Minnesota’s all-string quintet make an especially hirsute stop in Fall River’s Narrows Center for the Arts this Friday (7 p doors, 8p show; $15 adv., $17 day of www.ncfta.org); needless to say, if you’re a fan of frenetic banjoing and bluegrass mandolin, you might just fit in. Coming off their fifth album, last year’s hometown-inspired “Duluth,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Simonett found some time on the road to wax nostalgic about racing turtles in a recent phone interview. (Photo, L to R: Erik Berry (mandolin), (fiddle), Dave Carroll (banjo), Dave Simonett (guitar/lead vocals), Tim Saxhaug (bass))
MK: Where did your name come from?
DS: Our mandolin player actually made it up as kind of a joke. We had some shows booked when we started, and we didn’t have a name yet. But we couldn’t come up with anything that we liked, and I don’t know where he really came up with it, but he just kind of threw it out there as a joke. We didn’t hate it, so we went with it at the time. You know, this band actually started as just a side project of a couple other bands. We kind of started not taking it seriously, anyway, so I think it’s a little bit of a product of that.
MK: What were the other bands you guys played in?
DS: I guess you could call them all just kind of garage rock bands. Actually, the band that I was in before this one was my first band, so it was terrible, and it was kind of loud rock and roll. That’s about the same for everybody.
MK: Who are some of your influences?
DS: I listen to a lot of songwriters. Some of my favorites would be Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Jeff Tweedy, and their respective bands; Neil Young. But I also like to listen to hip hop and some punk rock.
MK: Yeah, the punk rock definitely comes through in your music.
DS: Yeah, good, thanks. I kind of went through a pretty big punk phase when I was in high school, actually. All the first shows I saw were like basement punk rock shows. I’d like to think that a lot of that energy stuck with [me]. I really just dig that part of it: just the raw – not technically perfect music playing, but just the energy that drives it. I like that part of punk still.
MK: You didn’t dress with studs in your black clothing and not talk to anybody in high school, right?
DS: [Laughs] Yeah… I did go through a look a bit like that. It passed, though.
MK: “Duluth’s” tracks have a lot of frantic energy on them, but then midway you hit “Methodism in Middle America,” which is sad and sparse and plaintive. It makes it a pain to characterize you guys.
DS: Good. [Laughs] You know, most people tend to focus on the faster side of our band, even though it’s probably pretty equally distributed. But when people come out and see us live, depending on the room, it usually ends up being a more high-energy show. When we’re playing live, man, it’s just in the moment, it’s kind of whatever’s happening there. I do feel a little good to be hard to categorize. I think that’s a good thing for a band. Sorry for you guys [as critics].
MK: What were some of your more unusual live experiences? You’ve recently been traveling to new places…
DS: Yeah, for sure, man. “Unusual live experiences,” that’s a good question. Well, there’s been several instances of crowd nudity, some pretty rowdy… [pauses]. As far as crowd interactions go, there’s been weird ones, but probably not weird in respect to being in a band. We haven’t really had anything, off the top of my head, that really stands out. It might be because, when we’re playing, I guess probably most of the stuff happening in the room goes right over our heads. So like nobody’s trying to shoot us or anything onstage, other than a little bit of underwear flying up onstage and people stage diving once in a while.
MK: Basically, you’re saying “anything goes.”
DS: Yeah, I hope so. But that again depends on the scene, on the crowd, on the room. There are times that we will play kind of a formal setting… and the show will be different because of that. And as far as playing in a bar, or late-night club, if it’s a crowd that’s really into it and they’re partying or whatever, yeah, “anything goes.” I think it’s a real fun atmosphere like that.
MK: I’ll probably try to keep my underwear on, though.
DS: [Laughs] I appreciate that.
MK: Let’s start wrapping this up: have you ever caught a turtle?
DS: Yes, actually, I have caught one. My grandparents’ cabin in northern Minnesota, the little town that’s the closest to their cabin I used to go to as a kid quite a bit, and they actually had turtle races. And I competed in one of those when I was like, seven years old. And I didn’t win.
DS: Everybody had to get their little turtle, set it up at the starting line, and then they’re supposed to walk across the parking lot, or whatever, in fifteen minutes. Mine, I don’t remember what happened, but I didn’t win.
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