By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
By Zach McCormick
By Jeff Gage
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The Boeing 757 was once, and in many ways remains, the gold standard in air travel. We know it for its enormity and raw power; those three little numbers are a symbol of grandeur. The Minneapolis rock band that borrows the craft's name has not reached such lofty heights, but it rockets ahead on a true course fueled by experiencfe, passion, and ridiculous volume.
The 757s' live shows are noteworthy for their brash, sometimes caustic atmosphere. The crew flows loose and loud, often leaving audiences scrambling for ear protection like so many ground crew on the tarmac beneath a jumbo jet. "It's a great sense of joy," says bassist Paul Pirner. "There is something to be said for going balls-out onstage on a Friday night." The band, whose drummer Steve Sutherland once played a show with a child's drum kit, seems prone to all manner of onstage misfires and mayhem. "Stuff is almost guaranteed to catch fire," says Sutherland. He isn't joking.
A listen to the band's inaugural album Tell the Pilgrims It's a Potluck isn't nearly such a harrowing experience. While it's easy to hear how the group's stripped-down rock sound translates into a feverish live show, the record itself is an altogether pleasant experience, comprising smart (but not unnecessarily deep) lyrics and uppity chord progressions. Guitarists Jimmy Peterson and Seth Zimmerman share lead vocal duties with Pirner; each ponies up a different brand of smoky rock 'n' roll rasp. The rotation keeps the playlist fresh through the record's 11 tracks.
The 757s released the record last November after entering the studio with just a single rehearsal together. The longtime friends had designs on a Clash cover band, but immediately scrapped the idea in favor of making an original record. The group worked with Mike Wisti at Albatross Studios to put the album to tape, writing much of their material in the studio.
"With us, practice doesn't make the end result better," explains Zimmerman.
What the guitarist may be hinting at is the track record of the 757s' individual members, all experienced musicians (and experienced fathers); Peterson rocked with Bellwether and Missing Numbers, and the others have each been part of some great local acts. "We all bring certain things to the table," says Pirner. "When you get four people that can really play their shit, you've got a band. The reason I play is guys like this." A couple of the state's noteworthy musical families are represented in the group's ranks, but we will speak no further of that here; a little research will satisfy those itching to know.
Notably absent from our interview is de facto ringleader Peterson. His bandmates take a few obligatory jabs at him, then herald his influence over the 757s. "Jimmy has more raw talent than anyone you could meet," proclaims Zimmerman. "No one can really do what he does. When he suggests things, you'd be stupid not to listen." Such influence is present in standout Potluck tracks like "1981" and "Susamsterdam." Asked to pinpoint Peterson's musical appeal, Pirner insists, "He has that genius-slash-sociopath combination going for him."
For a band that largely operates from the position that rock went belly-up in 1982 circa the Clash's commercial hit Combat Rock, a bit of sociopath may be in order. Whatever the recipe, it works, at least thus far. Potluck is listenable all the way through, an increasingly rare rock phenomenon. Tracks like "Repeater" and "Favorite Song" rejoice around solid, upbeat hooks that make for a great road-trip record.
The curious should catch up on the 757s quickly, as the band plan to release their latest disc, already in the can, shortly. Slightly more rehearsed, the record will feature handpicked tracks from two albums' worth of new material—and there will be power tools. There may also be more focus. "This record narrows the margins," says Zimmerman of their musical vision.
And so, the 757s continue on down that expansive musical runway. Unlike their airborne namesake, the band have proven they're more than just loud—any dumb kid with the wattage can be that. Instead, they're a group of seasoned musicians with their heads on straight and the chops to deliver the songs.
And yes, to blow things up.