If the Blind Shake ever slows down, they're hiding it from the rest of us.
Since 2004, the blazing Minneapolis garage-rockers have put out around 20 releases, including two collaborations with local experimental wizard Michael Yonkers and one with Rocket from the Crypt leader John Reis. The Reis collab, Modern Surf Classics, and their own Fly Right LP came out in the past calendar year alone.
Somehow, the brothers Blaha — Jim and Mike — found time to write, record, and perform as their new project, Shadow in the Cracks, a two-piece offshoot that plays more minimal, conceptual tunes.
The self-titled Shadow in the Cracks debut, which dropped last fall via Goner Records, shares the Blind Shake's penchant for brevity and rhythmic frequencies, but it's more ominous and brooding. The LP is like their quiet cousin who sits in the corner, giving deep but kind of weird answers whenever he chimes into the conversation.
We asked Mike — who recently shared how kickass his band is at SXSW with City Pages — and Jim to tell us about what makes Shadow in the Cracks different. You can catch the band live Saturday during Hymie's Record Store Day Block Party.
City Pages: What spawned a new project with two-thirds of your other band? Why isn’t drummer Dave Roper involved on this one?
Jim Blaha: Mike and I have more time and are always writing songs. We started writing a couple songs with just a kick drum to test some ideas but they sounded completely finished as is.
They also didn't sound like our other band so we just ran with it. It has been said before, but limitations create so much freedom that we had a full set and a new band within a month.
CP: Why a two-piece, and one with very little percussion at that?
JB: There is definitely percussion [kick drum and Indian bells], it is just on the minimal end of the spectrum. Part of the idea was to have a sort of lonely sound and let the guitars and vocals really have space.
CP: How long did you work on the debut?
Mike Blaha: About one month. We talked about the concept for a few months but finally got to it. Our friend Jared Miller, who runs the studio called the Filter Lab, came over and recorded on my 8-track reel to reel machine.
He mixed it while we were on tour by emailing us different mixes for approval. The best thing that happened to the mix was that the Blaha boys were not a part of it. We told him the concept and he ran with it.
CP: The LP was self-recorded, as is a lot of Blind Shake material. Is that part of the idea behind your art or is it more a scheduling means?
JB: The home recorded aesthetic really fits Shadow in the Cracks and it has an urgency that I love. We both enjoy going into an actual studio as well. It's always on a case by case basis.
CP: It seems your live shows are pretty sparse too. How much is Shadow in the Cracks a studio band vs. a live band?
MB: It's both, but it was conceived of as a recorded project: Two men stranded in Antarctica. They hopelessly attempt to send out radio transmissions but to no avail.
JB: We didn't play a show until the record was at the plant getting pressed. It was really fun to work backwards and not play a show until we were happy with the recordings.
CP: How much did that Antarctica concept drive the record, start to finish?
JB: The idea is that two men were abandoned during an experiment deep in Antarctica. They had traditional tape recorders to analyze and process their findings.
When they realized they had been abandoned, their transmissions over the years for help at some point turned into some sort of music. Out of boredom, desperation, and isolation they formed songs.
Many years later, a team of explorers discovered their shack. The men were gone, but the tapes were left behind. Mike and I decided to make the music on those tapes.
CP: Will similar themes direct future releases as well?
MB: Yes, Shadow in the Cracks will always be concept albums. The more ridiculous the better, as long as the execution is fearless.
CP: Is Shadow in the Cracks also Minnesota winter music?
JB: The record was written last winter during all that polar vortex business. It wasn't hard to get into the mindset.
CP: Jim had an art show at Grumpy's during the Shadow in the Cracks residency earlier this year. Is it more of a multi-faceted project that spans across media, or was that just coincidental?
JB: At this point it was coincidental but Shadow in the Cracks is a very flexible band. I can see it being used for films or other mixed media type events in the future.
CP: You've been playing in the Blind Shake for 10-plus years. Is it exciting to take the stage in a new format?
JB: Yes, I definitely get nervous before we play a show. We each have to carry a bit more weight than we do in the Blind Shake.
CP: What is in the works with Shadow in the Cracks?
MB: We have another concept album in the planning stages. But we can't tell you the concept yet, since it'll change before it's finished.
Hymie's Record Store Day Block Party
With: Narco States, Corpse Reviver, What Tyrants, Bruise Violet, Charlie Parr, and many more.
When: Begins noon Saturday, April 16.
Where: Hymie's Vintage Records, 3820 E. Lake St., Minneapolis.
Tickets: Free; more info here.