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
There has been a lot of international exchange between the United States and England as of late. While a gifted goal in the World Cup hardly makes up for the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, it raises the focus of the relationship that until recently was limited to the trade and spillover of a different sort of petroleum byproduct—really great records. For decades the cultural volley of music between our two countries has been documented and credited as the perfect formula in creating the world's most timeless pop music and classic-rock royalties on both sides of the pond.
Next month, Minneapolis musician Andrew Broder will be a part of the latest work from English comic-book legend Alan Moore. Broder teamed up with his friend Adam Drucker, a.k.a. Doseone, to form the group Crook and Flail. What they've constructed together is a sort of post-apocalyptic soundtrack to Moore's long-awaited graphic novel, Unearthing. Though, compared with the state of the world at the moment, Unearthing sounds more like a fairy tale. It's really hard to tell.
In this ambitious project, Moore's trademark style of twisting and dense storytelling weaves well with Crook and Flail's sound. "We tried to give it a nice ebb and flow and have it breathe a bit," Broder says. "There's a lot of nice textures in there, and Paul Metzger is on it and that is my most favorite part."
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The two also had help from another Minneapolis legend, saxophonist George Cartwright, as well as contributions from Michael Patton of Faith No More, Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite, and Justin K. Broadrick from Jesu, with whom Broder has another side project.
It's been a rough go at the "music biz" for Broder. It's been a good decade since his musical outfit, Fog, descended upon the Minneapolis music scene. His home recordings of turntable scratching mixed with complexly orchestrated rock instruments was an encouraging, original break from the typical sound going on in the land of 10,000 bands at the time. With as much acclaim overseas as at home and partnerships with two of London's more reputable record labels, it seemed Fog would always be Andrew's future in music.
Perhaps in part because of his ever-changing moods amid the unpredictability of art and commerce, especially in an industry in constant flux, over time the music would turn out less of an audience with each endeavor.
"Things seem to go in five-year cycles. When Fog came out, it had a strong thing to it and even though I thought the records were getting better, we weren't picking up new people. Our last tour, we'd be playing at a bookstore in Manhattan, Kansas, and then still trying to fall asleep on some kid's floor while they are playing Guitar Hero all night. I decided this isn't really what I signed up for."
Maybe out of frustration or to satisfy his own urges, Broder turned to the home studio, making a rapid succession of experimental drone guitar and turntable pieces. Not exactly the smartest career move—but along with a day job playing as a sideman in his other buddy Yoni Wolf's band Why?, it would give Broder a new attitude about his career.
"It changed my outlook and perspective of my goals with music," he says. "Playing with Yoni, the music is by him and mostly about him, so the mindset of the audience is they are focusing on him and I'm pretty much in the background. And that was very cool for me."
Having worked together in the past, in cult band Hymie's Basement and along with Fog cohort Mark Erickson on the last two Why? releases, the happy crew have been globe-trotting, appearing before growing crowds across Europe and in Australia, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and back in the good ol' U.S.A. this summer.
It's hard to say what it is about Why?'s music that has caught on so much. Essentially it's complicated math rock, but there is a melody most experimental bands don't employ, a flower-power vibe that's perfect summer music for the kids.
"It's a young audience, and I think it's cool because we remember when we went to shows at that age. But I'll be the first to admit that if you'd told me 10 years ago Yoni would be the guy I know that is going to be a breakout indie-pop star, I'd have been like...'Nope.'"
"These things just pop up from out of nowhere and they turn out to be pretty cool."