By Rob van Alstyne
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By Emily Eveland
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By Reed Fischer
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By Emily Weiss
The members of Colder in Moscow have made me feel old before my time. Impressed by the precise yet visceral indie-rock attack of their debut album, Great Speculation, and having read in their brief band biography that they were all former classmates, I incorrectly assumed that meant college, and was anticipating meeting up with your typical 25-year-old band dudes. During the course of my conversation with the alarmingly fresh-faced sextet, it slowly dawned on me that I was the only one sipping a beer because I was apparently the only one of legal drinking age, and I couldn't hide my surprise. How could a band this young—just a little over two years removed from Chaska High School—sound like a group of capable veterans?
Great Speculation's expansive sound runs the gamut from explosive borderline-emo anthems to prickly post-punk, with at least one interesting detour into spoken-word sound collage thrown in for good measure, but the end result is a far cry from the band's original intent. "Initially we just wanted an honest representation of what we sounded like live," admits vocalist and keyboardist Michael Roser. "But as the process went on, I think we all opened up to the idea of trying to create a more interesting and immersive experience than just what we could do live. Because listening to a record is such a different experience than being in the crowd at a show."
Unlike a lot of bands out there, who are essentially revolving-door vehicles supporting a lone singer-songwriter—I'm looking at you, Wilco—Colder in Moscow's sound is decidedly democratic. Moments where frontman Roser's quavering voice and dread-filled lyrics take center stage are quickly followed by those in which a punchy drum fill or shimmering guitar pattern is seizing the spotlight. Every piece of the sextet's massive melodic tapestry feels so essential that it's hard to imagine the band soldiering on through any lineup changes.
Colder in Moscow
Turns out they already tried—and weren't happy with the results. "[Drummer] Nate [Palmquist] left halfway during the making of the album to go to school in Texas," explains vocalist and guitarist Eric Carlson. "The guy who replaced him temporarily was basically a heavy-metal drummer. We were a lot louder for a while there until he came back."
"We became just a completely different band," concurs Roser. "We even changed our name because it just didn't feel like the same thing anymore. We've come to understand that the only way to get the sound we want is with these six specific people. It sounds kind of clichéd, but it's really evolved into a kind of organic and spiritual songwriting process in the band."
While the band's chemistry and promise shown on Great Speculation is undeniable, so is its edgy and uncompromising nature. How does a group whose sound veers all over the map find the right niche? "We've been really lucky so far in terms of booking shows just through us personally being friends with people in good bands," admits Palmquist. "But it's still kind of tough. I personally feel like our music is pretty esoteric and doesn't really fit in naturally on a bill with anybody else necessarily or any current trends."
The group's biggest influence isn't rhythmically bruising indie-rock icons like the Dismemberment Plan or jittery New Wave acolytes the 12Rods—although shades of both groups can be heard at times—as much as it is each other. "We all work off of each other," explains guitarist John Walker. "Most of my parts are based on what [bassist] Pat [Stover] writes, and I couldn't come up with them without him."
Despite their youth and relatively swift ascendance to regular club presence on the local scene, Colder in Moscow's members aren't getting carried away with starry-eyed plans for global domination—right now they're just glad to be beyond the band-practice planning stage. "When we first started playing in my garage, it was an experiment," says Palmquist. "The goal was just making it to the next rehearsal. Now we've gotten to the point where the goal is focusing on the next show. So it's a gradual process. We're probably the least pragmatic band in the world. It's something we need to work on."
For now, pragmatism can take a backseat to the joys of refining their evolving sound ("The tempos still change pretty drastically from show to show...usually intentionally," jokes Palmquist) and reveling in their newfound friendship. Though they were relative strangers when they walked the halls of Chaska High together, the past 18 months working together as a band have transformed them into the kind of closely knit unit that's comfortable finishing one another's sentences during their first press interview.
"We're all each other's best friends now," claims Walker while his bandmates chuckle and readily nod in agreement. "I basically only talk to my mom, my girlfriend, and these guys."
COLDER IN MOSCOW play with Small White, Lost Shepherds, and Bedroom Magic on WED., DEC. 9, at SAUCE; 612.822.6000