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
Let's face it: Some bands are built for the long haul, but the vast majority, quite simply, are not. That might sound pessimistic, and in truth it probably is, but for a band like Minneapolis's own Buildings, it should be reason to take heart. The local hardcore trio could be forgiven for thinking the cards are stacked against them, but after several years together, things are looking up—and their music is better than ever.
"Hard music in this city doesn't really get a lot of recognition," shrugs Buildings' singer and guitarist, Brian Lake. He stands outside, holding a pint in his hand as his breath floats up visibly into the late-November sky. "It's just that our music is so different from what everyone else normally listens to. It's a niche; you have to go out and find it."
The band's bassist, Sayer Payne—a man with a truly "metal" name if ever there was one—agrees. "I think we carry a torch where we should expect not to be received as positively as some other people. We're specifically choosing to play a type of music that makes people uncomfortable, or is abrasive to listen to. But it's just an appropriate reaction to what's going on around everybody. There's nothing fantastically positive going on anywhere that I know about."
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If things are truly on the up for Buildings, as well they hope, then it's been a long time coming. The band started after Lake met drummer Travis Kuhlman at a These Hands Are Snakes concert six years ago—and, just to emphasize how long ago that was, they admit that they stayed in touch through MySpace. "He came and jammed with me at the space I was playing at," recalls Lake, his slow, gentle drawl (he grew up in North Carolina) lending the reminiscence a certain extra nostalgia. "We worked on some songs, then we played a bunch of covers. It was really good—it was the kind of music I do, and we had similar personalities."
Three years ago—just after their first album, Braille Animal, was released—it seemed the band had hit a crossroads, for Lake moved to Chicago with their now-former bassist. However, when a couple of one-off gigs produced encouraging turnouts, Lake was persuaded to return to Minneapolis. After going through a series of new bassists, they eventually landed on Payne, who they knew from his previous band, Condos. "We didn't even care about someone who could do it good, just someone we could have fun with," Kuhlman deadpans. He doesn't speak all that much, on balance, but what he does say is usually accompanied with a laugh, or at least a lazy smile. "If you can't hang out with someone and drink with them, we don't want them in the band. We don't even care if they can play."
Payne's biggest contribution to the band's new album, Melt Cry Sleep, may well be his insistence that the band spend the extra time (and money) on good production. Where the first record was raw and loose with plenty of bleed, this one is tight and disciplined with an almost martial sense of purpose. Sometimes that can be to its detriment, as some of the band's more unhinged moments and spontaneous energy get lost, but on the whole Melt Cry Sleep is far more effective than its predecessor, the songwriting invariably superior. Songs like "Born on a Bomb" and "I Don't Love My Dog Anymore" combine straight trash chords with a black sense of humor, an excellent distillation of their raucous live shows. The finale, "Crystal City," is a ferocious cocktail of screams, cackles, and a jagged bass line that attacks from all angles.
But if there's a pent-up hostility coursing through Buildings' music, you probably shouldn't go parsing through the lyrics in search of any particular message. On the record, Lake's voice is buried deep in the mix, washed out by white noise, and live—well, he calls it "garbage." Oftentimes he repeats the phrase "Sega Genesis" when he can't remember his own words. As Payne explains it, "The lyrics themselves change a little bit every night. I actually make a habit of trying to listen to what he does." He and Kuhlman both laugh, while Lake gives a bashful grin. "He'll change a lyric to be about something that happened that day or about something fucked up that's happening at the bar we're at."
Now that the band has hooked up with a pair of record labels to promote Melt Cry Sleep, Buildings are planning on taking those live shows on the road and scaling back the local dates. Having had positive reactions to their previous out-of-town gigs, Lake and his bandmates see plenty of reason to be optimistic. "We're a band that's been through the wringer," he says. "We've seen a hundred bands come and go and split up and do side projects, or whatever. But we've still been doing this for six years. I want to keep doing it for another six years."
BUILDINGS play a CD-release show with Self-Evident, Accordion Crimes, and blood&stuff on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, at the HEXAGON BAR; 612.722.3454