By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
By Jeff Gage • Photo by Erik Hess
The Goondas' plan to coerce their lead singer into showing up on time has either backfired completely or, more likely, paid off handsomely: Brenden Green arrived at Casey's Bar an hour early and proceeded to drink a pitcher of beer by himself. Now, it appears, he's ready to return the favor.
"To me, it's all about impressing my friends," he deadpans with a flourish of his hand, as if to brush aside the very thought that his band—or this interview, for that matter—should be taken very seriously. "All I give a shit about is, like, free stuff. You know?"
Inflammatory words, you may say to yourself, but they shouldn't come as much of a surprise from someone who loves playing on his audience's expectations. Green can often be seen climbing the walls of a venue, strangling himself with his mike cord, or antagonizing his band mates—whichever is most likely to keep people guessing.
"When they tell me to put on a good show, I subconsciously want to put on the worst show ever...I'm going to do the worst thing I could possibly do; I'm going to lie on the ground and do nothing," he says. It's no idle threat, either: While the band was on tour last summer, Green once played dead onstage, prompting guitarist Jackson Atkins to walk on him "like he was a rug."
Such unpredictable behavior helps separate the Goondas as a group with a unique flair for showmanship, which is all the more appropriate given how it complements the ferocity of their snarling garage rock. "It's a show," says Josh Miller, who has himself worn a headdress and covered himself in war paint while drumming. "People are going to see a show. They could throw the album on if they just want to hear the songs."
In his own colorful, if less coherent, state, Green expresses his own thrill for performing.
"That feeling when everyone's on, it's like, fucking, when you swing a baseball bat and you fucking—the ball hits it, like, just right, you know, and it explodes off your arms. And you can just feel it, it just fucking makes your dick hard...."
Green stands up to go to the bathroom and promptly falls over, while Miller (ever so graciously) comes to his defense. "He's not the only one who causes problems; he's just the only one that caused problems this week! It's still a fresh wound so we're going to get him back as much as we can when it's being recorded."
By Andrea Swensson • Photo by Stacy Schwartz
"Just because it's Auto-Tune doesn't mean it ain't sincere."
Justin Vernon is speaking through a vocal effects processor, addressing a sea of Brooklynites at Gayngs' second in a pair of back-to-back gigs in New York City. He is flanked by nine musicians, some from Eau Claire, some from North Carolina, but all woven together through a tangled history of playing in Twin Cities bands and befriending Gayngs string-puller Ryan Olson.
It is the band's sixth show ever. In the past nine months, Gayngs have revealed the intentions of their project; released their debut record (with appearances by at least 24 regional musicians), Relayted, on national indie imprint Jagjaguwar; and sent online music critics into a tizzy over whether or not their mellow, sometimes ambient, sometimes experimental soft-electro jams are supposed to be taken seriously or if they are just one big joke played on us all.
To call Gayngs the 500-pound gorilla of the Picked to Click poll would be an understatement—it may be argued that they have, all things considered, already "clicked." But peel back another layer and discard the marquee names, and Relayted is a phenomenal, immaculately recorded and arranged chill-out record. Live, the band has solidified into a pared-down touring force equally capable of covering Sade, George Michael, and the Alan Parsons Project, a testament to each member's chameleonic ability to play just about anything.
Back in Brooklyn, the whole room is swaying to Parsons's "Eye in the Sky" as Gayngs execute it flawlessly in their first double encore. As their tour manager packs up their gear, the band members race across town to the Knitting Factory and convince the bartender to flip on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just in time for their performance, taped earlier that day. The young men in the band stand awestruck, most watching themselves on television for the first time. Olson and fellow Gayng member Brad Cook wrap their arms around each other and fight back tears. Two years of writing, rehearsing, recording, and promotion climaxes into one ultimate moment while everyone in the bar, many Twin Cities natives themselves, cheer them on like a hometown team.
If that ain't sincere, I don't know what is. Never mind the hype, the unending discussion of irony, the inevitable backlash—Gayngs are the real deal.
Building Better Bombs gazed on its own reflection and vanished.
Knee deep in a new album, their vision had blurred, their footing had slackened, as if they had scaled to a great height and now became woozy with altitude sickness—how many interminable miles had they marched from their beginnings in hardcore punk? How many conquests had they made over the genre's fatiguing battlements? Scarrified and haled, Bombs needed new summits. It needed a great becoming.