By Jack Spencer
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By Rob van Alstyne
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Now, Now, a Minneapolis-based indie-pop trio with the skills and good fortune to grow a following around the country, are back to forge a deeper connection with their home city. As singer-guitarists Cacie Dalager and Jess Abbott and drums-synths specialist Brad Hale gather on a gray but mild February afternoon at the Aster Cafe, it's obvious that they're excited and a tad anxious about what is immediately in store. The slight, stylish group alternates between enthusiasm and nervousness discussing how they have made it to this point in their career, and how they intend to move things forward.
"I feel that this year is like us starting over here, actually," Hale says, regarding the group's relationship with Minneapolis. "Cars [the band's debut] got a decent amount of local attention, but I didn't feel accepted into the arms of Minneapolis yet. And I feel, now, with this record, we're doing it right this time."
Part of doing it right was a recent trip to record an in-studio session at the Current studios, a move that made Dalager so nervous she almost couldn't sing. But she confidently found her voice, and the performance and interview session went smoothly. Dalager and Hale have been regular listeners of the station since it started seven years ago, and realize how integral and supportive the Current is to the local music scene. "This has been the best week of my life," Hale enthuses. "I feel so happy. Having been around when the Current started, now being a part of it is literally a dream come true." Now, Now still aren't quite in the same lane as their fellow local acts. Their sophomore record, Threads, was recorded 1,800 miles away in Vancouver, British Columbia, and will be released via Chris Walla's (guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie) Trans Records, an imprint of Atlantic. The band's decision to head to Vancouver to record the new album was in part due to wanting to work with acclaimed producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan and Sara, New Pornographers), but also a desire to leave behind what was familiar to them. So, instead of recording in someone's house as they have in the past, the band set out to the relative isolation of Canada.
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"We had always wanted to go somewhere and be separated from the distractions we have around here," Hale says.
"When you are at home, you're thinking of so many things at once," Abbott adds, "But when you're paying money to go somewhere and record, that's all that is on your mind, making sure you're coming out with the best possible thing."
The band's initial friendship with Walla, which had started with a few encouraging phone conversations, truly blossomed at last year's South by Southwest festival, and Dalager calls him "the most pleasant person I can think of." Trans Records' miniscule roster includes Now, Now and Washington indie-rock quartet the Lonely Forest, and the group feels they are getting the attention and advice they need at this important point in their trajectory. A recent example is Walla's urging them to blend the ethereal lead-off track "The Pull" fluidly into the rousing "Prehistoric." "I don't even know how he figured that out," Dalager says. "You would never guess that those songs used to be totally separate, and they just happened to fit magically together."
With the added expertise came added pressure, according to Dalager. "It felt kind of make-or-break for us," she says. "It felt like a scary, dangerous place for us in terms of us moving forward, because if we didn't do this right, it had already been nearly three years since our last full-length...we were freaking out completely."
Fortunately, Threads' assured sounds don't relay those doubts. The vast, churning numbers brim with the urgency and frustrations of youth, but show that the songwriters have matured. Taut new songs like the catchy, acerbic "School Friends" have a studied focus to them, but remain as evocative and vulnerable as the band's older, straightforward pop-rock material.
Dalager and Hale met in their high school marching band in Blaine, and formed the buzzed-about Now, Now Every Children in the mid-2000s, but they shortened the name when Abbott joined the band in 2010 following a move from Maine. Hale explains that the switch was a way to "reform ourselves and figure out the direction we wanted to take, and the name change was part of moving forward."
After Now, Now's record-release show at the Triple Rock on Saturday—and an in-store at the Electric Fetus the following Tuesday—the band launches an extensive U.S. tour that includes a return to South by Southwest, as well as dates opening for the Naked and Famous.
"I think [Threads] was the best that we could have done at that point in our lives, and everything felt right for the very first time," Dalager says. "I will remember the feeling of that experience forever."