Three-quarters of the way through a rather uneventful interview, Mark McGee said the unthinkable -- at least for the co-leader of a band in today's highfalutin indie-rock environment and not the free-for-all climate of '70s punk.

"I'm not really a musician," McGee admitted, "not in the classic sense of the word, anyway."

McGee's experimental electronic group, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie, also is not a band in the traditional sense of the word. Or at least it wasn't until recently.

TKAPB started as a cross-continent tape-trading collaboration between McGee and his girlfriend, singer-guitarist Jehna Wilhelm, when Wilhelm was studying in Paris in 2003. She would send him relatively conventional singer-songwriter music. He would send her recordings of whirring noise, fragmented beats and whatever else his electronic equipment gave him. Somehow, a band was born out of that.

Five years later, their duo has become a bona-fide live act. They've added three musicians (the real kind) to the lineup: Dad in Common members Jesse Ackerley and Andrew Berg, plus Maps of Norway drummer Jeff Ball. They are also now enjoying a burgeoning presence in the local club scene, evidenced by TKAPB's opening slot at tonight's Best New Bands of 2007 showcase at First Avenue.

"It's always an adventure for us playing live," McGee, 26, said last week, seated with his bandmates downstairs in the Clown Lounge following a set upstairs at the Turf Club. "Most of our songs are written during the production of the album, with just Jehna and I. We have to rethink them to play them onstage with these guys."

As the band members alternated among keyboards, violin, bass and two different drum sets at the Turf Club, the duo-turned-quintet offered one wild sonic collage. The best comparison might be what you'd hear (and feel) by hanging out on the runways at MSP airport after midnight. Bouts of quiet, eerie ambience were broken up by waves of sweeping, thundering, crashing noise. Wilhelm's echoey, icy, soulless voice sounded like an announcer coming over the intercom, telling you which flight was taking off for Heartache, U.S.A.

A lot of the songs came from the band's second CD, "The Patron," issued three months ago on Chicago's Kranky Records (formerly the home of Low). Even more than in its live set, TPAKB's recordings are edgy, fractured and downright nerve-wracking, relying heavily on delay pedals, processors and other electronic devices.

"With each song, we try to create our own little world, not just a song," McGee said.

Wilhelm toned down the grandiosity: "We think visually more than we do musically."

It's clearly not a brand of music for everyone. At the Turf Club last week, the audience greeted the band's droning opener "Very Lovely" with a few wincing faces and even a few exits. Just as many people, however, moved up closer to the stage with fascinated looks on their faces.

"It keeps it interesting for us," McGee said of the response. "We're more surprised by the number of people who get it than those who don't."

McGee and Wilhem are happy to be involved in a music scene that will lend an ear to their band, whose moniker is a play on "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the cofounders' suburban upbringing (in Marxist terms, the bourgeoisie -- "boorj-wa-zee" -- are capitalists, a class between the proletariat and the aristocracy). The childhood friends moved to St. Paul in 2004 from Richmond, Va., wooed here by local experimental-music proprietor Matthew St. Germain.

Not only have they found a receptive audience in the Twin Cities, Wilhelm said, "It's the perfect environment to create our music -- the bad weather and grime and all."

Misery loves company.

Auburn goes platinum? Add one more name to the otherwise shrinking list of major-label recording artists from the Twin Cities: St. Paul R&B singer Auburn Williams, 18, has signed a deal through Epic Records with a subsidiary label run by Jonathan (J.R.) Rotem, the producer behind Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" and tracks by Rihanna, Britney Spears and 50 Cent.

Williams' manager Tim Wilson says the burgeoning starlet -- who performs simply as Auburn (one word, too cool!) -- will head to Los Angeles to perform around the Grammys, and she'll stay out there through the spring working on an album with Rotem as executive producer.

One big difference between Auburn and similar singers such as Rihanna and Keyshia Cole, the latter of whom Auburn recently opened for on tour: She writes many of her own songs. One of them, "Ewww Ewww," is already a modest underground hit. Wilson bragged, "It looks like the album is going to be about 80 percent her stuff, which is pretty remarkable."

Acadia Cafe relocates After its landlord went looking for a more high-buck tenant last year, the Acadia Cafe has up and left its Franklin and Nicollet location and moved to the West Bank.

Its new home is at 329 Cedar Av. S., former home of the New Riverside Cafe near the 400 Bar. The first show there will be Sunday's touring gig by Mara Levy (8 p.m., $5), but it won't be fully up and running (with a liquor license) until a second-anniversary event for Surly beer on Wednesday.

"We think we'll fit in well on the West Bank," co-owner Ted Lowell said of his hippie-ish cafe, best known for hosting songwriters and all-ages gigs, and for its beer selection (which will improve to 28 taps). The new spot doesn't have the mini-theater look of the old place, but Lowell expects to have a capacity of 80 to 115 people for music. It will also have an expanded menu, thanks to a bigger kitchen.

Random mix No kidding: Omaur Bliss is going country. The local hip-hop stalwart will put the Dalton Gang in gangsta rap when he debuts a new alter-ego Saturday at 7th Street Entry called Omac Montainya, a cowboy rapper he's billing as "The Old West meets the Dirty South." He even has a CD, "The Death of an Unheard Rap Cowboy," which he's celebrating at the show (9 p.m. Sat., $6). I can only imagine the shout-outs: "Where my cattle at?!" ...

Dan Wilson has signed on to headline this spring's Hotel Cafe 2008 Tour, named after a famed songwriters club in L.A. It will also feature Ingrid Michaelson, Cary Brothers and Josh Radin. Look for a stop at the Fine Line on March 31. ...

The theater and rock world will meet up in the name of Janis Joplin on Saturday, when Mayslack's hosts a birthday tribute to the late Texas icon featuring former "Love, Janis" stars Monica Heuser and Jill Mikelson along with Dollys bandmates Kari Shaw and Andra Suchy (9:30 p.m., $5). ... Another promising tribute: Maria Isa will headline Sunday's third annual Ritmos Unidos, an Afro-Latino MLK Day event that truly emphasizes the many colors represented in King's messages. Other performers include Cubanía, the McNally Smith Percussion Ensemble, Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc and the aforementioned Omac Montainya (9 p.m., $8-$10). • 612-673-4658