By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
I just realized that I forgot to ask a band called the Soviettes about their politics--but really, who gives a crap? The only thing obviously pink about these punks is the face of their tall singer-guitarist, Maren Macosko, two minutes into a show at the Cave in Northfield. Located in the basement of an old Carleton College dormitory, the pub has 3.2 beer and good bathroom graffiti: "Benny Goldberg snorted coke off of Kyin's tits at a rave in Ibiza"; "Like, who hasn't?"; "Sex: It's the reason we're here."
The reason I'm here is the band exploding onstage. Macosko has been given the ugly but undeniably punk nickname Sturgeon by a member of the ugly but undeniably punk band the Quincy Punx. But her expression is hardly fish-head generation: Having severely cropped her hair and dyed it blond, the singer-guitarist looks equal parts glam-cocky and homicidal-righteous, her intensity tempered only by smiling glances at Annie Holoien, the other blond singer-guitarist. Holoien grooves with heeled shoes turned inward, and her expression might be perpetual surprise at her own capacity to rock. The politics of the Soviettes are: Wow, we really are this good. And you can be, too.
This is the sort of group that people already in rock bands wish they were in. The Soviettes are a "friends' band"--the band they settled into after the others didn't work out. And they have the creative democracy of friends, too. They share the mic amid their Wall of Go-Go's roar: Bassist Susy Sharp takes wobbly lead on "9th St."; drummer Danny Henry barks orders on "Blue Stars" like Fred Schneider in the B-52's. For the release party of their eponymous debut CD on Friday, they'll play not one, but three shows--performing on Radio K's "Off the Record," an all-ages show at the Speedboat Gallery, then a "drunk show" at the Triple Rock Social Club. Despite all the Soviettes' Cold-War's-over-so-let's-turn-the-U.S.S.R.-into-a-girl-group imagery, it's worth remembering that soviets, or worker's counsels, were the most open and democratic feature of the Russian revolution--also the first crushed by Lenin.
On the grass outside the Cave before the gig, band members talk over one another's sentences like UN translators, rewinding their blink-of-an-eye two-year history. Since a cartoon representation of the three women graced the cover of City Pages in 2002 (when they won this paper's best new band poll), the Soviettes have signed to Adeline Records, the label owned by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and his wife Adrienne. A trip to Japan is in the works, which is a big deal considering that the group hasn't toured yet. Two Soviettes have never toured in any band, period. "We're babies," says Holoien.
The bigger deal is a gig not far from the hometown of Holoien and Susy Sharp, Fargo: "We're playing at Detroit Lakes Pavilion," the two friends say in unison. And the exchange that follows goes something like this:
Holoien: "I don't know how--"
Holoien: "--but we are."
Macosko: "We have a rider and, like, a guarantee. I mean, this is a breakthrough for us."
Holoien: "It's so bizarre, it's gonna be really fun--"
Sharp: "I told my dad--"
Holoien: "--but really weird."
Sharp: "--we were going to play Detroit Lakes Pavilion and he almost had a cow." [laughs]
Macosko: "That's huge!"
Holoien: "Yeah, we're gonna play Grand Rapids!"
Sharp: "For my dad, it's like, wow, you've made it!"
The Soviettes are young, or seem young, but Sharp is older than Holoien, who came to admire Sharp through Bombshell, the latter's band in Fargo. Holoien and Sharp moved to the big city around the same time and met Macosko, whose boyfriend, Dillinger Four's Bill Morrisette, had an idea. "Billy came up to me and said, 'My girlfriend's in a band, you guys ought to play together,'" says Sharp.
After breaking in their songs for six months with Dillinger Four's Lane Pederson on drums, the band recruited Danny Henry for the spot through Holoien, who affects a lispy Hollywood interview voice to finish the anecdote: "And then we called him! And then he came over! And then he played drums! And it was great! And we loved him! And we partied hard!"
Word has it some males have encountered the Soviettes on a messy night and muttered: "girlfriend band." But while false starts are routine (there's one at the Cave, and on their contribution to the essential No Hold Back... All Attack!!! compilation), let me state in bathroom-graffiti sized letters: THE SOVIETTES ARE BETTER THAN THEIR BOYFRIENDS! With "Clueless," the new CD summons the poetic anti-Bush anthem pop punk had yet to produce, and manages to be at once intricate with chords and simple with lyrics on the powerhouse "Land of Clear Blue Radio" (guess what corporation that's about).
When they're done playing that song for the first time live, the group (and the group of couples) gathers under the newly prominent Big Dipper, on the grassy hillside overlooking Spring Creek. Sizing up the situation, Macosko decides to roll down the hill. Soon Sharp follows suit, and Macosko trips over her walking back up. "There's two people on the hill and they just ran into each other," Henry laughs, shaking his head.
Then the two women lie on their backs with their heads near each other, hands entwined, and roll down the hill together.