Marijuana Deathsquads raid the West Coast

Ryan Olson, P.O.S., Har Mar wrap up their residency

Instead, a friend of Alexander's found them a house within spitting distance of Satellite, and Marijuana Deathsquads effectively took over Silver Lake, a part of town that even Hollywood insiders call "hipster central." The dual residency with Har Mar was set for every Friday of the month with different guests performing sets, including Eric Wareheim from Tim & Eric, Shannon and the Clams, Giant Drag, Big Dog on Top of Little Dog, Pope Anything, and, perhaps saving the strangest combination for the last show, Slapping Purses and Samantha Ronson. (No word if Lindsay Lohan showed up.) They'd booked a few other shows as well: two in Los Angeles (one at legendary strip club Crazy Girls, which "wasn't as crazy as I hoped," according to Ivascu), and two in the Bay Area—one in Oakland, the other in San Francisco, both featuring Skoal Kodiak and Slapping Purses.

This wasn't just about playing shows and hanging out, however—they were there to get things done. "We have been working our asses off constantly since we've been here," Olson says during our interview in L.A., tweaking beats on his laptop as we talk. "We overbooked our time here hard."

For the month, their little house turned into a creative epicenter producing and influencing some of the most highly anticipated albums of the coming year. Alexander arrived in L.A. a few weeks before the rest of MDS to record the next P.O.S. record with acclaimed engineer and fellow Hopkins native Andrew Dawson, who recorded Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Ivascu played some drum tracks on the album. P.O.S.'s Doomtree collaborator Mike Mictlan recorded his album as well. Between the studio set up in the house and the studio where P.O.S. was making his record, Olson worked on multiple projects: Leron (the next Gayngs project, with Alexander and Tillmann), Satana, and Jason Power's Slapping Purses record, in addition to helping Tillmann overdub some audio for a movie he is in with Macaulay Culkin. Gale was out much of the time working on video projects. And, on top of everything else, there was work to be done on the debut Marijuana Deathsquads album.

A mere fraction of the ever-expanding, revolving cast of Marijuana Deathsquads
Brian Garrity
A mere fraction of the ever-expanding, revolving cast of Marijuana Deathsquads
Har Mar Superstar, a.k.a. Sean Tillmann, taking it to the next level at the 7th St. Entry last weekend
Erik Hess
Har Mar Superstar, a.k.a. Sean Tillmann, taking it to the next level at the 7th St. Entry last weekend

While Olson seems most at home working alone, everybody seemed to be influencing each other to some degree. Tillmann puts it this way: "We all have our hands in each other's pies, which is a great thing. It's like having six world-class chefs within arm's reach to take a taste and give you advice on what you're working on. It's an invaluable experience. Everyone boosts each other's creativity and output exponentially."

The collaborative nature of Deathsquads, then, is a spark that influences everything the various members are working on, but remains its own special beast. Before their show, Alexander explains, "I will say, being in [MDS] is probably the most fun playing music could possibly be. What we're doing is playing as hard and as loud or quiet or whatever as we want."

"You can have all the fun features of improv without dealing with the boring aspects of improv," Olson says, laughing.

"Coming from playing in standard bands and touring rap so hard," continues Alexander, "getting a chance to just focus on playing with the sounds and letting go and not worrying about everybody who's there...Deathsquads is really a lot more about 'I hope you brought earplugs, or I hope you understand that you can wait outside, because we're going to play really, really loud and it's not going to stop until it's right.'"

That night, Alexander proves the veracity of that statement: With Skoal Kodiak opening and P.O.S. and Mictlan closing the night, this third Friday was guaranteed to be an amazing all-Twin Cities show, but MDS cranked things up an extra notch by adding David Yow (Jesus Lizard) and Kevin Rumantis (Cows) to their lineup for the evening. "I got to play with two dudes who were in bands that were inspirational to me," Ivascu says afterward. "So fucking weird and so fucking great!"

Now that they've left L.A., the shows, the studios, the crazy ways of blowing off steam like #AcidBieber3D (several members of the band dropped liquid-acid dosed SweetTarts and made it all the way through the Justin Beiber movie, live-tweeting the entire time), what's next? According to Olson, more work. In addition to the Gayngs spring tour that starts mere days after MDS gets back, "I will be spending every moment I have finishing up these records as soon as I get home," he emails me from the van. "Minneapolis is all about working on shit. This Deathsquads LP will be the first thing complete, then Slapping Purses, then a bunch more stuff... I dunno, this won't stop for a minute."

So, is there any chance we're going to lose MDS to L.A. permanently? Not likely, says Olson. "Every show was incredible, we got to play with people that we are big fans of, and seeing how they reacted to performing with Marijuana Deathsquads was some of the best experiences in my life. California has so many amazing things to offer, but Minneapolis is kicking its ass on the music scene."

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