Editor's note: Welcome to the inaugural installment of Soundcheck, a new Star Tribune video series showcasing Minnesota musicians in their natural habitats.
Two dreams came true on one record for Two Harbors frontman Chris Pavlich, who’s as big an Anglophile rock fan as anyone you’ll ever meet. First, he recruited the graphic designer who created the cover art for some of his all-time favorite albums by Oasis, the Verve and Supergrass. Then, he lined up a date to master the record at Abbey Road Studios in London. Yep, that Abbey Road.
There was one small catch to both those big wish fulfillments, though.
“We had to make the record first,” Pavlich deadpanned.
A true cart-before-the-horse rock ’n’ roll tale, Pavlich and his three bandmates had yet to set foot in their producer/booster Ed Ackerson’s Flowers Studio in Minneapolis for the recording sessions. However, Pavlich believes that by setting their sights high on the artwork and audio mastering, they raised the bar on their own contributions to the record.
That might sound like a bit of rock-cocky hogwash until you hear the resulting album, “The Natural Order of Things.”
An impressively cranked-up collection of guitar-driven rock anthems, Two Harbors’ third full-length — which the band will celebrate Friday night at Cause in Minneapolis — might rank as the best Oasis album since “Be Here Now.” And yes, I mean that entirely as a compliment.
In the past, Two Harbors has shunned the obvious comparisons to the Gallagher brothers’ old band, but there’s no denying it here.
“We play what we like to hear,” Pavlich said. “If people think it sounds like Oasis, I’m totally fine with that. They sold 30 million records, so we’ll have some of that.”
Added guitarist Kris Johnson, “We all listen to a lot of different kinds of music. It just so happens that British rock is where we all four of us share the biggest connection.”
He and drummer Shawn Grider and bassist Jeremy Bergo weren’t surprised to hear about the artwork or the Abbey Road session. Pavlich now owns and operates CitySound — three large rehearsal complexes around town, used by seemingly 50 percent of the bands here — so the dude has a few industry connections.
However, Pavlich actually hooked up with the artist, Brian Cannon, through that most ubiquitous of networking methods, Facebook.
“We traded messages, and he told me to send him some demos,” the singer recalled. “He got right back to me with, ‘OK, what do you have in mind?’ ”
Pavlich gave Cannon such words as “cold,” “northern” and “a big industrial kind of building that hasn’t been used in years,” all descriptions that suit his own background as a Duluth native.
As for Abbey Road, the singer admits his chief goal was simply to get inside the fabled building, since the studios are not open to tours. With a wily smirk reminiscent of his rock heroes, he joked, “It’s just a lucky coincidence the record turned out pretty great.”
It doesn’t sound like luck, though, once you hear about the months he and the band spent demo-ing the songs. The lucky part was landing Abbey Road’s Frank Arkwright as the guy to do the mastering — work he also has done for reissues by the Smiths and New Order. However, Johnson was quick to note that our own local studio wiz Ackerson “didn’t leave them much room for improvement, which they said themselves at Abbey Road.”
The album opens with its most thundering track, “There Is Love,” and never really mellows out aside from the lovelorn, extra-poppy single “Fall to Pieces.” One of the heaviest and best tracks, “Be Forever,” honors the defunct Anglophile store Let It Be Records, while ridiculing Target corporate employees who now use its old Nicollet Mall space for a pseudo-cool commons area (“You come right back to see the place you don’t remember”).
Joining forces in 2007 as Colonial Vipers Attack (which sounds like a would-be metal band), the members of Two Harbors played in groups you might have seen in the Let It Be bins, including Faux Jean and Divorcee. The latter band’s demise was so ugly, it convinced Pavlich to go cold turkey and give up playing music. He took his quitting plans all the way to Twin/Town Guitars, where he found Johnson working behind the counter.
“I told him I wanted to sell everything, and he basically told me, ‘I won’t let you,’ ” Pavlich said. “It was fate.”
Added Johnson dryly, “It was kind of stupid, too.”
Seven years later, Pavlich seems to have done a 180-degree turnaround. Recalling his band’s opening set for Brit-rockers Temples last month at First Avenue, he said, “That was the most comfortable and confident I had ever been on stage there, and I think the new songs were a big reason why.”
This album really has made the guy cocky. Perfect.