Denim Matriarch kicks off new decade with 7th St Entry gig: A conversation about line dancing, Mario Kart, and that curious Chad Smith connection
Flip Rushmore and Denim Matriarch are playing Minneapolis’ legendary 7th St Entry with VIAL and pure SHIFTER on Friday, January 17. Find tickets here. Alex caught up with the entire Denim gang for a phone chat. They were in a car. “Not driving. Just sitting.” Totally normal.
Early in the conversation, Alex realized that it would be next to impossible to accurately attribute each quote to a member—three of them sound exactly alike when they speak. So some of the responses will just be labeled with “No ID.”
Alex: A couple days ago, I spoke with Kate from VIAL. She said Friday is their first time playing the Entry. Any advice for new artists at 7th St?
Nathan: Just rock your socks off. Seize the moment. Try to find a good spot on the street to load in there.
No ID: Oh, that’s actually real advice. It can be kinda hard to load in there.
What is the sweet spot?
Will: It’s the garage now.
Nathan: I guess now you have to load in through the garage. Never mind.
No ID (continuing advice): Definitely get a good meal in ya at the Depot.
No ID: Buy drinks in the Depot because it’s 50 percent off.
Nathan: Yeah, take that 50 percent discount and you’ll be playing like you’ve never played.
When I listen to you guys, the first band that comes to mind … well, really, the singer: Maynard James Keenan of Tool.
I assume you’re big Tool guys.
Nathan: Yeah, we like Tool a lot. We saw them on Halloween in Milwaukee and it was awesome. They killed it.
What did you think of the new record?
Nathan: I think it’s awesome. It’s a lot different. Took me a while to get into it. More than the other stuff. It’s really good, but it’s going in a different direction.
No ID: They’re old now.
No ID: I liked it. I didn’t think it was anything too new. Did you like it?
I heard the single. I haven’t sat down with the whole thing yet. I’ve been lazy about it.
Will: Yeah, it’s like an hour and a half.
I’ve gotta take a day off work and listen to it. When you were in Milwaukee for the Tool show … do you have a direct connection to that area? Were you playing a gig out there?
Will: We only went there to see Tool.
Nathan: We’ve played there before, though. We did Summerfest (in 2017). Which was awesome.
Right! When I Googled you guys, that’s what came up. Some Milwaukee outlet writing about Summerfest. And they mentioned you had a connection to Chad Smith! Is that true?
(They all laugh.)
Nathan: Yes. We do.
And what is that?
Sam: My mom grew up being friends with Chad Smith, the drummer. Like, family friends. You know, parents-being-friends-type thing. And his brother actually helped get us on the Summerfest bill, because he lives in Milwaukee and has connections out there. Brad Smith. Sounds fake, but it’s real. Brad and Chad Smith. They’re both really cool guys who have been supportive of us. Just a weird small-world type deal. Chad introduced us at the show. It was pretty surreal.
I know he was born in Minnesota but grew up in Michigan. Is your mom from Michigan, or was this a Minnesota connection?
Sam: It’s a Minnesota connection. They were close before the move, and then once they moved, they’d go back and forth and visit each other. That whole thing.
Did he ever give you guys any advice as a band?
Sam: We talked to him after the show at Summerfest. He gave us some good advice. He’s just funny. He’s a down-to-earth, cool dude. Pretty casual. He talked about drums for awhile with Jon, the drummer.
No ID: He liked the drummer.
I don’t know if you’re fans of the Chili Peppers, but I was kinda excited about the John Frusciante news.
Nathan: Ahh yeah, dude! We love Frusciante.
No ID: Fuck yeah, dude.
Nathan: I wasn’t that big a fan of Josh (Klinghoffer), but I’m a huge Frusciante fan. So that’s super cool. This is Nathan, by the way.
Yeah, a few of you guys sound exactly alike.
Nathan: That we do! We should clarify who’s talking.
“All the smart stuff is Sam.”
Sam: You got it, man!
I wanted to discuss the “Rat Palace” video. I was wondering where in God’s name you filmed the gymnasium scene.
Jon: My dad’s a pastor of this small church in St. Louis Park. There’s a youth center there they never use. We used to throw shows there in high school. We called it the Den. It’s got three rooms to it. So we shot everything there, besides some scenes in a park right by there. Just a tiny church in St. Louis Park.
Would you describe it as a line dance? Is that what’s going on?
No ID: It’s a line dance, if you will.
No ID: Our interpretation, I guess. We’re not huge line-dance professionals. But the guy that we went to for the video, it was a lot of his idea. He recently got pretty into line dancing. And the guy that’s at the beginning of the video, holding the projector, his name’s Trog. He runs these parties around town called “Hold Your Lady Tight Night.” Both of those dudes are like swing riverdancers. Whatever you wanna call it.
No ID: Tyler, the guy who directed the video, he wrote the whole line dance for us. And then we learned it and tried to perform it as best we could.
So you guys are really pushing someone else’s line-dancing agenda?
No ID: Yeah, we’re trying to keep that movement movin’.
From my exhaustive research, it looks like your first tweet was in 2012. Is that when you started the band?
No ID: Our first show was on 11/11/11.
It was fate.
No ID: It was.
No ID: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nathan: Our first couple shows were under the name Aristocats. And we actually had a keyboard player back then instead of a full-time bass player. Then he left a couple years later. We were a three-piece for awhile. And then Will joined four years ago? 2015, I think? We’ve been a four-piece since then.
So you’ve been together eight-plus years, and you really haven’t had many lineup changes?
No ID: Yeah. John, Nate, and Sam. We’ve all been playing for eight years.
A lot of bands give it a go for two or three years. It just peters out. Why do you guys like hanging out with each other so much?
No ID: We’re like best friends outside of this. We’d be hanging out and doing this regardless. And then there are times where we’re hanging out outside of (the band) just varies. Comes and goes. But then you have the consistent, at-least-once-a-week practice and shows and stuff and reasons to keep seeing each other no matter how sick of each other you are. It just kinda keeps that friendship ball rolling.
Outside of this, what do you guys do? Go see movies together? Go skate?
No ID: Uhh … Mario Kart.
No ID: We’ve played a lot of Nintendo Switch recently. That’s all we’ve been doing.
Jon: And then just, you know, gettin’ dinners. Gettin’ drinks. Some of us are roommates. Not me or Will, so you do the math. Nah, I’m kidding. Sam and Nate live together. They’ve lived together for awhile. We see each other all the time.
How far back does everybody go? Did you know each other as kids?
No ID: Yeah, we all knew each other in junior high.
Where was that?
No ID: In Hopkins at North Junior High. Will’s a grade above us, but us three are the same age. And we still knew him back then. And we all started playing together and hanging out in seventh grade.
What year was that?
No ID: Oh, shit. 2014 minus six.
No ID: Was that, like, 2010? No.
No ID: 2007, 2008.
No ID: 2009?
Were you guys from musical families, or did you just decide to start a band and see what happened?
Jon: My family’s not very musical. My mom plays keys and my uncle plays sax. I grew up playing music in church.
Nate: My family was pretty musical. My dad’s a drummer. He liked to drum along to all the classic rock tunes, and stuff. My mom plays violin and classical music. She plays around town, actually, with a symphony. My brothers are the main ones that got me into it. My oldest brother, Ben, is a crazy drummer. The middle brother, Aaron, plays saxophone. He plays around town a bunch with numerous acts.
Sam: My family’s not very musical. My mom plays piano a little bit. Other than that, I just wanted to play something, and I got a guitar. That’s the whole story.
Will: Not very musical on my side. Yeah.
Over the years, Denim Matriarch has done an album. You’ve done an EP. You’ve done a single release. New decade, new rules, right? What is the sweet spot for putting out music in the 2020s?
No ID: Putting out small package deals. Singles. EPs. Along with visuals. I think visuals and singles are kinda what gets peoples’ attention instead of waiting years and then releasing a whole album’s worth of shit. Just keep putting content out. That’s the main thing. We’ve done bigger projects, but we’re now working on releasing singles and getting more visuals out there. Just releasing a lot of content.
Nathan: We’re also hoping for another album at some point. But who knows? We’re working on two singles right now that are pretty much done. Should be out soon!
Are you playing those at the show?
No ID: Yeah!
Talking to VIAL, I guess their go-to cover is “Territorial Pissings.” I don’t know if you guys have a go-to or a song that you usually like to pull out.
Will: Ours is definitely “My Sharona.”
I can respect that.
No ID: Recently, we’ve done the, like …
No ID: Oh, the Mario underground theme song?
No ID: Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh
No ID: Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh
No ID: We covered that on Halloween. It was pretty cool.
That’s funny. One of our guitarists, Mike—he won’t be at the Entry for this one—is always doing the Mario “duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh.” During shows. At practice. He’s always whipping that out. And then the other thing is, leading into one of our songs, we’ve done “My Sharona,” too.
No ID: If you guys wanna do it that night, just let us know …
Nope! We won’t. We’re over it.
Will: We’ll all get up there. Do a little group Sharona.
Will: It’s our Sharona.
Support Denim Matriarch on Bandcamp. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. We linked to the VIAL interview near the top of the post, and make sure to check out our pure SHIFTER Q&A here.