Buildings on strip clubs, throwing beers, and touring
Courtesy of Buildings
Buildings are a Minneapolis noise-rock three-piece gaining a lot of traction in the U.S. and beyond, since February's release of their outstanding second record, Melt Cry Sleep (doubleplusgood). Singer/guitarist Brian Lake, drummer Travis Kuhlman, and bassist Ryan Harding look like mild-mannered guys -- a sharp contrast from their loud, raw and furious music.
Lake growls and snarls wry lyrics inspired by experiences that anger him. His eerily dissonant guitar wails and writhes with the heavy primal drumming of Kuhlman and Harding's hypnotic bass. Together, they careen violently like a car hurtling down a dark, deserted road. It's energizing, alarming, and powerfully riveting music all at once.
After tonight's tour kick-off at Hell's Kitchen, Buildings embark on their first Southern tour with over 18 shows in as many days. After returning, Buildings tour Europe, and will play the Incubate Festival in the Netherlands with bands they love and who inspire them, such as Brooklyn's The Men (who they played with recently at the 7th Street Entry), A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Congress, the Buzzcocks, and Shabazz Palaces.
Over Jack Daniels and beers, against the loud background noise of revved up Harleys, muffler-less old cars and pedal-pubs partiers on the patio outside the 331 Club, Buildings talked about their tour, performing with bands that inspire them, how they've managed to stay together for seven years, strippers, annoying dogs and such things that are the material of their oft-angry songs.
What types of bands will you play with on tour?
Brian Lake: This time around, with the record getting a little more press in the last three months, I was able to email bands and they were like "We already heard about you guys," or "My friend told me about you guys." Before, in 2010, you had to beg people to listen to your record.
Travis Kuhlman: Now we're playing with bands we actually listen to . . .
BL: Yeah, with international bands. And then you're becoming friends with these bands. The Men for example. And now METZ has signed with Sub Pop. They want to play with us the 29th of October at 7th Street.
Ryan Harding: That means your hard work is paying off.
The Men -- had they heard your record before?
TK: I don't know. They were here last summer and we talked to them for hours that night, we just partied with them.
BL: They were on the "Leave Home" tour. And once they got the all that press in Pitchfork, they just never stopped touring, and now they don't stop touring. When we played with them it was really cool because they had blown-up completely. And they still remembered we'd given them our record and shit.
Photo by Cyn Collins
If Sub Pop approached you, would you accept?
BL: Totally, yeah. We might get some demos together and shop it around. Our label guys are friends of ours. It's kind of like working with your brothers, your friends rather than the industry I guess you could say.
RH: The difference now from when I played with you guys before was like we were digging for any show we could get, and now since I've rejoined the band we turn down shows all the time, because everybody wants to play with you. You feel bad sometimes because they're your friend's band that you played with before and you can't help them out because you're already doing something else.
BL: I want to be able to do what we're doing -- when we play with these national bands that float through town -- because they're the kind of bands I'd like to tour with in the future. I'd like to play one show a month with a local band and one show a month with a national band.
How do you feel you've stuck with it, and stuck together for so long, when a lot of bands break up after a couple or few years?
TK: It's been a gamble pretty much from when we started playing music together. But, if you love what you do. Many bands do just quit. I don't know.
RH: There are definitely points where we've all not gotten along. But I think at the end of the day we all want to do this. I've played in countless other bands. These guys are more dedicated than anybody I've ever played with.
TK: We really like the kind of music we play.
BL: This is all I've ever wanted to do. You can tell your grandchildren that you went to Europe. That you got to play in front of a thousand people in the Netherlands. That's wild.
Who writes the lyrics and what inspires them?
BL: I see something that bothers me, makes me angry, I write about it, I guess. But I don't write about it where you can understand it. I write about it metaphorically. Where I understand it, but its just kind of gibberish, I guess. I feel sometimes... well, like Braille Animal, that whole album was about a chick. That was easy.
TK: Chicks. It's usually the plural form.
BL: This one's about all sorts of stuff. Like there's a song about my roommate's dog being annoying. It's called, "I Don't Love My Dog Anymore."
I wondered if that was a true story.
BL: Yeah, you just couldn't stand him anymore. He was awful. I had an image of me, like, throwing him down on the ground, and like...
TK: Killing him.
BL: Yeah. Killing him. That's terrible, innit? And so Travis is like, you should write a song about that. All right, I will. "Night Cop" is about this one night I was out partying and I got a little too drunk, and almost got arrested.
BL: "Noxzema Gurl" is about sluts. [all laugh]
RH: No, he said it was about Calista Flockhart? Rebecca Gayhart? She was in the Noxzema commercials.
BL: I was BS-ing.
BL: "Crystal City" is about what it means to stand up as an independent person. When all these political things happen you've just got to be yourself. When something happens to you, then you take care of it and don't worry about what anybody else says. That's why I say, "Fuck You, this is our America." Just do your own thing and when stuff comes at you that affects you then deal with it. But, if it doesn't affect you, don't worry about it.
It's like self-autonomy.
RH: "Wrong Cock," is that about when your girlfriend sleeps with another dude?
BL: No! I was sitting at a bus stop. I worked at a Wells Fargo downtown. I was looking across the street at Skyway Lounge, the strip joint over there. There were all these chicks, greasy strippers, just strung out, worn down, hanging out, just raising holy hell. That's what that's all about.
"Rainbow" is about my friend who was addicted to Oxycontin. So was his girlfriend and they had a child while she was addicted to it. Its about how fucked up that is that she would still try to have a baby even though she was still having this nasty drug addiction. I went to North Carolina for Christmas and saw her. I went to high school with her. She looked like she wasn't even alive anymore. Just a bag of bones. That shit's crazy.
How did you get the title, Melt Cry Sleep?
TK (laughs): We were in Brooklyn playing. We were talking about getting chicks that night. There were all these hot girls all around us. We were kind of drunk. You go to bars and they give you a pizza ticket everywhere we walk, so we had a bunch of them. Brian had eaten a garlic pizza. He's like, "I can't talk to girls, I'll go up to them and from my breath, they'll melt. And then I'll go home and cry and then go to sleep." We lost it we were rolling around on the ground. Then a friend said we should name our record, Melt Cry Sleep. So we always had that in the back of our heads.
The song about strippers, I was going to ask... we should go to BJ's Liquor Lounge. Have you been there?
TK (sound of distaste): Yeah, I've been there. I was in there, I didn't stay.
BL: There was a chick stripping to Waylon Jennings on the jukebox. She was not attractive.
TK: It's gross now. It's just terrible.
BL: They got rid of the best strip club in Minneapolis.
TK: That was 13 years ago! Like in 1989 it was voted the best strip club. So people still go there, like "Oh, man, this is the best strip club. I've got to go in here!" And then you go in, and its like . . . roadhouse. Deuces is a little better than that -- but its pretty nasty, still.
I want to ask about your music sounding abrasive, your stage presence, how you get to that?
RH: I think the abrasiveness is from the instruments that we play. Once the music starts, I don't think we're totally there but we're there.
BL: When I look at the crowd, I want the crowd to get as mad as I am. I felt like at Art-a-Whirl we got them really, really rowdy. You see them get into it. As a musician, when you watch music you hear the intricacies of it, but when you're playing it you just want people to go apeshit.
RH: We usually play last, and so people are drunk, and we're drunk, and those work off each other.
TK: A lot of our friends throw beers at us. We appreciate that. I've gotten a half beer thrown at my face. It pissed me off, but then I played better I think.
Brian, your vocals seem so different than how I view your personality or demeanor, any given day off-stage.
BL: I always wanted to get to a place where you understand what I'm saying. Its growly and yell-y or whatever but I'm still trying to write lyrics to get a message across. Some people come up to me after shows and are like, "That's cool. I get what you're talking about." Others are like, "What the fuck are you talking about?" I found when we first put it on iTunes, I had to find out which ones were explicit because they couldn't tell, and I had to go through my lyric book and find out which ones had explicit lyrics because I forgot.
What would you call yourselves?
BL: I like the term noise rock. Because it's nasty sounding but its still got a range of technical stuff going on. You can still hear what the guitars are doing. When we saw Jesus Lizard and bands like that in the '90s, they just went up there and played their asses off. That's what we do. We do the exact same thing. I'd take my shirt off and like, whip my dick out . . .
Do you miss North Carolina in terms of the people or like it better here?
BL: I don't even consider it home anymore. This is home. My family is here. I've been here for so long - my best friends are here. My mom and dad live in North Carolina. I visit them there. My life since I was 23 years old has been here, except for one year in Chicago, which I don't really remember. It was a haze. A crazy lost year. I remember every year here since I came here, since the first day. The way of living in the North is so much better. The culture is better up here. People get shit done and wanna accomplish things. Minneapolis is a different ballgame because it's upper Midwest so it's a bit more lackadaisical. People in Chicago get shit done. They don't fuck around at all.
Buildings Tour Kick-off at Hell's Kitchen. 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 18. With Animal Lover, Ex-Nuns and Congorats.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.