Existential-folk melds with contemplative indie-rock on Gentleman Speaker’s “Self-Titled” album. The creativity in each song on the album is obvious even from the first track, “Bed We Made,” with the lyrics discussing how humans and the Earth have gotten along, but viewed from the Earth’s perspective. The song shifts midway through from a laid back folksy vibe to a jogging rock pace as the destruction of Earth and humanity becomes more apparent. My absolute favorite song, which speaks volumes on album overflowing with great songs, is “Selby.” “Selby” lyrically tackles the concept of negative change overshadowing a positive change in a person’s life. The layered vocals harmonize and often remind me of mid century rockabilly and the clean guitars only further this effect. Towards the end of the song the vocals have a round effect that is reminiscent of some of my pop punk songs. “Selby” gets stuck in my head for days every time I hear. The entire album is bursting with imagination, other highlights include “Their Falling” and “Their Falling (Part 2)” about a person so toxic they poison a water supply, “Monster” about being someone’s personal demon, and “The Queen” which dissects how we can love someone, then break up and never see them again. When it comes to the instrumentals, I’ve heard many different artists try to balance the line of folk-rock, few can pull it off, but this album nails it with moments of clean, twangy, and distorted guitars perfectly executed. “Self-Titled” by Gentleman Speaker will draw you in with its captivating folk-rock and have you listening intently to its inventive lyrics.
(Melodic Noise) How's your day going?
Gentleman Speaker) Work sucks. Home-made ramen and wine suck less.
(MN) Who is Gentleman Speaker?
(GS) While this is essentially my (Tim Brecht) project, I have been playing with the same 3 guys since we started doing full band rock shows. I love these dudes. Whatever happens after this, I'll never forget that these were the guys who helped get the entire project kick-started:
Bart Boutwell - Bass and backup vocals, also plays in Landspeeder and Bev. Great friend and former roommate.
Adam Fekete - Guitar and backup vocals, also plays in Pleezer and Surf Riders. I've also know him for a very long time.
Greg Schaal - Drums, also plays in Bev, Sicbay, Soft Topics, Kentucky Gag Order, Budd Good, and more bands that I can possibly remember. I've known who Greg is for a long time, but we were never really introduced until we needed a drummer for some out-of-town shows. He happily obliged, and we just haven't been able to let go of him.
On the album, Chris Sasman played the drums. He was the drummer in another band I used to play with a long time ago called Kurmudgeon, a bit of a faster indie/math rock group. When I decided to record the album, he drove up from Madison and laid the drums down for me in a day. He's one of my oldest best friends. I played the rest of the instruments on the album, save for the additional percussion which was played by the engineer, Jeff Marcovis. Coincidentally, Jeff was the drummer for another band I played in called Ah, Venice. That band was effectively another iteration of Kurmudgeon.
(MN) What do you consider your genre?
(GS) I've been calling it indie/folk rock, but when I hear that, something completely different comes to mind. I'm open to suggestions.
(MN) How did Gentleman Speaker start?
(GS) I touched on this a bit before, but out of high school I was in a band called Kurmudgeon. Justin Lawson (Middlepicker, Itchy Bites, Edger) and I both contributed songs to the project which was a lot of fun, heavily influenced by bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Braid, Q and Not U, to name a few. We had to break up when our drummer became a roadie for NERD, and we basically reformed as Ah, Venice a year or so later. We wrote all new songs, but again, Justin and I did the writing and we had a very similar style. This band broke up out of sheer laziness. We didn't play any shows or practice for several months and I remember calling Justin and asking," are we not a band anymore?" And he responded by saying," are you just figuring this out?" That was the end. We had almost finished an album that never saw the light of day.
I have always had random non-existent folk-style songs popping in my head out of nowhere, and at that point I decided to do something with them and see what happens. I ended up with a decent collection of songs and decided to start a indie-folk project. We had a few different names: The Golden Age, Brecht, there might have been more. After several attempts to get this started, with several member changes due to life circumstances, and only a couple of shows played, I gave up on that project out of frustration.
I started to miss playin rock music but felt like there was a place for some of the folk material I continued to write. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to start a project on my own, record and release any song that I felt was worth releasing despite the style. I wrote some new songs which I felt somewhat brought the genres closer together and reworked some older songs. Booked some studio time and Gentleman Speaker was born. I planned to make a good recording, show it to some people, and see if anybody wanted to play it. Turns out they did, and that brings us to today.
(GS) Working on it :P
(MN) Album name?
(GS) It's self titled. I've always thought releasing a self titled album was a good introductory approach. You've already spent so much time and effort trying to decide on a band name, it's nice to give your brain a rest.
(MN) Lyrically what stands out on the album?
(GS) I like to think I paint colorful pictures with my lyrics. Relatable scenarios and metaphors that other people can interpret however they like and perhaps find their own meaning in them. I very rarely write anything that is direct and literal, and when I do, there's a desired effect that comes from figuratively emerging from the fog to really reveal yourself and deliver a point. Most of my favorite musicians have an amazing way of doing that.
(MN) What was the inspiration behind the album?
(GS) The album itself didn't have a collective inspiration but for me it is somewhat of a summary of all of the music that I've made throughout my life, along with the birth of something new. It's the most versatile project that I've done, and I believe it's the most complete.
(MN) What do you hope people take away from the album?
(GS) I really hope that people will enjoy the flow of the album and I hope people appreciate every aspect. Having said that some of it is mellow and folksy and other parts rock a bit more, I hope that people like it all and don't gravitate toward one of the other. The goal is to find the space between the two genres and tie them together. Plus I really hope people can connect with the lyrics of course. It's a special moment when someone comes up to and starts asking questions about or quoting your lyrics.
(MN) Locals or transplants?
(GS) Everybody that has been involved so far is from Minnesota or Wisconsin. I've lived several places around the country, but the lion's share of my life has been spent in Minnesota. Grew up mostly in Owatonna, and have lived in the Twin Cites for most of my life.
(MN) Who are some of your influences and your Minnesota influences?
(GS) My main influences have been: Nirvana, Sunny Day Real Estate, Braid, Radiohead, The Avett Brothers, Fleet Foxes, The Weakerthans, Built to Spill... I mean, there's a lot more, but those are the big ones. Nirvana is why I learned to play guitar.
Locally, bands I really loved when I was first getting into the scene were: The Plastic Constellations, Valet, Volante, Grickle Grass. Those were the bands to really push me when I was younger.
(MN) Favorite current Twin Cities artists?
(GS) There are so many local bands that I love now: Charlie Parr, Bad Bad Hats, Hippo Campus, Van Stee, Early Eyes, Ruben, Karate Chop Silence...The music scene in the twin cities is really exploding with good music
(MN) What is your favorite venue to play and see shows in Twin Cities?
(GS) As far as seeing music, it kind of depends. My favorite venue for large shows is The Palace. Just walking into that place, there's a sort of energy that emanates from the walls, even when no music is playing. But sometimes I'm just more in the mood for smaller shows, in which case I would have to choose the Turf Club or 7th Street. But I love almost all of the venues in the cities for different reasons.
(MN) What can fans expect when they come to your show?
(GS) I think people will be surprised by how much energy there is at our live shows and how dynamic they can be. The album has some pretty slow moments, but live, we use our song selection, and may rework the format of some songs to give them a little more kick live. That's one of the things I like about this project. We have so many tools to be versatile with our live shows. We could essentially play with a few quiet folk bands one night, and play with a bunch of loud indie rockers the next.
(MN) What’s a favorite or crazy memory of playing a show?
(GS) I have a log of them. This is a crazy one: but when I was touring with Kurmudgeon we had a show at a house in Cedar Falls Iowa. We had never met any of these people before. Within seconds of entering the house, their pit-bull had the other guitar player, Justin's, hand locked in its mouth. A little disconcerting. I should note that we were supposed to sleep in this house. Anyway, the owner of the pit-bull proceeded to swing it around by its hind legs all night and get it drunk. We were just hanging out after we played and the dog came walking up to me. I leaned over to pet it, and it immediately leapt at my face. I instinctively jumped immediately, as high as I could and I remember the dog's jump ending an inch lower than the height that my face reached before dropping back down to the ground. Then the dog immediately started barking bloody murder at me and one of the people that lived there had to get it away from me. Come to find out later that this was just after our drummer, Chris, was in the basement with the dog. Apparently the dog had just out-of-the-blue, fixed its eyes on him and went after his head (he was lying down). He was somehow able to fend it off, and that's when it found me. Did I mention that we had to spend the night there? I think or bass player was the only one of us who wasn't attacked by that dog that night.
(MN) Who are your dream tourmates?
(GS) Radiohead. Easy. That's a band I could see every night. Or the Avett Brothers. They seem like they'd be pretty down to earth people.
(MN) What are your other hobbies?
(GS) Weather permitting, I do a lot of biking, breweries, and outdoor music. Artawhirl is one of my favorite events of the year. In the winter, I do some downhill skiing. My dad, brother, son, and I take an annual trip to Lutsen every winter, typically planned around when Cloud Cult plays. It's pretty fantastic.
(MN) What do you like about living in the Twin Cities?
(GS) The summers in the twin cities are amazing. I like being able to bike everywhere easily and block parties almost every weekend with amazing music is something that other cites don't really have. And if I grow tired of it, it's pretty easy to get out into nature for a few days.
(MN) Is there anything that sets the Twin Cities scene apart from places you've toured?
(GS) Probably the size, the multitude of good musicians...The fact that we can put on Artawhirl with all local musicians is pretty impressive. As I said previously, most places can't do that.
(MN) Favorite places to grab food or drink in the Twin Cities?
(GS) I like breweries. Pryes brewery has the best beer in the Twin Cities. I never miss an opportunity for a good bowl of pho or ramen. Best pho: Ngon. Best Ramen: Moto i....But I realize there are some staples in the ramen arena that I have yet to sample, so I may have to update you on that.
(MN) Day jobs?
(GS) I'm a paralegal. Boring paralegal.
(MN) What are the band's plans for the future?
(GS) The plan now is to get the heck out of town as much as possible and play a lot of shows for perhaps the rest of the year and then possibly get started on the next album. We'll just have to see where this journey takes us.
Review and Interview by: Andrew Perrizo
Edited by: G Blu
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