Big Lake is a brand-new band with songs that will creep up on you and take you by surprise. One minute, you're passively listening to one of the tracks from their debut EP January Second Election, and the next, you're tilting your ear toward the speakers, trying to sift through the sonic layers of the song to get to lead singer Patrick Mazurek's voice and discern what, exactly, he's singing about.
And just like that, you're hooked.
Big Lake released January Second Election at Cause on Friday night to a steady crowd, with an opening set from New Century Masters and a closing set from folk-pop band Lost Shepherds. Mazurek, lead singer and guitarist, shares the stage with three band members: Eben Stine on electric guitar, keys, and backup harmony; Jordan Leininger on bass and vocals; and Michael Gunvalson on drums. Save for Mazurek, all the band members also belong to Lost Shepherds -- and while both Big Lake and Lost Shepherds operate within the same basic genre of indie pop, the bands each achieve their own sound.
Big Lake arrives at music that's lonesome and scratchily beautiful, a sort of dusty, banged-up pop sound that, at times, leans toward lo-fi folk. Beach House-esque harmonies rise up and down in songs, meshing with the sprawling metallic guitar strings and cymbals. Mazurek's smooth tenor stretches out over lyrics -- his voice isn't particularly polished, but there's an echoey, wolflike quality to it, giving him a very distinct instrument that could not be a more perfect match for the vibe Big Lake is going for.
At three tracks long and just under 10 minutes, the January Second Election EP is just a skinny taste of what Big Lake is capable of. The EP begins with the title track, an expansive song that rolls out with steady drum beats and echoing electric chords. The second song, "Sugar Flies," is simultaneously forlorn and hopeful, as the song unfolds into an uplifting crescendo while Mazurek laments over the girl who's "seen it all". Mazurek is the chief songwriter, and the careful compositions that he builds around his lyrics often mask the sadness of them. The third and unofficial track, "Fools (Tropcial Mix)," is the least ambiguous of all the songs: "I called on you to stay / I walked you down / I told you these things / They always come in three / Fool, fool."
At a live show, Big Lake plays like an artist's band -- solid instrumentation, musical professionalism. Mazurek is a steady frontman, and on Friday night as he checked in with the audience he made a joke about always having a drunk dancing guy popping up (one did). Big Lake is entertaining, yes, but like some other successful Minneapolis bands -- Zoo Animal and Adam Svec come to mind -- the goal is not to provide dance music. The mission instead is to provide a thoughtful sound that's as sensitive as it is intelligent, and in that way Big Lake is most successful.
The next EP-release is set for the third week in August, with a full-length album being released the first week in October. Locations haven't been set yet, but rest assured that as soon as they are, you'll know about them. This is a band to watch and listen for.
More photos from Friday's first EP-release show by Pedro Atkins: