from Gayngs to Alt-J to Heiruspecs to Radiohead to Polica.  We’ve had people tell us things like we have a unique take on electronic indie rock or that they like that we make intelligent dance music or that the way we utilize aspects of hip hop represents the midwest sound well…amongst other things.

It’s really awesome to hear all this different feedback because it means that all of our various influences are coming out in unique ways and people are having a hard time putting their finger on what it is they like.. but I guess ultimately, it’s just best to let people decide for themselves what we sound like.

WC: You guys were the winners of last year’s Battle of the Bands at Spring Jam. You must have quite a following through the U of M community. Now that your name is out there, what are you looking forward to? Any festivals or groups you’re hoping to play with or have gotten to play with recently?

DD: We are looking forward to playing the Minneapalooza Music and Arts Festival (https://www.facebook.com/events/374129772690491/) on September 28th.  The lineup features great local music all day and there will be all kinds of live art, food trucks, a hookah bar, and all that good festival stuff.

We’re also really excited to be releasing an EP we’ve been working on all summer at Ambient Sound Studios in St. Paul (https://www.facebook.com/ambientsoundmn).  We’re still figuring out what to call it but it will hopefully be out by the WAM-o-RAMA event and it will contain five original songs, one of which features our good friend Dem Atlas, an amazing up-and-coming local hip hop artist.

In the future, we would really like to get involved with the outdoor music festival circuit in Minneapolis and maybe play a few shows at places like Ice House or 7th Street Entry or The Sound Gallery.

WC: Where is your favorite place to create music?

DD: We’ve jammed on ideas for songs in many different places over the past two years. In our rehearsal space after a long day, the front porch with a hookah and some beers, the studio during recording, crammed into our little attic, on a couch in our garage at 3am after several whiskies … usually it just starts as an idea in all these places. Only once we get together in the same room does it start becoming a song. We need to be able to build off of each other. Anywhere we can do that…that’s our favorite place.

WC: You’re about to play a show in a globally known University art museum, any other unusual places you’re hoping to add to your list of venues?

DD: Nothing unusual comes to mind.  I’ve had the idea for a while now to start doing guerilla shows where we just show up somewhere public and jump out of a van with our equipment and start playing until we get kicked out or arrested or our power is cut or something.  I’m not much of a trouble maker though, and I definitely can’t afford to pay any more tickets but I think it’d be a lot of fun…so I dont know.  Maybe we’ll start doing that. We’ll see…whatever comes next.

Up next, we’ve got electric folk quintet William Within. Come dance to the sounds of Alexander Simpson on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Derek Rohlf on violin, Tom Steffes on electric guitar, Matt Blake on double bass, and Toby Ramaswaby on drums. Formerly a solo project, W.W. is now turning heads and turning up volume dials around the Twin Cities. See what lead vocalist Alexander Simpson had to say about their style, their spare time, and their spot in the Twin Cities’ music scene:

WC: How did you guys meet? What turned William Within from a solo project to a quintet?

AS: I started William Within in high school as a super low-key solo recording project, with no intention of expanding it into a full band.  But after playing various solo gigs during my freshmen year at the U of M, I realized I wasn’t really going anywhere as a one-man show.  I reached out to my friends Derek and Tom to see if they wanted to be in a band playing my original material.  They quickly accepted my offer, and Tom recommended Matt and Toby for double bass and drums. We all got together one afternoon at my Dinkytown house and things took off from there.  We started rearranging all my old solo songs and, eventually, working on new full-band material.  We’ve been a band for almost two years now.

WC: How would you describe your sound?

AS: Our sound can be hard to describe at times because we like to experiment with many different genres and influences rather than tapping the same resource repeatedly.  I would say our songs are rooted in the folk category since they originate on my acoustic guitar, but we like to mess around with jazz, psych rock and classical too.

WC: Are all of you students? What are you studying?

AS: Derek, Toby and I are all seniors at the U of M this year.  Derek studies Business, Toby studies Music and Math and I’m studying Journalism.

WC: Where can we find you on the weekends?

AS: When we aren’t performing on the weekends, we like to practice, bum around music shops, hit up a party or check out other concerts. I guess we are sort of all over.

WC: You are about to play a show in a globally known University art museum. That’s a pretty unusual venue. Any other unusual places you have added to your list of venues or that you hope to?

AS: The most unusual venue we’ve ever played in was a U of M campus connector.  Radio K filmed us performing on a moving U of M campus connector for their first-ever Tiny Music Fest, and it went surprisingly well!  (video here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRD3y3X6aPU )

WC: Outside of Nashville, New York City, and Los Angeles, Minneapolis is one of the top music cities in the United States. How do you feel being a part of the Twin Cities’ music scene?

AS: It’s an honor and a pleasure.  Minneapolis is a great place to start a band because people legitimately want to give you a chance.  It’s hard to say that about bigger cities like NYC or LA.

Last but not least, save some dancing for the final show of the evening: VAN STEE. Local musician Charlie Van Stee has been playing in the Twin Cities’ music scene for years. But over the course of time, his bandmates and his sound have changed completely. Take a peek at what Charlie Van Stee (vocals and guitar), Josh Kaplan (drums), and Jimmy Stofer (bass) had to say about their current project, VAN STEE, which also includes Shawn Connelly on keyboards and Lance Conrad on guitar.

WC: Charlie, it seems as though your sound has gone through different phases throughout your life. VAN STEE is described as starting out as a personal project reflecting your recent life experiences. How do you feel about your sound now as compared to in previous projects?

CVS: I’ve been making these sort of lo-fi demos with keyboard beats, guitar and a microphone. I recklessly abused reverb effects in my room so I could sound like the Verve or something. As a result, the demos always had these little bits of eerie feedback and guitar that would give me goosebumps. When it came to professional recording and live performances, those bits that I loved would sort of melt away and it would be reduced down to a more rock feel. It felt really great to play in a more raw project like the CVS Trio, but I really didn’t feel like it gave me the chance to show the whole picture of what I wanted this music to sound like. With everyone involved in VAN STEE, I’ve learned so much through collaboration and had a lot of support getting ideas fully flushed out. I don’t know what we are going to sound like on our next releases or five years down the road. That’s really exciting to me.

WC: How would you describe VAN STEE’s sound?

CVS: We usually just call it “psychedelic indie rock.” It does have a dash of Krautrock and some pop sensibilities.

WC: What about Minneapolis’ sound? How do you feel about being part of the music scene in the Twin Cities at the moment?

CVS: I never regret getting out to see our live music scene in motion. We have so many people representing sub-genres at such a high level. We get this kind of Alt-Midwestern folk with Chris Koza and Mason Jennings. We have everything from explosive live bands like Gramma’s Boyfriend and The Chalice to meticulous pop music like Golden Bubbles and Joey Ryan and the Inks. I have a friend named Toby Cryns, who plays around town occasionally, that writes really lovely unconventional lyrics in the vein of Jonathan Richman. It’s great to think that I’ve barely scratched the surface of how much music is being made in Minneapolis. It’s humbling to be referred to as “a part of the music scene in the Twin Cities”. As a self sustaining band, we are so grateful to have people who are into what we do. To have people encourage you to be creative is such a gift. Being able to reward that encouragement with something that moves all of us in some way is so completely fulfilling. I hope that two way street continues.

WC: You’re about to play a show in a University art museum. Have you ever played in an art museum before? Any other unusual places you have added to your list of venues or that you hope to?

JS: I played at the Museum of Modern Art. It was super fun and an interesting place to have music. Anytime you get the chance to play music in a non-venue, it always makes for a story (good or bad). It would be super fun to play inside the Walker.

WC: As a part of the University of Minnesota, we interact with many young students looking to create a lifestyle and career within the arts. What advice can you give to young artists and musicians?

JK: 1. Set clear goals for yourself and plan how you’re going to get there. Be as concrete as possible (i.e. I will finish writing the songs for my new record by December 1st). The times when I’ve been the most successful are the times when I’ve clearly defined what I wanted to accomplish, and then planned how I was going to get there. I don’t always achieve the exact goal that I set out to accomplish, but acting with direction and purpose will push you forward either way.

2. Embrace failure. It’s going to happen sooner or later, and I’ve found that being afraid of it is worse than actually failing. Of course, I wouldn’t actively seek it out, because…why would you do that? Embracing failure when it happens, though, is what builds wisdom and experience. You can dust yourself off, learn, try again, and then, in the future, tell some young pup how to not make the same mistakes you made way back when.

Friday, September 6. Weisman Art Museum. Screen-printing: 6:00pm, Doors: 7:30pm, Music: 8:00pm. Galleries open all night. See you there!

 

This event is presented in conjunction with the Whole Music Club, SUA, SNAP, SHADE, Bohemian Press, CocaCola, Mesa Pizza, and Radio K.

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