Exploring how Twin Cities bands rise from the ashes of breakups

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Things used to be all smiles for Jordan Bleau and Frankie Teardrop.

It's been two months, but it still stings.

When Frankie Teardrop called it quits back in May, it was a dagger to local morale. The lo-fi shitgazers greased their way into the hearts of the Twin Cities in the too-short three years they were on the scene. It really felt like the trio's next album could've been the one that graduated them from the garage. But when Hell Yep did drop, it ended up being their swan song.

"A lot of people compare breaking up with a band to ending a relationship, and it's trite, but it felt like that," says Teardrop frontman Jordan Bleau. "We all put so much work into it and it made us happy for a long time, but it's important to be able to recognize when that isn't happening anymore."

Bleau is right. It's cliché as fuck to compare your bandmates to your ex-lovers, but we're heart-bearing humans, and that's the emotional capacity with which we're programmed. This is where a little institutional memory helps salve the heartache. Frankie Teardrop are far from the first local up-and-comers to uncouple in their prime, and Bleau has no illusions about that.

"On one hand it's like, 'Hey who cares, there goes another dude guitar band,'" he says. "So many people were so good to us. Local popularity is a strange thing."

It is indeed — but it's also enduring. We asked some of the most notable bands of the last five years who called it quits exactly what it feels like to pick up and start all over again.


Stereo Confession

Local rock 'n' roll wunderkind Max Timander really came of age as part of Stereo Confession, the surfy slack-rock band he formed alongside Jordan Blevins and Corey Hagen in 2011.

The founding members were 14 when they first kicked onto the scene, but they didn't really break out until 2014's Video Games, a release that earned them fifth in that year's Picked to Click poll. Over the next two years, they'd open for the Vaccines, Bully, and Parquet Courts and play the Basilica Block Party.

But as the band matured together, they also grew apart. The lineup waffled throughout their four-year tenure, flexing to include Alex Lothrop, Theo Pupillo, and Noah Swanson at various intervals. By August 2015, it started "turning into more work than play," as Timander told 89.3 the Current, so the five decided to go their separate ways. The band didn't even survive through high school graduation.

Only Lothrop and Timander have resurfaced. The two joined with Bruise Violet's Danielle Cusack to put together another P2C finalist in Cherry Cola, though that band is now on hiatus after some personal fallout. Nearly all traces of Stereo Confession's rabid angst have evaporated from the Twin Cities airwaves, making this the biggest sob story of the bunch.

"Fuck dude, it's hard," Timander says. "It was liberating but also hard because I didn't want to make the same mistakes as before, but I ended up making them again. In a more finalizing life lesson."


Prissy Clerks

Like Howler (whatever happened to Howler?), Prissy Clerks was born from the ashes of underage indie-poppers Total Babe. Fronted by local auteur Clara Salyer, the band won a slew of awards for their snotty, unshackled punk. They were the 2013 Are You Local? champs, and they won City Pages' Best Rock Band prize that same year.

They released only one record, 2012's Bruise or Be Bruised, before guitarist Dylan Ritchie left to pursue other projects. Fittingly, even their disbanding was awarded ­— CP named Prissy Clerks the Best Band to Break Up in the Last 12 Months.

As with Total Babe before, the loss was tough to swallow, but it ultimately bore fruit. Salyer and Howard Hamilton doubled down on the heavy licks to found Whatever Forever. Drummer Tim Leick brought his toms over to Heaven on Howitzers, who just released an epic double single in February. Emily Lazear is just getting her new outfit, Wowsville, off the ground. 


In addition to Whatevs Forevs, Salyer has continued on her skyward trajectory. She replaced Maureen Herman in the reunited Babes in Toyland last August and has been gigging with the '90s icons ever since.

 

"When one band falls apart, you have take what you've learned and try to apply it to the next project," Hamilton says. "When labels break promises, members can't see eye to eye anymore, or it's just no longer fun, it's time to save everyone's sanity and start a fresh new group."


Zoo Animal

Six years is a long time to endear yourself to a scene. Zoo Animal dropped seven releases, including 2012 namemaker Departure, in their still-too-short tenure.

Their 2009 debut earned them second in Picked to Click and the favor of Low's Alan Sparhawk, who worked with a retooled Zoo Animal lineup to record a trio of hopeful songs that unfortunately never made it to a proper LP.

Zoo Animal were an anomaly in more than just their honest-to-God Christian roots and sparse arrangements — they were able to maintain a consistent level of freshness while the scene around them warped and progressed. But, ultimately, it wasn't enough to satisfy the creative energies of singer Holly Hansen, who shut Zoo Animal down in December 2015, acting on what she called "a gut feeling."

More likely than not, she was sick of being labeled "that local Christian rock band," and Zoo Animal was too entrenched in the hearts and minds of listeners to ever allow a wholesale redefinition. So, she called it off. 


According to a recent interview with Go 96.3 FM, Hansen's been "dabbling in electronic music again," though we haven't heard so much as an MP3 from her since December. Erstwhile guitarist Matt Latterell has gone on to a fruitful solo career, dropping one of the best local cuts of 2015 with Phase & Field.

 

"I exhausted myself with Zoo Animal," Hansen says. "I played one show this year, and that's all I plan to. I needed this long to remember the magic of music and songwriting."

The Chalice

The Chalice were the most exciting hip-hop group to hit the Twin Cities in a long time. With bombastic, red-wine-fueled anthems and unjackable levels of swagger, the trio of Lizzo, Sophia Eris, and Claire de Lune seemed poised to smash the patriarchy one choreographed chorus at a time. Picked to Click 2012 was a foregone conclusion — they took top honors, the first rap act to do so in the poll’s 22-year history.

Thing is, the Chalice was only ever really a side project, and the three called it quits in August of 2013 to accommodate Lizzo’s exploding solo career and the rising popularity of Eris and Lizzo’s feminist party-rap clan GRRRL PRTY. But the Chalice is a testament to how nothing in Minneapolis music ever really dies. 


De Lune would pivot, joining producer Grant Cutler to pursue her bedroom electropop passion project, Tiny Deaths. With GRRRL PRTY placed on hiatus last month, Eris has also gone solo while continuing to DJ for Lizzo. Her eponymous debut dropped July 19. Lizzo signed to Atlantic Records in March, and she’s the biggest star from the Gopher State since Craig Finn.

Given that all collaborators are on good terms, a reunion seems plausible. Hell, all three shared a stage during the recent Prince tributes outside First Avenue. Members of The Chalice declined to comment on this article.

 


Sleeping in the Aviary

The Twin Cities were lucky to adopt oddball Wisconsin punk band Sleeping in the Aviary in 2008. It was here that the group took on accordion and musical saw player Celeste Heule and began making the most intriguing music of their career, leading to their fuzzy opus You and Me, Ghost in 2011.

Underheralded in their time, Sleeping in the Aviary are now seen as one of the most innovative groups to lug their gear through the Hexagon, though that recognition is sadly too little too late.

But locals scored a second chance to applaud the weirdness since Elliott Kozel put the kibosh on SitA in 2012. He's reinvented himself as the massively popular sensual misfit Tickle Torture — a salacious electronica alter ego that began emerging in SitA's final days. 


Bandmate Kyle Sobczak has also lost himself in a wave of glitter and repose, committing himself to Rupert Angeleyes. Bassist Phil Mahlstadt and Heule pooled their talents to create gloomy alt-rock band Battlerat, and Michael Sienkowski can still be seen performing around town, most recently with Dream on Nilsson.

 

"It's like breaking up with five girlfriends at the same time," Kozel says. "It's like changing elementary schools and your new first-grade art teacher gives everyone in the class an "S" for satisfactory for making a mediocre potato stamp painting, just like at your old school. It's like growing a beard for five years and shaving it off."   


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