Dear Data jump genres

Dear Data are not full of hot air
Graham Tolbert

Not many Twin Cities bands can attribute their formation to the Material Girl, but that's exactly the case for Dear Data. Frontwoman Yasmina Moore-Foster and collaborator Al Church came together when she needed a last-minute drummer at a variety show at Patrick's Cabaret to perform just one song — Madonna's "Like a Prayer." An emergency mass text to friends yielded Church, and the rest is genre-blended history.

"I was literally singing to him over the phone that day to convince him to play the show," recalls Moore-Foster with Church by her side in a St. Paul bar. "He had to work late, so he arrived at the gig after it was underway and we literally met in person on stage. The vibe was so good from just doing that one song that we immediately wanted to start a band together."

Attempting to pigeonhole the quartet's sound — filled out by fellow songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Charlie Ward and Matthew Sandstedt — is a losing endeavor. Two years ago, their debut single and earliest gigs showcased a mesmerizing torch-ballad band laser-focused on Moore-Foster's slow-burning, low-key croon and glacially paced gossamer guitar riffs. This minimalist Minnesotan take on the likes of Morcheeba appears on Dear Data's debut EP, Wait Until You See, along with four tracks of far feistier fettle.

"Everything on this EP was written in a different way," Moore-Foster says. "Some songs, all the music came from 4-track demos of Al's and I just changed a few words, others I wrote together with Charlie. Matt has come to the table with whole arrangement ideas and little flourishes to existing ideas. We don't have a set structure of how we create, really. The roles are always changing."

This democratic approach to songwriting ultimately gives Wait Until You See a dynamic, albeit occasionally fractured, feel — from the loping mid-tempo indie-pop of "Kentucky Roads" to the sassy funk-rock freakiness of "Rocket Ship." The group's willingness to go for broke and try myriad musical styles is a testament to their versatility as a unit.

"We talked about trying to find consistency a lot," offers Church, regard the recording process. "Our natural tendency is to be sort of all over the place, and I think luckily [our producer] Adam Krinsky kind of glued it all together."

"The EP is definitely a grab bag," adds Moore-Foster. "We've got those two guitar-heavy songs right out of the gate and then everything else kind of chills out in different ways. The truth is we're constantly adjusting and growing into a new sound. Our live show can go in a lot of different directions, from feeling like Fleetwood Mac to That Thing You Do!"

Aside from the band's collaborative credo, part of Moore-Foster's artistic flexibility can be attributed to her insistence on defying labels others tried placing on her as a rare black female face in a local indie-rock pool dominated by white males.

"I grew up in Maplewood and I always fought the stereotype of being expected to sing like Aretha Franklin or Beyoncé; I don't, and frankly I can't," she explains. Retreating from public music-making for a number of years after her high school girl-pop group turned down record-label offers, her adult self has come to terms with the at times segregated nature of the Twin Cities scene.

"All races are in the rap game, but when it comes to indie rock there are really only a few [non-white] people," she says. "At a certain point, I realized it's not worth taking all that time thinking about those sorts of issues when I can focus on just making the music that I want. I know I've got an awesome band with me and that's all that matters. These guys could be six-year-old Korean girls and we would still get down."

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