For the eight years his band Tapes 'n Tapes was a full-steaming machine doing world tours and hi-fi recording sessions, Josh Grier somehow still maintained a day job as a data analyst in Minneapolis. And then, all of a sudden, he had neither the band nor the job.
"I got a call on my day off: I was part of an office reduction," he recalled. "It became a confusing time for me, a midlife crisis kind of thing."
Acknowledging his age, 33, the redheaded, bearded singer/guitarist added with a laugh, "It was so confusing, I didn't even know if it was 'midlife.' Maybe it was a third-life crisis."
As would most musicians with a little personal drama and a lot of free time and music equipment on his hands — Tapes 'n Tapes went on hiatus a year ago — Grier holed himself up, working on new songs in the basement at the Uptown house he shares with his wife, Keri. The end result is Ginkgo, a mostly solo recording project that is also now a new band of local indie-rock stalwarts.
A year-plus in the making, Ginkgo's deliciously warped and humorously titled debut album, "Manopause," arrives Tuesday with a free in-store performance that night at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. Grier and the band then play a proper release party at Icehouse on Sept. 20, which is the next weekend night everyone in the band is available.
Ginkgo's full stage lineup includes Tapes drummer Jeremy Hanson and his guitarist brother Jacob Hanson (both also in Solid Gold and a dozen other bands), along with Communist Daughter bassist Adam Switlick and local journeyman Robert Skoro.
"They're all guys I know well who are proficient enough to do these songs without making it too complicated," Grier said, "but they're also all kind of busy."
In the handful of gigs Ginkgo has played, the members have made a habit of exchanging instruments from song to song. That's in keeping with the spirit of how Grier originally recorded them, trading off on different instruments he played all by his lonesome self.
"In Tapes 'n Tapes, I'd make rough demos of the songs and then there'd always be a point where the other guys and I would collaborate and finish them off," he said. "This was about me trying to finish off the sounds and arrangements I had in my head all on my own."
"Manopause" also involved a lot of tinkering. Grier listed off a series of electronic gadgets that sounded like a droid sale from "Star Wars," including the OP-1 and RZ-1. The latter tool, a vintage Casio drum machine, belonged to Jeremy Hanson, who became Grier's lone collaborator on the record — "I just can't play drums," he said.
Hanson liked the old electronic drums in Grier's demos, though, and the two wound up toying more with those sounds. It's not Skrillex, mind you, but standout songs such as "Faded Glory" have a sort of Kraftwerk-meets-"Pretty Hate Machine" underbelly surrounded by carnivalistic guitar work and the nervy, high-wire vocals for which Grier is known. It's often mellower and more eclectic than a Tapes record, but Grier admitted, "I didn't try too hard to change my natural writing style."
"It's more of a personal record, which is something I didn't really do in Tapes," he said, pointing to the triumphal final track, "Vitamin Friends," which he said is about "trying to be an adult, but also still trying to have fun."
Which pretty well sums up Tapes 'n Tapes. Grier said all four members "simultaneously agreed to give it a rest, especially the touring." He said they're still good friends — they even snuck in a Milwaukee show a few weeks ago — and are proud "we got to live out a lot of amazing experiences." But the dream, of course, came with downsides.
"Nearly everyone I've met who's a successful touring musician has made great sacrifices in their personal lives, and I want more of a well-rounded life," he said.
Speaking of which: Grier found a new job relatively easily. He just took his bittersweet time going about it.
Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Lucero are featured on the next "Songs for Slim" 7-inch single, covering Slim's "Ballad of the Opening Band" and "From the Git Go," respectively. The SongsforSlim.org auction starts Sept. 15, same day of the next Replacements gig in Chicago. … Still bringing in good money for children's cancer causes via the late Zach Sobiech's hit "Clouds," Rock the Cause will add to the good loot on Tuesday when it releases a new charity single by Quietdrive, "Even When I'm Gone" (RocktheCause.org). … RTC is also co-sponsoring the Machinery Hill stage at the State Fair, where Alison Scott and Kevin Bowe play Sunday and the Honeydogs perform Monday (5 p.m.). … With his Okemah Prophets on break — bassist Steve Price plays the fair that night with the Suburbs — Bowe plays the Aster Cafe on Friday with "and Friends" (9 p.m., $10). …
Chicago reissue label Numero Music Group will unearth a collection of 1977-era recordings from Jimmy Jam, titled "1514 Oliver Street (Basement)" on Oct. 29. Numero was also behind the recent Lewis Connection reissue and is readying a box set of "Minneapolis Sound"-related recordings. … With its own in-house studio now, Minneapolis' own Secret Stash Records has moved into making new records with the local vets from its "TC Funk & Soul" compilation, including "Tears on My Pillow" singer Sonny Knight, who performs at Icehouse on Wednesday to promote a new single (9 p.m., $6).
Meet Chris Riemenschneider
and try out his Minnesota music trivia contest at the Star Tribune's State Fair booth from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday before the MN-Music-on-a-Stick concert.