Josh Grier swears there's more to Minnesota than Prince, Jesse "the Gubernatorial Body" Ventura and that scrappy major-league baseball team, the Twins.
OK, maybe there are four things now that his band Tapes 'n Tapes released The Loon, an album of 11 songs written and recorded with Grier at the helm. The album sports great pop songs, bustling instrumentals and shimmering sweetness. It's the kind of indie-rock record that makes the Spins and Pitchforks of the world wet themselves with glee. They did just that earlier this summer when Tapes 'n Tapes surfaced in one of those blog-age music buzzes that come around a couple times a year (think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah).
The Minnesotan lecture at hand has Grier laughing as he reveals plans for the band's next release.
It will be a follow-up of immense proportions.
It will be innovative and witty.
More importantly, it will be named after a chubby baseball player.
"Well, we've decided to call our next record Kirby Puckett," Grier says.
Grier eventually agrees with the assessment about his home state and hopes to snag a few more Minnesotans who love a great record almost as much as they love watching Twins highlights.
Or, more likely, that's just a joke.
The Loon lets listeners in on the intrinsic humor of the band, with a variety of playful sounds such as synthesizer noises and kazoos that add to the mishmash of musical ingredients that make the record so lushly eccentric. Though the quartet -- a rotating-door membership that currently includes Grier as well as bassist Matt Kretzmann, guitarist Steve Nelson and drummer Erik Applewick -- is good at making jokes, it's even better at making great records.
"The things that I like in other records are discovering different parts, but at the same time not having things so busy that you can't exactly figure out what's going on," Grier says about the mind-set that helped shape The Loon. "I want to keep the music exciting and interesting for us by mixing it up, and that's how I think the record came out."
It did just that, garnering praise from fans, critics and lots of people from Minnesota. As its fame grew by word of mouth and standout shows, TnT's fame snowballed into one of those "Twilight Zone" situations that still amazes Grier to this day.
"I don't ever really think about it that much," Grier says about the praise and attention hurled upon the band. "Whenever anybody brings it up, it kind of weirds me out. It's cool, but at the same time if you think about it too much then you start wandering off into this weird realm of not living in reality. Sometimes it's like, 'Oh, shit, this is pretty insane.'"
Well put, since that is where most of The Loon seems to take place -- in another reality.
The Loon impresses right away with "The Iliad" meandering on a loose musical drift on the lazy river of funny noises, wiping the sleep from its eyes with a sharp and snappy chorus. That's followed by "Insistor," which is basically the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean had the movie been about drunken rollicking guitar pirates from the Twin Cities. Outings such as those match well, though, in a diverse picture book that also includes the doe-eyed reflective balladry of "Omaha." It's only par for the course when Grier explains how instead of getting into specific recording process, most of The Loon's tunes were songs he had written awhile ago or came from fractured pieces of songs from each member.
A record like this could easily be a nightmare to pull off live, but TnT has done just that -- adding to the lore of this great album by taking it to another level onstage.
"If you make a great record and totally suck as a live band, it's not going to cut it," Grier explains. "Our record is a good representation of what the songs should sound like. If anything, when we play live now it's more dynamic than the record because we've become a much better band now than when we made this record, so we can explore the songs more. We rock out."
Only the leader of a band so complicated and diverse could get away with explaining what he does so simply. But, after all, who can argue with a bunch of Minnesotans who just know how to rock out.
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