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Gabe Douglas cuts an imposing figure. It's probably the 4onthefloor frontman's thick, luxurious beard, combined with his direct, unfaltering gaze. Sitting in a shadowy booth at Muddy Waters in Uptown, he has a notebook and a bundle of papers spread out in front of him, pen in hand, as though he is about to start asking questions and taking notes rather than the other way around.
"I get worried about remembering things," says Douglas, referencing his chicken-scratch on the pages. "Not like, will I remember to do my laundry, but like, do I remember that crowd in San Francisco with those four guys that were huge Twins fans who were screaming along to the chorus of 'Undertow'? ... I get so worried I'm gonna forget that stuff. Like when you're going to bed and you think, 'Oh, I should write that down,' and then you don't, and you never remember it. If I have the opportunity to write something down now, I always do. I'm getting better at getting into those moments."
Truth be told, Douglas and the 4onthefloor are something of connoisseurs of moments. In a live setting, there is no escaping the powerhouse rhythm and rock lit up by Douglas, James Gould, Chris Holm, and Mike Larson, with four bass drums in 4/4 time and super-charged blues guitars. The band's sophomore album, Spirit of Minneapolis, due out April 9, follows a tradition of dynamic jams that recall an era of music where rock wasn't, as Douglas puts it, quite so stigmatized.
THE 4ONTHEFLOOR play on Thursday, April 4, at Turf Club and on Saturday, April 6, at First Avenue.
"A lot of my friends think everything 'rock' is just a homogenized version of Nickelback," he says, splaying his hands across his notebook. "I don't think that's the case, but I think that's a huge thing that's going on. I think that rock music at its inception was super fun and energetic. It wasn't a polished gemstone you would wear to a party. It was a juke joint in Tennessee. It was Sun Records.
"For this record, we're not reinventing the wheel at all," continues Douglas candidly. "All the songs are live performances, there's not a lot of re-dubbing. Getting the energy from the live shows was one of the biggest things for this record."
Spirit of Minneapolis spreads itself out to just under 40 minutes, opening with the heavy-hitting "King of the Jungle" and never once breaking pace. The understated star of the album is "Hard Rain," a burning-ember blues track with guest vocals by Sarah Kruger and Charlie Parr. Throughout the 11 tracks, there's no running from Douglas's canyon-deep voice, like a mid-song earthquake. All together, Spirit of Minneapolis is the swampy, riotous blues-rock that the 4onthefloor have been cultivating since their inception in 2009, and it stands alone in its category as a beefy slice of hometown pride-meets-classic American spirit. In some ways, it's a throwback record.
"On the last couple tours, I've been reading a lot about early aviation," says Douglas out of nowhere, and leans into the conversation. "I don't know in my life if I've had a lot of moments like when Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris and every single paper had the same headline. There was dancing in the street and it was so exciting for everyone. So with the Spirit of Minneapolis, I really wanted to be like ... if you come to one of our shows or even if you just listen to the record, we can peel back a couple layers of modernism and just have some fun and just listen to music. We want it to be exciting."
Douglas has no small amount of passion, and it tumbles out of him as he speaks. When he talks about touring — something the band does seemingly nonstop — he doesn't bemoan the grueling hours or the less-than-fresh cuisine. His topics invariably skew positive as he remembers the people he's met all over the country who have opened their homes to the band, the pockets of enthusiastic fans in unexpected places, and the memories he's been meticulously cataloging. To that end, it seems obvious that he should title the album after the city he loves; far from a self-imposed crown, Spirit of Minneapolis comes out of some honest Midwestern values.
"The title is tongue-in-cheek because we're self-aware of what it could encapsulate. People are obviously going to take some digs at this," admits Douglas. "But I'm very proud of where I've come from in Minnesota. I've been to a lot of places, and I'm always very grateful to call Minneapolis my home base, or even Minnesota in general ... and this record is about sharing that, and being merry, and sharing joy. I want people to be in the moment with me."