It's a fair question for any band that makes a point of playing shirtless even in 40-degree weather, and that uses pentagrams and toy dinosaurs in its artwork, and that describes its music as "Motörhead inside of a gravity bong," and that counts a former member of jokey rap duo MC/VL as its bassist: How serious a band are you?
As the roaring sludge-metalists in Nightosaur ate through 90 minutes of digital tape during an interview at their rehearsal space earlier this week, I never got the chance to ask about their sincerity. Nor did I need to.
You have to be pretty serious about your metal to go on and on about which Mastodon and Judas Priest albums are best, and which Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper show to drive to this summer, since that tour is lamely not coming to the Twin Cities. You have to be even more serious about your metal to build your own guitars, which guitarist Andy Webber has done for himself and for bassist John Henry.
"It's cheaper than buying one, and I can make it look the way I want it to," bragged Webber, who has started his own custom shop, Whale Hazard Unlimited.
What really proved to me that these guys aren't kidding around, however, was their lengthy, track-by-track breakdown of their second album, "Spaceaxers," which they're promoting with a release party next Thursday at the Triple Rock.
They described in detail -- and without any hint of irony -- which of their new songs is about a vengeful barbarian ("Warrior Bride") and a future being warning of Earth's destruction ("Porchburner") and an Antarctic mission gone amok ("Too Far South for Mutiny"). The latter track might also be about their rather dismal tour of Texas last year, which is around when former guitarist Max Clark started his slow, amicable exit from the band. He stayed through the making of "Spaceaxers."
Nightosaur's members, ages 29-32, took their sweet time becoming full-fledged metal musicians, but they all grew up on the hard stuff. "I hadn't really listened to metal since Metallica's 'Black Album,' " Henry said, pinpointing when a lot of old metalheads lost interest. "I realized how much I really missed it."
Apparently he wasn't alone. Webber said that they have had great luck "bringing out the inner metalhead in everyone" at their shows. They often play in true metal breeding grounds such as Station 4 nightclub or biker rallies, or in more punk and indie-centric clubs such as the Triple Rock or Turf Club. At the latter venues, Webber said, "A lot of times we hear, 'I'm not really into metal, but I like you guys.' "
Nightosaur's first-ever gig was on a sweltering July 3, 2010, in a basement "where the walls were sweating as much as we were," Henry remembered. Hence the decision to perform shirtless -- a practice that stuck, for better or worse.
As for the other facets of the band that may seem cartoonish, like the fantastical songwriting, the bassist said, "So much of metal is about teenage male fantasies, wizards and demons and shirtless warriors. It's as big a part of the music as the riffs. And we love that music."