Arriving 20 minutes late for sound check with a crooked trucker’s hat on and a skateboard in hand instead of his guitar, Max Timander could’ve easily passed for any video-game-slinging teen slacker who still has some growing up to do.
But the still slightly babyfaced singer/guitarist in the teen punk/fuzz-rock band Stereo Confession actually had a good excuse for being tardy to last month’s Varsity Theater gig: He and his bandmates were finishing up a hard day’s work at producer Ed Ackerson’s esteemed Flowers Studio — session time that Timander helped fund through many hours of bagging groceries at his neighborhood Kowalski’s. What’s more, the south Minneapolis native has been working his way through the Twin Cities music scene since he was 12, when his music blog gained local attention.
“I’ve built up a lot of friends and connections over the years, and I think that’s paying off now,” said Timander, 17, who just finished his junior year at Southwest High School alongside bandmates Jordan Blevins (drums) and Noah Swanson (guitar).
A month or two before school let out, Stereo Confession’s unabashedly juvenile new single “Video Games” went into regular rotation at 89.3 the Current. Since then, the quartet has been earning more gigs, allowing them to truly make the most of their summer break.
The day after school ended, they piled all their gear and some friends into three cars to play a show in Duluth — the only downside of which was the realization you have to be 18 to get a hotel room. That, and rooms aren’t cheap in summer.
“We knew this guy Pete, and he hooked us up and paid for like half the room,” Timander explained.
Next up: Stereo Confession opens the Basilica Block Party on Friday via the all-local Vita.mn stage, where Black Diet and Carroll are also set to perform, followed by Frankie Lee, BBGun and Jillian Rae on Saturday.
Gaining Current airplay means a lot to any local band, but especially this one. It validated them in the eyes of club bookers and older bands prone to shrug off a teen act. It also was just a personal thrill to musicians young enough to have grown up on the nine-year-old station.
“My other band got played on the Current maybe three times, and we were like, ‘This is great! We’re going places!’ ” recalled new bassist Theo Pupillo, 19, who previously played in Neon of La Crosse, Wis.
Said Blevins, “It’s especially fun when the song comes on at work. It’s like, ‘That’s me!’ ”
A celebration of teendom’s biggest time-wasting activity set to surf-y guitars and a Ramones-ian bop, “Video Games” came from the first in a series of one-day recording sessions with Ackerson, dating back to winter.
“We basically go back in the studio whenever we have the money to pay for it,” Blevins explained. They hope to have their resulting debut album out in the fall (and just started a Kickstarter campaign for it).
Running buddies going back to preschool, the drummer and the frontman started Stereo Confession when they were 14 and could barely piece together a song. As Timander recalled it, “The first song we learned was ‘Hardest Button to Button’ by the White Stripes, which was fun, but it wasn’t really the kind of music we were wanting to play.”
Through a couple different lineups, Stereo Confession spent the next three years banging away in the basement at the Timander house, where both parents are staunch music lovers who also coached Max on starting his music blog, AreYouRockin.com. The blog gained enough momentum for the 12-year-old scribe to land on press mailing lists. Jeremy Messersmith even swung by the house to drop off his latest album at the time.
Now that he’s on the receiving end, Timander says he’s not afraid to earn bad marks from his fellow music bloggers. “We’re looking for an 0.0 [rating] from Pitchfork,” he said. “It’s kind of a goal.”
Pitchfork will probably go the other way, though. Once he put down his skateboard and picked up his guitar, Timander tore through sound check at the Varsity last month with impressive efficiency. He and the band then sped through a high-energy 40-minute set, highlighted by the Nirvana-gone-surfing noisemaker “Hang 10” and an as-yet-untitled song with a spastic stop-and-go heaviness, plus one cover more suitable to their flavor: Wavves’ “King of the Beach.”
These guys are well on their way. It’s too bad they still have another year of high school in their way. College, it seems, is something only mentioned when Mom and Dad are in the room.
After graduation, Blevins said, “We just want to all rent a house together in Northeast and spend as much time as possible rehearsing and working on our music.”
They might not be great role models for other kids, but other bands might learn a thing or two from Stereo Confession.