We have Emot to save us during this eternal winter. The Minneapolis/St. Paul band created an understatedly dark and intricate album on their third time around -- perfect for a winter evening. Principal songwriter Matt Leavitt admits that he and drummer Dan Choma have an affinity for lo-fi music, and they couldn't get enough of it during this frozen season. The songs are better for it. Dan says, "We actually put in a request that winter would last forever this year."
Before their album release at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday, Dan and Matt sat down and spoke with Gimme Noise about working with producer Brian Moen and how they interpret hope -- in their music and personal lives.
Lead singer Matt Leavitt answers questions in the same manner as he writes his songs, subtle, yet thoughtful. Each word is deliberate, and he allows them to sit before he moves on to the next answer. The meditative sense shows through on the new album. The band recorded with producer Brian Moen [Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks] at Moen's parents' cabin in Pine City in two short weeks, a confine that the band had not worked with before.
Like the yang to Leavitt's yin, Dan Choma is the opposite in delivery. The drummer has an excited energy, as if he has so much to share and his biggest problem is only having one mouth. Choma says, "The first session we did in his basement took about 15-20 hours. We had a pot of coffee on and just kept it going. Brian gets very excited in the moment, so you're constantly leaning forward. It was awesome, because we kept adding to it. When you're in that moment, there's no sad little critic telling you, 'No, this is not good.' You have an idea, and you try it."
Leavitt adds, "I had been such a huge fan of Brian for so long. Growing up in the Eau Claire scene, a lot of his works were all a part of my formative years. His work with Peter Wolf Crier -- I was so enamored with this sounds. I felt if we were going to make this record, we better have the best people on it that we can have. Brian was great at encouraging us. We threw a lot of things at the wall to see what would work tonal-wise, lyrically. Brian was very invested in what we did. If it was happening and working well, he would be there 110 percent and be a very positive, encouraging energy. I think anybody in that environment would feel welcome."
The first half of the album is admittedly darker than the second half. Leavitt opens up about writing, "The latter half is more hopeful, even though it's not exactly up-tempo." Choma chimes in with, "Hopeful doesn't have to always be a schmaltzy pop ballad. You can write stuff that's hopeful, but not necessarily upbeat. That isn't how humans realistically experience hope. It's not, 'Wow! Everything is good now! Thanks, everyone!' You have hope in little spurts, and you revel in that. Hope often comes on the tail end of something that wasn't good."
The self-titled album was recorded almost a year and a half ago, but the band has used that time wisely. In those 18 months, Choma got married, bassist Justin Hartke and Leavitt each had children, and guitarist Bobby Mulrennan toured extensively with his other bands [Chastity Brown and No Bird Sing].
Leavitt admits that it was nice to have that time to let the music sit, "I feel better about this collection of songs than anything we've done before -- not that those songs couldn't stand on their own -- but this album is a collective representation of us at this moment. Lyrically, this was it. Even now, I listen to it, and I wonder how we got a certain sound. The goal of creation is taking your conscious mind out of the process. To have that distance from it, but still have it feel like you are progressing."
Choma gives a little more context to the changes in their personal lives, "It's not that you cease to exist if you're no longer in a rock band. You have a different perspective. There's reasons you play music, but you can still go home or take a bike ride around the lake, be with the ones you love, or hold your son or daughter. You don't become less of a rock 'n' roller because you come to terms with growing up." Matt adds, "We're excited to put this album out. Anyone who does music wants to connect with people. Once you release it, it's not yours anymore. Growing up has allowed me to let go of that fear."
Emot will release their self-titled album at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday, March 6, 2014 with The Cairo Gang and We Are the Willows.
AA, $10, 7:30 pm