A few barriers have already been cleared for William Freed's precocious sampler-based solo act Dada Trash Collage to rise to fame in the Twin Cities.
On the national front, Baltimore's Animal Collective has already proved that a band more into hiccups and meows than guitars and melodies could nab album of the year from Spin and Pitchfork alike. Locally, a thriving experimental movement, led by bands like Beatrix Jar and Skoal Kodiak, has shown the party scene that weirder is better. Wielding pop sensibilities and occasional audio loops of fighting seals and banging silverware, Freed, 21, is ready to play musical Tinker Toys with the best of them.
Plenty of media outlets are taking note of DTC's second LP, "Neighbors," which was recorded by indie heavyweight Scott Colburn, who produced Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible," several Animal Collective albums and Yeasayer's "Tightrope." After a recent live session on 89.3 the Current and a few mentions on national buzz blogs, expect DTC's brand of blissful, emotionally charged psychedelia to invade the playlists of summer 2010.
Dada Trash Collage is a new direction for Freed, after several years with his Detroit-based band, Vanilla Curve. Playing technical, Mars Volta-style rock, Vanilla Curve featured so many guest performances that it became impossible to play a live show. Discovering the sampler eliminated this problem for Freed, and he moved his "collage" of sounds into the device to start Dada Trash Collage in Minneapolis with drummer Richard Bell. Bell left amicably due to creative differences, and DTC is now essentially a one-man-and-his-machines project.
DTC may also be the only Twin Cities band playing into the national hype created by Animal Collective. While the comparison is a no-brainer -- both acts mix African rhythms with experimental loops to create cathartic anthems -- Freed insists he initially hated Animal Collective and sample-based music. "I was like, 'They walk up onstage and hit play. This isn't even music,'" he said.
Now Freed calls himself a fan, and even has a side project, Bear Ears, a name reminiscent of Panda Bear, the project of Animal Collective's Noah Lennox. But unlike Panda Bear, Bear Ears is not Freed's attempt to create a more accessible sound -- it's primarily an avant-garde, slightly twee collaboration with his fiancée, Jessica Rae Williams. "I love my fiancée's voice," Freed said. "Bear Ears is a chance for me to write really stripped-down stuff without adding all the craziness to it."
Despite growing media attention, Freed does not suffer delusions of grandeur. He dropped out of the McNally Smith College of Music for the chance to record with Colburn, and until recently, he paid his bills by working at Menards. The release of "Neighbors" had a budget so small that Freed is now using the online pledge-based system Kickstarter to finance vinyl editions. "We're really poor," he said.
On the marketing front, Freed has handmade the packaging for limited editions of his past two albums, covering his "Rain War" EP with Popsicle sticks and cutting out the material for "Neighbors" from illustration boards. "I wanted it to be a hardback book, so it's hand-sewn," he said. "I'm almost done with the last 300."
So what's next? With Freed, it's hard to know. As his manager, Joel Cooper, put it, "He'll have an idea one day and the next day do something ass-backwards."
Judging by the sound of "Neighbors," ass-backwards might be the right direction.