Being in one of the best-loved bands in town — with a stylishly bookish look, plus an instrument hardly anyone else plays — has made Steve Roehm one of the most recognized musicians in the Twin Cities. It's not often you hear him talk, though.

"We have sort of a Penn & Teller thing we came up with years ago, and it's fine by me, except maybe it doesn't serve my other projects so well," said the vibraphone player of the New Standards, who always lets his better-known bandmates Chan Poling (also of the Suburbs) and John Munson (Semisonic) do all the talking on stage.

Roehm has plenty to say now about his inventive and playful jazz/rock/neo-twang instrumental group, the Neighborhood Quartet, which takes over the Parkway Theater on Sunday night to promote its infectiously groovy and — yep! — good-vibey, self-titled debut album. The band is made up of four esteemed Twin Cities sidemen, including drummer Greg Schutte, guitar/lap steel player Dan Schwartz and bassist Nick Salisbury.

Q: How does it feel being the one guy who's made the vibraphone a cool instrument in the Twin Cities?

A: I sure hope that's true. I've always played a lot of different instruments. At a certain point, though, I kind of just opted to push vibraphone as my brand. I'm not a super great player, actually. I don't think anyone from Downbeat is ever going to give me a call as the world's next great vibraphone player. But I think I've gotten pretty good at them. I also am good at using them to just entertain and to write music on.

Q: What attracted you to playing vibes in the first place?

A: I went to college at the University of North Texas trying to get a performance degree as a jazz drummer. To do that, you had to learn all the other keyboard and percussive stuff. So I took two semesters working on vibraphone. I struggled with it at first, but after about one semester something just kind of clicked, and my professors told me I was pretty good at it.

I then dropped out of college to tour with a punk band, Billy Goat, and then wound up back in Minneapolis around 1994. I didn't really know anybody up here anymore, so I took to playing the vibes again. That led to forming a trio called Your Neighborhood Trio, where I played them full time. It was kind of fun and would get attention, since it's kind of a niche instrument, and it's fun to watch someone play it. After being a drummer for several years and always being at the back of the stage, I kind of liked getting the attention.

Q: What is the best thing and worst or most challenging thing about playing the vibes compared with other instruments?

A: Maybe the nicest thing is just about anybody can basically play it right away. You don't have to worry too much about tone production and stuff like that, like learning trumpet or guitar. From a drummer's standpoint, I like it having melodic capabilities. It's also actually a fairly easy instrument to lug around and set up — at least compared to a drum kit.

The thing I don't like about it: It's like playing a dartboard. It's really easy to have a good night or bad night based on how you're hitting it. It's pretty frustrating when you know what you're doing, but you're still hitting the wrong notes, because it's just a matter of inches. Something can throw you off a bit like just odd lighting at a venue.

Q: How does it compare playing in the Neighborhood Quartet, where everyone's a sideman, vs. the New Standards with two singers/rock stars? Is there more or less ego involved with the sidemen?

A: The Neighborhood Quartet is a bit more collaborative, where all four guys come in with ideas and hash them out together. Working with Chan and John is different. They can be quite headstrong, because they know what they want. And who's to argue? They've both enjoyed a lot of success in their music careers, but they're both also very artistic. They have lofty ambitions and spend a lot of energy thinking about how to keep things fresh and artistic.

Q: How did the Neighborhood Quartet go about making this new record, since it's all instrumental music?

A: It was basically done live. Greg Schutte, our drummer, has a studio. We set up there and played together — separated for isolation, but we could still all see each other. We would play two or three takes, and after that we would go back and see if there was one part one of us wasn't individually happy. Then we could go back and redo that one part, because we had that isolation.

Q: One of the Quartet's new song titles is "Dreams Beyond Our Mildest Wealth." Does that sum up your collective experiences as sidemen?

A: That's Nick's tune, our bass player, but we definitely all bought into the title. We all make our livings very differently. We play different kinds of gigs, some a lot more than others.

Do I wish I was more successful and rich? Of course I do. Especially since the pandemic, though, I'm just grateful to be a working musician if not a full-time artist, if that makes sense. Being an artist to me would be playing my own original music more, but I truly appreciate and enjoy learning other people's music and getting to make a living doing that.

Q: One of your regular gigs is performing at MSP Airport, which frankly sounds like a very challenging and unrewarding gig to me. What do you like about it?

A: I absolutely love it. It's one of my favorite things I do. I use a backing track and play a total mishmash of music, from cool stuff like the Quartet's songs to the really schmaltzy stuff like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "As Time Goes By." As I said, the vibraphone really challenges you, so I love improvising on that stuff.

And whatever I do, the people who hear it are really receptive. People really react positively. I kind of provide a little slice of heaven while people are dealing with all the chaos of traveling. It's kind of a touch of humanity. Some of them, I can just tell they're having a miserable day, so I'll make a point of playing really calming music then. It's also fun to be in an airport when you're not actually traveling.

Q: The New Standards started out with a lot of whimsy and a bit of novelty to it. Almost 20 years later, it's turned into quite a serious project that means a lot to a lot of people. How do you think that happened?

A: It's been a really fun ride. It can be kind of tricky and challenging, trying to put your own creative spin on someone else's music. By design, the jazz instrumentation changes it up right away. But in my opinion, it's really because Chan and John are just two of the best singers in town. They not only have great voices, but they always just really stand by the poetry of the music and have great taste.

Really, the holiday shows are a big part of what keeps it fresh and meaningful. Obviously, they're lucrative because they're popular, but on the other side of things it just creates such a sense of community among all the people we hire, all the other musicians. It's also fun to see how much of a ritual it's become for the people who attend year after year. I'm sure those shows will wind up being our legacy, and that makes them exciting year after year.

The Neighborhood Quartet

With: Dylan Hicks & Small Screens.

When: 7 p.m. Sun.

Where: Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Av. S., Mpls.

Tickets: $20,