By Emily Eveland
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By CP Staff
By Zach McCormick
By Jack Spencer
By Sarah Stanley-Ayre
By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
It was 2008 when the members of Alpha Consumer recorded the songs that make up their third album, Kick Drugs Out of America. While its release has been postponed by a laundry list of setbacks and a record deal gone nowhere, and while the band has written at least a whole album's worth of new material in the nearly four years since these songs first started to take shape, Kick Drugs is finally seeing the light of day—and the local trio couldn't be happier.
"It's really good to get things done," says drummer JT Bates, hunched over a beer at the Eagles Club in Seward. "This is the first record that we've paid for everything. So that's another thing I think was eating away at us, like, 'I actually put my own money into that'—I don't care about the money, but you really invested in this, it's good to make sure you finish that so you can move on."
The members of Alpha Consumer go way back, having played in the likes of Happy Apple, Fat Kid Wednesdays, and Guitar Party together and touring in Andrew Bird's backing band. But it wasn't until 2005, on the basis of some of singer and guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker's impromptu home recordings, that close friend Martin Dosh convinced them to open for him one night at the Entry.
"I had a studio at the time and a bunch of instruments. We'd just get loaded and goof around; the stuff was great," says Ylvisaker. He rests his chin on his hand, his long brown hair hanging over his left eye as he stares up at a TV screen disinterestedly. "And then we couldn't get those songs [to work], those songs were really pieced together from found things. So then we just became a rock band—way easier," he says with a smirk.
Nonetheless, those recordings formed much of the basis of their future music and, in Ylvisaker's opinion, Kick Drugs is the closest they've gotten to recapturing the magic of those informal experiments. Bassist Michael Lewis adds that the new album sees them operating like more of a band than ever before, especially compared to the mere three-day session that produced its predecessor, Gary Victorsen's.
"It's interesting, the first record we put out had more of the feel of a project, trying out a lot of different sounds," he explains. His long blond hair hangs out from beneath his stocking cap and he has his hands tucked into the pockets of his zip-up hoodie. "Playing together was more of a bridge from the original stuff we'd been working on of Jeremy's, and then the second was definitely more of an attempt to make a record as a band."
Kick Drugs is lean and compact almost to a fault, its 12 songs flashing by in barely 20 minutes. Small wonder, then, that it was originally intended to be a single based around the songs "Honey Effigy" and "Life Size Voodoo Doll" before gradually growing into a full-length. The songs are a series of vignettes with a wry, barbed sense of humor, intermingled with somber ruminations of surprising emotional depth and even the occasional ambient Bob Seeger cover.
"It's like, 'Oh, that one's just sad, that one's just angry, that one's just funny,' you know? It's just whatever song's next, and whenever we have 12 done they go together. It makes sense to us," Ylvisaker muses, referring to the gleeful, if occasionally unpredictable, mood shifts from song to song.
"I like that about us," Bates replies with a deep, hearty laugh. "There's a lot of bands that are huge that I'm supposed to like and the records all sound the same to me, like every song exists in the same kind of energy or something. It's just like some unendingly unstoppable mood."
The album's lo-fi punk sound may seem to suggest otherwise, but much of this mentality can be traced to the band's free-jazz background and a belief that each song should be a product of its moment. "That's why you have to record when you don't know the songs, so that the first time you get through the song together, it's recorded," Ylvisaker says. "That's the time you reenact from now on."
ALPHA CONSUMER play a CD-release show with Pink Mink and H.U.N.X. on SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, at the 7th ST. ENTRY; 612.332.1775