The Dead Century prepares for Turf Club debut; discusses new album, sibling dynamics, and fans with machetes
The Dead Century, Flip Rushmore, Lucid VanGuard, and Zippo Man are playing the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday, May 18. Ticket information is here.
Nick Check and Rob Muehlbauer of the Dead Century got on the phone with Alex of Flip Rushmore to discuss their new album, The Well, and less-than-friendly concertgoers.
Alex: I was promised a story about a machete.
Nick: This happened a long while ago. We were in California at the time. We had just started playing live in earnest. We were playing wherever we could. Peoples' garages. House parties. Farmers markets. Anywhere in between.
So we found a bar, which I'll leave unnamed. But it was a bar in La Mesa, California, which would have us play now and again. It was a really small place, and it filled up quick, but it was always a bit of a sketchy venue. People were always walking in and out, probably moving drugs out back.
One night, the bartender, Irish Mike, he was acting really cagey. Really nervous. We knew something wasn't quite right. He was talking to the other bartender, Allison. Our spot came on. We went up to play, but we were keeping an eye on them the whole time. They were getting cagier and cagier.
Alex: Was there a look in their eye, or something?
Nick: They were fidgety. They were on the phone a lot. Checking the windows, pulling the shade back. Checking the back door. I didn't know if the feds were gonna roll up.
Some dude with a machete walks in the back. He's got scars on his face, and he's got one arm. I don't know if he was born that way, or if he lost a fight to another dude with a machete who was faster on the draw. He walks to the front, the stage area. My brother, John Paul [Check], plays bass and likes to wander around. He ends up face to face with this guy as he walks in. John jumped the farthest I've ever seen in his life to get out of this guy's way.
Irish Mike pulls a knife out from under the bar. Allison pulls a knife out from under the bar. We started vamping on a song. We just got quiet and ran through the chords. I was trying to find a segue to "Peace, Love, and Understanding."
Irish Mike wound up taking the guy out to the front of the bar, by the busiest road. I think he wanted the traffic to be able to see whatever was going to happen. He went out with a big stack of cash, and machete guy and Irish Mike sorted it out. I wish I could've been part of that conversation.
Alex: That was a rare moment to be able to soundtrack.
Nick: It's true. I don't know if Tarantino could've done it better.
Alex: So, you were in La Mesa, living there? From there?
Nick: Yeah, it's a neighborhood in San Diego. My folks live out there, and JP went to high school out there. We've bounced around a little bit. At the time we were a three-piece outfit at that point. I played guitar. JP played bass. And we had a drummer, also named Nick. When JP finished school, we set up shop in St. Paul.
Alex: Had you guys lived in Minnesota previously?
Nick: We both went to school here. I've been here long enough where it feels like home in a real sense, but I definitely am a transplant.
Alex: So how did you find Austin [Peterson] and Rob and put together the full band?
Nick: Austin and John Paul knew each other awhile ago when we lived in Rockford, Illinois. ... At one point, we had a show on the calendar, but we didn't have a drummer. We were thinking about Craigslist. Facebook or something. Right as we were in despair, we ran into Rob [while wandering around the St. Thomas music facility]. Rob is standing there, and he's holding a snare drum. John Paul goes, "Hey, do you play drums?" And Rob looks down at the drum, like, that's the dumbest question of all time, of course I do. JP says, "Do you want to be part of a band?" and Rob said, "Yeah." And that was the interview process. We were pretty desperate.
Rob: [Flip Rushmore guitar player] Mike was in the jazz band with me at St. Thomas. We both played drums. And this was after a jazz-band show on a Friday night. I was loading drums back into the auditorium where (the Dead Century) was practicing.
Alex: So it could've been Mike.
Rob: It could've been Mike.
Alex: So Rob, you're in a "brother band." I've been there before. It's a classic predicament to find yourself in. What are the dynamics like?
Rob: Yeah, umm...
Nick: Do you want me to leave the room for this part? [laughs]
Rob: They are good at communicating with each other. Nick does a lot of the hard work when it comes to songwriting. He'll come up with ideas, maybe a chord progression, some lyrics, and then we'll all sit together and flesh out the full band arrangements.
Nick: There's a certain kind of honesty that exists in the band that I found deeply refreshing. If someone's screwing up a part, or if they're playing something that won't work, there's not that fear that you're going to hurt the other person's feelings. There's that trust at the bottom of it.
This is the least Minnesotan thing ever to say, but there's a certain freedom in being to tell someone exactly what you mean, without being afraid that they'll take it the wrong way.
Alex: It's tricky for any band, but especially in Minnesota where, I guess, passive aggression is the norm. It's not very productive when trying to get constructive criticism.
So, you guys put out an album last year, The Well, after forming in the "pre-COVID" era. What was the process like for you guys? Because with COVID and long distance, some of our "new" songs last year had taken like 3 or 4 years to finally release.
Nick: It took longer than we thought it would. I typically come to the band with a demo of some kind. Music and lyrics. But in a rough form. Maybe there's a lead riff or bass part worked out. And then the rest of the band just runs with it.
One of the joys of working with other musicians is they have their own taste and their own own approach to music. They'll hear a chord progression without any kind of lead lines or phrasing or anything over it. And they'll think of something that you would've never come up with in a million years. I love watching this rough idea get burnished into something I never could've come up. This complex and beautiful arrangement.
That sort of intensely collaborative effort ends up taking time.
Alex: You've had a little space since putting out that album. Some time has gone by. This is a bit like a parent choosing a favorite child, but what's the song that you love the most from this record?
Rob: Our song "Enough to Get You Killed." I like it because it's accessible. It's a gritty blues-rock song, and I like our songs that fit that bill. It's up-tempo. Nothing too prim and proper, just gritty. That's a fun vibe, writing songs like that.
Nick. It's a blast to play.
I don't do a good job writing songs about myself. Obviously ideas don't come from thin air. I'm sure there's a lot of myself in everything I write. But the one exception in all of the songs I've ever written, is "Exit on an Interstate," which was inspired directly by an experience my brother and I had driving through our old hometown in Illinois. We had moved away. A lot of our friends had moved away. We didn't have any family there anymore. So it was that very bizarre experience of going to your hometown and realizing, you've changed, but your hometown has changed, too, and you don't recognize it anymore. It's a surreal moment. That song means a lot to me.
Vinnie Donatelle of Friend Dog talks about opening for John Mayer, gigging with his new band, and The Last Revel's life-changing resurgence
Flip Rushmore is celebrating the release of their new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, at the 7th St Entry on Wed., Aug. 10. Friend Dog, comprised of Vinnie Donatelle, Lauren Anderson, and Nate LeBrun, is a featured guest on the bill. Vinnie, who spoke with us in 2021, got on the phone with Flip's Alex Smith for a follow-up interview as he balances between Friend Dog and his much more high-profile Americana trio, The Last Revel.
Alex: Alright, we need to talk about the John Mayer thing. The Last Revel is opening for him [Aug. 21] in Wyoming? I know you have a big following out there. How did the booking come together?
Vinnie: That was out of the blue. There’s a venue in Paradise Valley called Pine Creek Lodge, where the show is happening, that’s pretty near and dear to our hearts. We’ve hosted a couple mini music festivals out there. And Ryan [Acker, of The Last Revel] actually met his now-wife at Pine Creek.
The day after we played there this summer, there was some massive flooding along the Yellowstone River that destroyed a lot of property and basically closed West Yellowstone for the season, which really throws a wrench in the economy out there. All the folks who depend on that tourism are kinda SOL for the season again after getting beat up by COVID, too.
So John Mayer, who has a ranch out there, decided to put together this show and hit up our friend, Chip, who owns Pine Creek Lodge, and asked if he could set up a couple shows there to fundraise. Chip, of course, said, “of course,” [laughs] and that led to John Mayer’s team to say, “Ask two of of your favorite bands to play,” so Chip called Ryan.
Alex: I assume you knew you weren’t getting pranked because it was Chip calling you, but what was your reaction to the news?
Vinnie: Well, he tried to call us at like 2 in the morning, when we were driving home from a festival. And we were, like, dude, slow your role. We don’t know what this is about, but it can wait until tomorrow. So when Ryan talked to him the next day, we all just kind of froze and said, “that’s insane. There’s no way that’s actually happening.” But sure enough…
Alex: What kind of venue are we talking about? What’s the cap on that place?
I think it’s 1,000.
Alex: So pretty intimate for something like that.
Vinnie: Yeah, and 1,000 is a lot of people in that space. We played to 500 or 600 people before. That felt really packed. It’s basically a small little resort with a nice kitchen that has a bunch of storage container rooms surrounding a stage. People rent out these cabins if they want, or just drive up to the shows. That’s the gist of it.
Lazenlow discusses new album, forthcoming wedding, and performing dark indie pop for children ahead of 7th St Entry debut
Flip Rushmore is celebrating the release of their new EP, Choose Your Villains Wisely, at the 7th St Entry on Wed., Aug. 10. Lazenlow, comprised of Gillian Needham, Mike "Ghost Channels" Ryerse, and Mo Bluntz, is a featured guest on the bill. Gillian and Mike got on the phone with Flip's Alex Smith to discuss Lazenlow's Entry debut and much more.
Alex: I’ve seen allusions to an album being mixed.
Mike: I’m in the finishing process. Which many know: five percent finishing takes 95 percent of the time. I’ve been fine-tuning stuff, then putting it away for a week, then fine-tuning stuff. Right now, it’s 10 songs. We worked on around 20 songs for this particular batch and cut it down to 10 we feel really strongly about. It’s definitely our most electronic-leaning record. We put the guitar to the side. It’s still there, but it’s electronic first. Four to the floor. Beats and stuff. But still very much our dark style. We’re super excited about it.
Alex: Do you track everything at home?
Mike: Yeah, so, Gillian and I are engaged. We live together, and I built a studio in one of our guest bedrooms.
Mike: Thank you.
Alex: When did that go down?
Gillian: He asked me on New Year’s Day, actually. The first day of our vacation. We’re getting married next year in September. So, we’re excited. We’re having our engagement party tomorrow [before press time].
Alex: So, if you’re tracking everything in your own studio, doing all the mixing work. Do you need to step away for awhile before re-listening, or are you listening to the same song for several days in a row?
Mike: No. I think the first few weeks when you’re doing the intense stuff, yes, it’s every day. But it’s been a really important part of my process, to stop listening to it for a couple weeks. Don’t even think about it. Then pick a weird scenario. Put it on headphones. Listen in the car. Our lil’ old record player we have. Bluetooth. It’s important to switch things up because it keeps it fresh, like you’re hearing it for the first time. It’s very important to shelve stuff, and then come back to it, because you don’t know what it sounds like when you’re too close to it.
Alex: That makes sense. You guys seem very invested in visual content. TikTok. Twitter videos. Which, you know, OK, other people do that, too, but I feel like it’s something you emphasize.
Gillian: We’ve gotten some coaching from Mark Mallman. He’s been a mentor for us, as far as creating content and how to corner that market. “At this point, if you’re not using TikTok to promote your music, you’re doing it wrong,” is how he presented it to us. There isn’t a lot of original music getting posted on there. It’s not necessarily to promote our own music all the time, but to get peoples’ attention of who we are. Mark says if you use your own music, it shoves you down to the bottom of the algorithm [laughs], so it’s just another way we’ve tried to gain traction with people who don’t know us.
How country is Faith Boblett? She discusses cursed blog posts, ancient YouTube videos, and her undying love for Shania Twain
Flip Rushmore and Faith Boblett are both local artists on the Minneapolis-St. Paul music scene. Serving as Flip's reporter on assignment, Alex called Faith to ask hard-hitting questions about her work as a dental hygienist. She answered those, but it turns out there are few direct parallels between dental hygiene and songwriting, so we'll skip ahead to more topical fare.
Alex: It’s been awhile now, but you *had* been keeping up a blog. Pre-COVID. Your last post was almost a document from just before the Dark Ages. You wrote that you’d had a “really stressful 2019” and you were like, “2020, please be kind to me.” Uhh ... Did you make it out OK?
Faith: God. I remember writing that. It was 2019 New Year’s Eve at my parents house. Just chilling with them. It was kind of a sassy “fuck off 2019” and “2020’s gonna be my year.” All in all, I made it out OK. I got done with (dental hygienist) school and I was able to transition into a dental hygiene role at the office I was working in.
Not to say that it didn’t have its horrible moments. Of course it did. But I’m really a privileged human being, and I’m grateful that my loved ones stayed safe and I was able to stay safe while working in the dental profession, because that’s a little more high-risk of a job. I got to play a couple shows outdoors. All in all, I’m grateful for the good things that have happened. And I’m happy that the bad things are in the past.
Vinnie Donatelle aka Friend Dog discusses his debut EP, moving to Portland (and back), The Last Revel, and late friend Max Graham
Vinnie Donatelle is a Minneapolis-based musician known primarily for his work as a multi-instrumentalist in The Last Revel. His first solo EP--Tending a Timid Flame, under the name Friend Dog—will be available in the coming months.
He took a phone call from Alex to discuss the EP, The Last Revel hiatus, and several other topics, including what he learned during a short-lived move to Portland, how "impermanence" shapes his musical vision, and the love he has for his late friend, Max Graham. (Please note: Max's family is in need of support. Please visit this link to see how you might be able to assist his wife and children.)
Alex: So … Friend Dog. What was the spark to start a new project with its own name? I feel like when you name something, it becomes important. What led you to that step?
Vinnie: For a long time, I thought it would be an important step in my music career to take on a solo project I can float on my own without having to go through as many logistics and creative negotiations to both produce music and play live shows. But much more on the creative content end of things. At the same time, I never really liked the idea of just putting effort into music as “Vinnie Donatelle.” Something didn’t feel right about that. Maybe it’s too egotistical for my humble Minnesotan roots.
The Last Revel was kinda taking a bit of a step back, professionally. I thought it was a nice opportunity for me to establish a new project and see where it goes.
Each month, the five members of Flip Rushmore will tell the world what we're currently listening to. If there's something you think we should check out, email us at flip rushmore @ gmail dot com or leave a comment below.
Prinze George, "Centuries" — There was a time about 5 years ago where I found myself brushing shoulders with Bon Iver's brother, Nate, quite often. At the time, he was running a record label called Sounds Expensive, and Prinze George were one of his flagship acts. I remember going over to his house/recording studio/art gallery in NE Minneapolis one night and he played the video for their song "Wait Up," and the sound captivated me immediately. Since then, the band has been relatively quiet, but they are finally back with this new track "Centuries". Give this a listen to get lost in a placid soundscape of ethereal synths and guitar arpeggios. — Adam
Who has played the 7th Street Entry? Nirvana, The Strokes, Billie Eilish, The Killers, Lizzo, Green Day, Jonas Brothers, and more
Flip Rushmore is a Minneapolis indie rock band that's been fortunate enough to headline the 7th Street Entry on multiple occasions. Our current goal is to ... play any show, anywhere, ever again. Please. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to make any suggestions for this post. And if you have any specific memories of these shows, please share! Check us out on Spotify here.
First Avenue is the cornerstone of Minneapolis-St. Paul's legendary music scene and one of the most celebrated rock clubs in the world. The Mainroom—where Prince shot Purple Rain—has hosted thousands of notable artists.
But the small room next door is perhaps even more beloved by local artists. The 7th Street Entry (capacity: 250) is where Minnesota musicians cut their teeth, and it provides a warm welcome to national artists making their first trips through the Upper Midwest.
Timisarocker Q&A: Playing a gig for one fan, splitting from the Twin Cities drag scene, and finishing a new album
Timisarocker is a Minneapolis-St. Paul band with a new live performance video (sponsored by Music in Minnesota) dropping Thursday. Alex called up Tim Dooley to discuss that and several other important topics, including Tim's NSFW custom mic stand.
Alex: I figured we need to start with the bull penises. We saw you break out the new mic stand at Day Block a couple years ago. Was it brand new at that point?
Tim: I think so. I honestly can't remember when my boys bought that for me. Whether it was for my birthday, or whether it was for a holiday, but it was one of the first few times I'd gotten to use it. And it is my favorite thing of all time. It is like one of the coolest things I own. Because nobody else has it. And I feel like the more I show it off, the more more people will be like, yeah, I want a bull-penis mic stand. So, so far, I'm the only one in the world that I know of that has it. And I just think it’s so so so cool.
This account is based on two sources: Alex’s memory of a mysteriously retracted story from a major music news outlet (help me find it, Reddit!), and a 2-minute video clip from the Sun Kil Moon website. This story is reconstructed to the best of one man’s ability.
Please note: Mark Kozelek, a key character in this story, was credibly accused of sexual misconduct by three different women in 2020.
On the night of Jan. 14, 2016, Mark Kozelek and his band Sun Kil Moon played the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Standing near the front of the audience was a fan named Phoebe Bridgers.
As the band neared the end of their encore, Kozelek heard a request from the crowd: “You Missed My Heart,” a solo song he’d released a few years earlier. Sorry, he told the fan, I don’t remember all the words to that one.
No problem, the fan said. I can sing it.
Every month, the five members of Flip Rushmore will tell the world ? what we're currently listening to. If there's something you think we should check out, email us at flip rushmore @ gmail dot com or leave a comment below.
Hayley Williams, "Over Those Hills" — It's been a long time since I've listened to a new album all the way through ... and then started it from Track 1 again. Williams—who is best known for her pop/rock work with Paramore and the B.O.B. hit "Airplanes"--put out a great record last year, and followed it with Flowers for Vases/Descansos this month. She plays all the instruments (easy hook for me) and tells some memorable stories ("Trigger," "Inordinary"). The song "Over These Hills" is part of a strong middle section on the album that borrows a little bit of Lana, a little bit of La La Land, and revolves around a lick that will probably get it some decent play on AAA radio. (Alex)