Minneapolis's art-rock trio Gay Beast grow up

Gay Beast's Isaac Rotto, Dan Luedtke, and Angela Gerend

Gay Beast's Isaac Rotto, Dan Luedtke, and Angela Gerend

In their disheveled attic studio, the members of Gay Beast don't talk mathematics. Early on, they don't talk much at all. Today, singer and keyboardist Dan Luedtke is busy screen-printing the inserts for the vinyl version of the band's latest spazz-rock collection, Second Wave. The process, it seems, is nearly as painstaking as creating an actual Gay Beast tune, minus the eyeballs-on-fire jitters their adrenal scores provoke.

After the paint-spattered chairs are laid out—three in an arc of solidarity, plus one for the outsider—the questions flow and the Beast opens its jaws. For those who hear madness minus method, the trio nimbly lay out their parameters, as stark red as their painted-up pages. Within these self-imposed creative and ideological boundaries Gay Beast churn out challenging tracks and live sets that turn heads. Their new album is darker and more coherent, in an incoherent kind of way. Turns out this monster has soul and a brain.

City Pages: How has the band's sound progressed since 2007's Disrobics?

Dan Luedtke: The aesthetic is more meaty and spooky and less spazzy. There's more heaviness, and things are slowed down a bit. It's less punk-sounding. We were trying to make the songs work more together. Two-thirds of the last one was a collection of re-recorded EPs. Also, Disrobic was all analog and this time we were less purist.

Isaac Rotto: We've gotten more interested in following through on one idea in a song rather than merging a bunch of ideas. One of the songs is in 4/4 with very little switching. Still, we try to get the most out of that sort of arrangement.

Luedtke: Playing in alt-time signatures isn't the M.O. We approach everything really rhythmically, so what has been rhythmically interesting has been subtle shifts in timing. We're trying to integrate that into being less herky-jerky and more unified. The rhythmic complexity is less of a gimmick and more how we experience songwriting.

CP: How did you become involved with your label, Skin Graft?

Luedtke: Our friends in AIDS Wolf are on the label. We were looking for a label, putting together demo packages, trying to do it differently this time, trying to be more proactive. They were going to sign two bands for '09. The label owner lives in Vienna, so there was a bit of a courting period, talking to each other on the phone.

Rotto: All of these different bands associated with the label emailed him. It became an obvious choice, which is really nice.

CP: Explain the new record's title, Second Wave.

Luedtke: Second Wave relates to second-wave feminism, and the songs include portraits of different feminists. Before this record, we did a split 7-inch about Donna Harroway. There's a song about Andrea Dworkin. For me there's an interest because I feel it intersects with queer politics a lot. We can look at what feminists worked on as a way to talk about personal politics and strategies for changing things. There is a lot of interest with the second-wave feminist era because there was a lot of idea creation happening. Modern, radical ideas, some of which were far-fetched and impractical. People wanted something so badly they'd make up new means for accomplishing it.

Angela Gerend: It is a lot of theoretical exploration for us. But there is practice and activism. We like to play with theoretical realms and actually doing things.

Luedtke: Not all of our lyrics are super apparent. That is intentional, to not make it about this message-based music.

CP: How did you become drawn to this message?

Luedtke: Before the band was formed, I went to a queer media conference in Chicago. It was over a weekend, and activists came and transformed a warehouse into an impromptu TV studio. It all centered around trans-feminism, which means feminism and how that model can be used by trans people or queer people. Radical feminists from the '60s had a lot to say. For me, it was the beginning of thinking about real-life situations of creating art with these politics in mind. 

GAY BEAST play a CD-release show with Mute Era, Syncrhocyclotron, and Moonstone on SATURDAY, MAY 23, at the 7th ST. ENTRY; 612.332.1775