Cold Cuts

Eating dog, serving man: Signal to Trust's northern mythology

It happens in cold blood: A group of four men and their dogsled team are crossing a mind-numbingly freezing glacier when they hit a crevice that's hidden by snow. Two of the men, four of the dogs, and most of the food packs disappear into the chasm. The two survivors watch them fall. Since food is scarce, they must wait until the dogs die and then feast on their meat. The first man devours a dog and contracts food poisoning. It starts to make him crazy. He imagines that some of the dogs he has eaten want to get even with him. Fading into delirium, he eventually dies, leaving the second man alone to stare hungrily at the weakest dog, who seems to be living the longest. The remaining explorer pushes his comrade's corpse the rest of the way across the ice. But ultimately, he, too, dies. The only thing left to show that anyone ever explored there are the journal entries the last man leaves behind.

Last January, singer/guitarist Brian Severns discovered that journal. Or rather he found it in a book called Ice, which he read shortly after his band, Signal to Trust, recorded its debut album at Minnesota's Pachyderm studio. At the recording space, there were no lost food packs or sudden crevices to worry about. But Ice still resonated with Severns: He and drummer Jonathon Warnberg, bassist Pete Biasi, and guitarist Dave Storberg, had been stuck inside the snowy, isolated Pachyderm for what felt like countless days. "You wake up, go outside, and you're in the middle of the forest," Severns recalls during a recent interview at Biasi and Warnberg's house in St. Paul. "Being in a studio, you start to get stir crazy. Weird things start to happen."

Weird things, indeed. Since Biasi's sojourn at the studio, you can ask him which band member he'd eat first in case of emergency, and he's not surprised by the question. "I'd pick Dave," he answers immediately. "He's the healthiest of the bunch. It would be a toss-up between Brian and Dave, but Brian eats too many Nerds."

Don't let the candy fool you: Signal to Trust's punk blast is like a slab of raw meat against a black eye. The band's debut, Folklore (Modern Radio), bursts forth with a sound that critics in more foolish times would have misidentified as emo. The difference is that in STT's world, wolves are not metaphors for leftist angst. Wolves are real, and they have the teeth to prove it. In Severns's Jack London-like lyrics, animals roam the streets and plot to take over the world. Rivers become waterfalls and, all the while, noise swirls in the distance. Performed before an audience, these songs morph into sweeping anthems, proving that Signal to Trust is one of the best new live acts in town. Severns yawps with his eyes closed tight, Storberg and Biasi move around the stage like they're practicing Falun Gong, and Warnberg makes the kind of gloriously warped drummer faces that could ward off any beast who swigs beers and spits his appreciation from the crowd below.

On a recent tour Signal to Trust lived their own version of the Man Triumphs Over Adversity myth: They conquered a beer bong, survived a high school girl's punk-rock prom, watched a fan attack nearby trees with a hammer, and played in a freezing-cold shed.

"We show up at this kid's house and we ask, 'Where are we playing?' and he looks out back and just points to this shed," remembers Biasi. "There's wood stacked against it, and it's this little fake barn in some kid's mom's backyard. The mom was just chillin' inside watching TV, cooking some food."

You wonder what Mom could do with a rump steak of husky.

 
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