By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
A HUSH FALLS over the First Avenue Mainroom as the curtain slowly rises to reveal a young couple standing side by side, staring down in quiet reflection. Grant Cutler, dressed plainly in a T-shirt and jeans, his shoulder-length hair combed back away from his mustachioed face, steps up to a small mixing board and presses a button that causes the foundation of the club to shake. A loud, looping, distorted electric guitar part bandies between two notes, coming close to falling out of time and then regaining the beat, never letting up.
As the momentum builds, Maggie Morrison raises her head to look coolly out over the audience and raises the microphone to her mouth. She starts to sing, gently, almost nervously at first, letting out a squeaky little yelp at the end of her first verse. Her face is expressionless, serious, an icy stare cutting a jagged line through the crowd—until the end of the second verse, when she looks over at Cutler and shoots him a knowing, sideways smile.
Cutler hits another button and nods his head, and a bass drum part and whirring synth sounds dive in and crash over the persistent, oscillating guitar loop. Cutler picks up his own microphone and hits the machine again; all the music cuts out into silence for a split second and then blasts back into the chorus, with Morrison and Cutler singing the hook together and grinning like little kids.
Lookbook have played the Mainroom before—a few times, in fact—for various showcases and parties, and each time they clamber onto that big black stage their power seems to grow exponentially. After spending the past three years gigging nearly every weekend, starting out at small clubs like the Kitty Cat Klub and the Hexagon and eventually gaining enough of a following to spill into bigger venues like the Mainroom, Lookbook are preparing for their biggest hometown show yet.
This Friday night, on the heels of a three-week tour of the U.S., Cutler and Morrison will return home to play First Avenue for the first time as headliners, a rite of passage that has come to signify a local band's leap onto the national playing field.
SPEND FIVE MINUTES in the audience of a Lookbook show, watching Morrison and Cutler exchange sultry glances and scintillating vocal harmonies, and chances are you'll hear at least one and possibly all three of the following queries uttered by neighboring concertgoers:
Who is that girl? She's hot.
Is that Maggie from Digitata?
Are those two dating?
Like practically every male-female duo that has preceded them, Morrison and Cutler are accustomed to being grilled about their relationship, enduring assumptions from onlookers that range from innocent to downright sexist.
"Of course, we get asked all the time if we're dating. You know, it's always going to be like that, no matter what," Morrison says.
"Or married," Cutler says. "'Is that your wife up there?'"
"Yeah," Morrison agrees. "Are you married, or are you brother and sister?"
In reality, the pair have cultivated a complex and intimate friendship since forming their band. They have found that working so closely together means their personal lives are bound to bleed into each other's as they interact professionally.
"We're very close, and we talk about everything," Morrison says. "We talk a lot about the music we want to make and the music we do make, you know, we get excited about shows and about performing, but all that does translate into how we feel about our regular lives. Because we talk about how our lives are going and how our days are. What you get, in our music—it's not just music, it is our relationship, and it's how we feel about our personal lives and about each other and about the world."
"I like our band enough that I'm willing to work through any personal problem with Maggie," Cutler says.
"I can't replace Grant with another producer to still be Lookbook, and vice versa," Morrison says. "We are very reliant on each other—and when we go on the road it's especially apparent, because we really only have each other. We ran into a few situations where we very much need each other."
"There's probably not anybody else in the world I could spend as much time with as Maggie," Cutler says. "We have some weird thing. I've spent more time with Maggie than anybody else in my entire life probably. Because when we go on the road, we don't have any personal space really. And that would usually drive me crazy—but sometimes I spend probably 72 hours in a row without Maggie being four feet away from me. And it works out okay."
GRANT CUTLER WOULD prefer that no one know he was ever in a band besides Lookbook.
"Will you not even tell people that I was in Tomhanks?" he says, only half joking. "Or any of my other bands, ever? I like the new stuff that I do so much better."
After spending his childhood in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Cutler moved to the Twin Cities to study music production at Music Tech (now known as the Institute of Production and Recording). While interning at various music studios around the Cities, Cutler formed a punk band with fellow sound engineer Joe Mabbott, who has recorded a glut of prominent local hip-hop groups such as Atmosphere, Heiruspecs, and P.O.S.