By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"I started a screamo band with my friends called Passions, and then Tomhanks, and that's how I met [Maggie]," Cutler says, during an abbreviated narration of his history over beers at his dining room table.
Passions and Tomhanks were two extraordinarily different musical endeavors. The former was a loud, brash, screeching metal-punk band, while the latter was Cutler's solo interpretation of Har Mar-esque pop music. Neither project resembles the work Cutler has been doing with Lookbook, but they do speak to his creative, almost chameleonic ability to throw himself into different genres and projects.
During Cutler's time with Passions, his and Morrison's musical worlds started to collide, despite the fact that the two rarely spoke to each other.
An Eau Claire native, Morrison grew up surrounded by musicians (Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Adam Hurlburt of Solid Gold, and Phil and Brad Cook of Megafaun are just a few others who started out in the same place). As her childhood friends slowly trickled toward the Twin Cities, Morrison came to Minneapolis to study at St. Catherine's and join her first band. She started out playing in Dave Matters's Kentucky Gag Order, singing backup vocals with Cloud Cult violinist Shannon Frid, before joining with Eau Claire friends Ryan Olson and Drew Christopherson to front the electro band Digitata.
Morrison and Cutler co-existed in the same scene for years—Cutler's Passions got a shout-out on P.O.S's breakout album, Audition, which also features guest vocals from Morrison—but it took a few years for Cutler to work up the courage to invite Digitata to share a bill.
"The first time [Grant] specifically asked Digitata to play a show at the Entry, we opened," Morrison says. "It was the funniest lineup—it was Digitata, 24 Reasons Why, Incommunicado, and then [Passions]. It was kind of strange, but it was really fun."
"Yeah, that was an awesome show," Cutler says. "I think I played the gong that show, like I tend to do from time to time, and I do believe I was wearing makeup."
"Really? I don't remember that," Morrison says, laughing. "I didn't talk to you at all."
"That sounds about right. I don't think I talked to Maggie, basically, until I asked [her] to start doing this shit," he says. "Maggie's kind of intimidating, as far as females go."
Morrison rolls her eyes, pulling a strand of hair up to her face to examine a nonexistent split end. "I don't think so, but he does."
The two exchange glances and laugh knowingly, as if sharing an inside joke. "We were going to make a joke band called Tina Turn-On," Cutler continues, "and it was going to be Maggie and her friend Abby."
"We're still going to make that band," Morrison insists.
"And we practiced a little bit, but then Abby moved away, and then we kept trying to make music for a little bit, and then...," Cutler pauses and sighs. "It just clicked. It just worked."
As happens at so many points in their conversations with each other, as soon as things are about to turn serious, they laugh it off and start telling jokes. "One night...," Cutler begins, smirking, looking to Morrison to finish his thought.
"One night a shooting star fell out of the sky," she says.
"It did, and it landed right in front of us, and we both touched it, and looked into each other's eyes, and we knew."
Morrison rolls her eyes again, and Cutler clears his throat and stands up, motioning to a back room in his house. "Want to see where we make all the music?"
LOOKBOOK'S PRACTICE SPACE is small and unassuming, a minimally furnished office tucked into the back end of Cutler's house in south Minneapolis. While most bands' practice spaces are littered with drumsticks, cords, amps, and instruments, Lookbook's space is clean and sparse—basically a computer and microphone.
Sitting down in front of the computer, Cutler rifles through some old files and pulls up one of the very first tracks he recorded with Morrison, back when they were still called Tina Turn-On. The old song is buoyant and harmonic, like a lighter and poppier take on what would later become their more brooding dance aesthetic.
"This song still gets stuck in my head sometimes," Morrison laughs.
"There's a whole bag of 'em," Cutler says, opening a folder of files. "I'm going to play all of them. 'Punk Truck'?"
"You can't even bring up 'Punk Truck,'" Morrison says, bringing a hand up to cover her face.
"I love 'Punk Truck,'" he replies.
"That's the stupidest name ever."
"It is not, it's cool!"
"I was like, I'm going to be really screechy!"
"It's totally Yeah Yeah Yeahs-y."
"But it was just really archaic. The beat was really—sorry, Grant—but it was really bad."
Though Lookbook have been together for only three years, their sound has progressed dramatically. Their first record, the six-song I Fear You, My Darkness EP, is slow and plodding, almost dirge-like in its seriousness and spaciousness. Morrison and Cutler sing together on the title track, but Cutler is relegated to call-and-response harmonies only, an understated response to Morrison's drawn-out vocal lines.