It started with 92 acts. Then there were 16. The public voted, and now comes the final five in the Star Tribune’s eighth annual Are You Local? best-new-band search. Kiss the Tiger, Lazy Scorsese, Graveyard Club, Nick Jordan and Ayvah will compete live on Monday at the Turf Club in St. Paul. The winner, chosen that night, will bag $2,000 and the opening slot in our AYL showcase concert Feb. 17 at First Avenue with the Suburbs, Gramma’s Boyfriend and DJ Shannon Blowtorch.
Let’s get more familiar with the bands.
Kiss the Tiger
It was only a couple of years ago that frontwoman Meghan Kreidler, 26, found her love of rock music. Now, it seems that leading a band is something she was born to do.
Much of the guitar-driven attack of Kiss the Tiger’s self-titled debut album, released in December, is the work of co-lead singer and rhythm guitarist Michael Anderson, but there’s no stopping Kreidler’s raw power.
“Rock ’n’ roll can’t die, in my opinion. It’s so visceral and alive,” Kreidler says. She’s found inspiration in the enduring power of Bruce Springsteen’s music, and she’s also familiarizing herself with the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Patti Smith.
“I feel privileged to be a person who gets to hear them for the first time and to have it affect me the way that it does,” she says.
As an Asian-American woman, Kreidler also recognizes the opportunity she has with Kiss the Tiger.
“When women of color see me on stage,” she says, “I hope they feel empowered.”
With that kind of passion and sense of purpose, how can anyone doubt rock’s vitality?
(Click here to listen to the band's song "Be Tonight.")
A few years back, Anthony “Oz” Oslund posted on Craigslist, looking for potential bandmates. He wasn’t immediately successful, but eventually, because of that original post, four-fifths of Lazy Scorsese — frontman Oslund, guitarist David Donovan, bassist Chris Michaels and drummer Ryan Barrett — came together. (The guys later met keyboardist Tyler Devonald at a party.)
The band released its debut EP, “Grigio,” in October. A big part of its appeal comes from its sweeping, cinematic, occasionally psychedelic production quality. For that, producer Oslund is quick to praise Matt Bombich, who engineered and mixed the EP.
The songs aren’t particularly hook-driven, but it seems they’re catching on with listeners. In addition to ranking high among Are You Local? voters, the band was included in City Pages’ “10 Minnesota music acts poised to pop in 2017.”
“There does seem to be a little momentum right now,” Oz says. “It’s exciting; it’s cool to know people are paying attention.”
But Oslund wants to take a different approach to Lazy Scorsese’s next record. Where the EP was recorded over the course of a year (“things got really drawn out”), he’d like to “hole up” and make the next one in a matter of days.
For a band with the word “lazy” in its name, Oslund and Co. sure seem to be up and at ’em.
(Click here to listen to the band's song "Medicine Man.")
This singer may be a solo artist, but he can’t bring his ambitious artistic vision to fruition alone. Speaking by phone from Amsterdam, where he traveled for his 23rd birthday, he discussed, among other things, his highly collaborative creative process, which has involved extensive work with co-producer Luke Darger, aka moonsidr_dlux.
Due to certain qualities of his voice — a rich, velvety instrument — Nick Jordan is often categorized as R&B. But that only sums him up to an extent. On his one record, 2015’s “NJ,” Jordan’s inspirations range from Prince to Jill Scott to house music.
His live show — with dancers Albert Conteh and Christlo Gittens, who are important enough to Jordan that he includes them in his press photos — is a big part of his artistry.
He doesn’t just take rehearsing seriously. “I’m a little militant, actually,” he says, laughing. Before Monday’s Turf Club competition, he hopes to set up a FaceTime rehearsal with his dancers while he’s still in Amsterdam.
Due to the 4,000-mile distance, there’s a one-second delay and less-than-ideal sound quality over the phone, But Jordan’s confidence in his upcoming performance is clearly audible.
(Click here to listen to his song "Petty.")
The word used most frequently to describe Graveyard Club is “ ’80s.” Admittedly, the quartet has a dark synth-pop sound.
“I think the ’80s vibes are at the heart of our music,” said founding member Michael Wojtalewicz, but, he adds, “We don’t want to re-create something that’s been done before. We want to take those influences and do something new with them.”
That they do. One unique element of the band, which released an album in 2016 called “Cellar Door,” is frontman Matthew Schufman’s and bassist Amanda Zimmerman’s chemistry as singers. He is the lead vocalist, while she handles backing parts. Schufman explains their connection as “[Zimmerman] jumping in where she feels like she has a good harmony or a good part to add. I think the two of us work pretty well together.”
As Schufman and Wojtalewicz see it, their growth over the course of two LPs and one EP has not involved compromise. “I don’t think our overall aesthetic or vision has changed drastically,” says Wojtalewicz. “I think we’ve slowly gotten better at the things we were trying to do from the get-go.”
The band is aiming to release another record — either an EP or a full album — this year.
(Click here to listen to the band's song "Nightcrawler.")
“Most people, when they start a band, they will try to get an internet presence by releasing a project and then start doing more performances,” explains Ayvah’s 21-year-old frontwoman, Ava McFarlane. “We try to take a unique twist on that and instead really cultivate the quality of our live performance — and then, when we’re on the level that we want, put it out on the internet.”
This eclectic Minneapolis five-piece blends elements of jazz, funk and neo-soul. They’re now up to about 10 original compositions that they perform live. Recording is a “hard process,” McFarlane admits, due to the band’s penchant for recording all their parts at once. “We don’t do individual tracking like most people do.”
Indeed, the first song from the band — which includes keyboardist Samuel Rosenstone, bassist Ethan Yeshaya, drummer Joey C. Hays and guitarist Andy Schupp — was actually called “Waiting on Ayvah.” The piano-tickled, loungy number is the first release on the band’s Soundcloud page. “Lay Down,” Ayvah’s submission in the Are You Local? contest, was recorded live at Radio K, along with a live video on YouTube.
McFarlane, who’s a student at the University of St. Thomas, says more recording is a priority for 2017. They’ve also lined up a couple of slots opening for “popular bands,” in addition to Monday’s AYL competition at the Turf Club.
(Click here to see the band perform its song "Lay Down.")