Just getting together last week to rehearse sounded like a punk-rock version of "The Amazing Race" for members of Off With Their Heads. Two of them had to fly from the East Coast to Los Angeles, where they met up with frontman Ryan Young and their van. From there, they drove to Minneapolis to rendezvous with a new guitarist, who had to drive up from Chicago.
To further complicate things (on several fronts), I got hold of Young by phone in Las Vegas, where they spent the first night on their cross-country trek back to the city that the band somewhat erroneously still calls home.
"I was up until 5 a.m. losing money," Young complained. "I feel as bad as I probably sound."
A Forest Lake native, Young has essentially been losing money on the road for a decade now. Or at least he figures he could have made a lot more money staying home with a job instead of constantly touring with OWTH. That was the conclusion reached by his longest-running bandmate, drummer Justin Francis, who quit after the tumultuous making of their new album with punk-vet producer Bill Stevenson last summer. The record arrived this week on famed punk label Epitaph Records.
"People think getting signed to a label like Epitaph means you're rolling in it," Young said. "Even when you're opening for bands like Bad Religion and the Dropkick Murphys in front of thousands of people, you aren't making much."
Obviously, though, that's not much of a deterrent for Young. He's bringing his reconfigured lineup to the Triple Rock on Friday, and he's inviting many ex-members — and there are many — to join them to mark the band's 10th anniversary. Then he's hitting the road again for pretty much the rest of the year, starting with a trek to Texas for the South by Southwest Music Conference (including a slot in Epitaph's showcase there).
This road-hog lifestyle is partly dreaded but mostly celebrated throughout the new album, ironically titled "Home." The harrowing first single, "Nightlife," makes it sound as if Young outright fears the prospect of playing night after night (sample lyric: "I know I'm sick and I'm not right / I'm so [expletive] tired of living this life").
Young explained by phone, though, that the song is actually more about when he's not on the road.
"It can sort of freak you out when you go from playing 300 shows a year to being at home with someone who has to get up at 6 a.m. to go to work, and leads that normal kind of life," Young explained, referring to his Los Angeles-based girlfriend of five years.
You would think that making the new album with Stevenson — a Los Angeles punk mainstay who drummed in the Descendents and ALL (and Black Flag briefly) — would have afforded Young more time at home in L.A. Instead, OWTH headed off to record in Fort Collins, Colo., home to the famed New Belgium Brewery (Fat Tire) and to Stevenson's renowned studio, the Blasting Room, where he recently helmed records by NOFX and Rise Against.
In this band's case, the setting was far from serene. Young admitted that he and Stevenson fought a lot. It was the band's first time working with a producer who's not already a friend. But both band and producer say the rough patches were for the better, in terms of the album.
"We butted heads pretty much the whole time," Young said, describing several tense scenes, including a final one where Stevenson reportedly said, "I know you guys hate me, but I hate you, too." But Young laughed off the rough patches, as did Stevenson, who called the sessions "a positive experience" via e-mail.
"Bill made me rethink things that I probably otherwise wouldn't have," Young said. "We are both stubborn in our ways, but at the end of the day, I walked out with a record that I've always wanted to make, and I got to spend a month working with a musical idol."
As for his idea to call the album "Home," Young said it's more a reference to him constantly being away, but he does still considers the Twin Cities home.
"I know at some point, I'm probably going to settle back down there," he said.
Here's how old-school Gene Poole is in Twin Cities rapper terms: Under his former alias Swift, he was part of the original Headshots crew of the late '90s alongside Slug and Beyond, which birthed Rhymesayers. More recently, he was seen on the first Welcome to MN tour and a couple of Soundsets. In that time, though, he only issued one solo album, 2009's "The Protocol." Now he's finally ready to unleash a follow-up.
Titled "God Particles," the new collection pairs him with locally reared producer Bionik (Stefon Taylor), who recently returned home after a stint working with everyone from Far East Movement to Ice-T in Los Angeles. Together, they've created a high-adrenaline mash-up of hard-rocking, Prodigy-like techno beats and Cypress Hill-style haze-rap. Carnage hosts the release party with appearances by Muja Messiah, Desdamona, Mike the Martyr and Slug. (10 p.m. Sat., Triple Rock, $5).
Their gigs range from the Blind Shake's boat cruise on Lady Bird Lake to Solid Gold's big showcase at Mohawk nightclub to Lucy Michelle's and Haley Bonar's appearance on the Doritos Bold Stage. That's right, the caravan to South by Southwest begins next week, with what looks to be about two dozen Twin Cities music acts this year trekking down Interstate 35 to Austin, Texas. Others include BNLX, Ol' Yeller, the 4onthefloor, Strange Names, Dosh, Wiping Out Thousands and the winner of Vita.mn's Are You Local? contest from last weekend, hazy pop-rock quartet Carroll. … Maybe the most newsworthy local name on the SXSW list is Gary Louris, playing his first shows since medical issues forced him to cancel his tour last fall. He's working on a new solo album and will have Kevin Bowe & the Okemah Prophets as a backup band in Austin. … Too bad Bowe and drummer Peter Anderson couldn't also back Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson at SXSW, as they did on the new Replacements EP. At least the "Songs for Slim" mini-album is now available on iTunes and Amazon for download. …
On the heels of their involvement in Saturday's Benefit 2 Celebrate Life with Bobby Z & Co. at First Avenue, St. Paul R&B stalwarts Mint Condition will be featured in Wednesday's episode of the music series "Unsung" on TV One, airing Wednesday at 9 pm. local time. … Sunday's edition of "The Local Show" on 89.3 the Current (6-8 p.m.) will be a special all-female show hosted by Andrea Swensson with guests including members of the pioneering '80s bands the Clams and Tetes Noir, an in-studio session by Nona Marie's Anonymous Choir and the very-welcome announcement of the second annual Girls Got Rhythm Fest.