Even an indie-rock lifer like Ed Ackerson had to grow up at some point.
The BNLX frontman and his wife, Ashley (also the band’s bassist), took the last few years off from the local rock scene to spend time with their adorable baby girl, Annika, who is just about to turn three. And Ed couldn’t be happier about their decision.
“I never really experienced adulthood until about two years ago,” he says. “All these people that I knew who had kids and were doing that kind of adult stuff, I was always like, ‘These people are so lame. They aren’t touring or hanging out at the bar until 2 a.m. every night.’ But then all of a sudden, I fell subject to adulthood myself, and I was like, ‘Oh, I get it now.’ I have an enormous amount of empathy for people who are adults in a way that I never did before.”
But that shift into parenthood hasn’t tempered the band’s sound. The trio (which also features drummer David Jarnstrom) will return in a major way this Friday night, celebrating the release of EP #10 as part of BNLXFest 4 at the Uptown VFW.
EP #10 is a hard-hitting collection of four songs, featuring scathing political commentary and inspired covers of Pink Fairies and Wire, two of the group’s influences. And as you might guess from the name, it’s also the 10th of the EPs that BNLX have released at regular intervals since forming in 2010.
“It’s like telling the news, every quarter,” Ackerson says of the EP series. “We put out like an album’s worth of material every year, but we do it in installments, so we could react a little more quickly. We kept that pace up very well—until we had the kid. We thought we were going to be gone for six months, but we were gone for two years.”
The EPs are typically packaged in cardboard cases the band makes by hand in small batches. “So much music is consumed via streaming these days,” Ackerson explains. “There’s no physical product and your relationship with music is very abstract. It becomes easy to forget that this stuff is actually made by people and done in this process that is still very human and tangible. To have this thing that is made by the people who made the music that’s in it, to have this direct tangible connection, I feel is important. Because it underscores the fact that this is still people in south Minneapolis who are working in their house making this cool stuff.”
And having their festival just up the road from Ackerson’s Flowers Studio at the VFW reinforces that sense of community. “This is really just a neighborhood concern,” says Ackerson. “A really loud one.”
BNLX self-released their last full-length, Good Light, in April 2015, shortly before Annika was born. They put it out in a limited run, with plans for a larger label to possibly pick it up. But due to what Ed refers to as a “difficulty in alignment,” it never saw an official release.
While they do intend to revisit Good Light in the future, the band’s attention is now entirely focused on EP #10, and on that collection they sound recharged and ready to make some serious noise. “This is a really rabble-rousing collection of tunes,” Ackerson says. “The nature of our political environment is such that you absolutely can’t exist without having that stuff in your face all the time.”
The EP expands the band’s sound as well. For their cover of Pink Fairies’ psych-rock jam “Do It,” BNLX step outside their sonic parameters to feature a saxophone solo from NYC music-scene veteran Greg Vegas, as well as spacey guitar tones from the legendary Sohrab Habibion (Edsel/Obits/SAVAK).
“We couldn’t have this long boogie-rock guitar solo on the outro of this song, so we had to do something weird with it,” Ackerson says. “And I was out in New York hanging with those dudes, and I was like, ‘Why don’t you guys just do some weird shit on it?’ And they did, and it exceeded anything we had hoped for by a mile. It kicked the whole thing open.”
Susstones, the record label that Ackerson has a major hand in, also took an extended break in recent years. BNLXFest 4 will celebrate the label’s reemergence, with the release of EP #10 and Two Harbors’ Live at First Avenue. (The label also just put out Kraig Jarret Johnson & the Program’s self-titled album last week.)
Now that he’s back in action, Ackerson is also planning on launching Flowers Lab, which will put out a few electronic design devices for studio recording, as well as bring in new bands that Ackerson personally enjoys to quickly record and put out some no-frills singles.
“There’s a lot of heavy lifting,” Ackerson says of recording bands and running a label. “You put a lot of energy and a lot of resources into a single thing that has a tendency to then just disappear after the first week anyways, because that is just how things are these days. I want to get a little bit less precious about what we’re doing for releases. Say there’s a local band that I like, and I saw them play an amazing song at Mortimer’s last week—let’s go and record that thing. If there’s somebody that I want to be an advocate for, and I think this should have an at-bat in the world, let’s present it to people. Let’s do something and put it out next week. Not have a plan or a campaign. It’s something cool, let’s get it in front of people, maybe they will care, maybe they won’t.”
Ackerson’s been making music around town for about a quarter-century, most prominently with Polara, but he’s still determined to surprise local music fans who may think they’ve got him pegged. “I think to some extent I was able to dynamite expectations a little bit, and reframe what I’m doing,” he says. “I hope that people understand that we’re trying super hard to innovate and to do things that have an energy and quality to them, instead of just trudging along and continuing to do our old thing, whatever people think that is.”
With: BNLX, Two Harbors, The Rope, Robosapien
Where: James Ballentine VFW Post 246
When: 8:30 p.m. Fri. Apr. 27
Tickets: $8/$10; more info here