The Twin Cities has a monstrously fertile ground for rock 'n' roll bands lately, and Savage Moods is a prime example of that raw, underground potential.
The Minneapolis band are lighthearted in intent but serious in execution, and their nods to the past are reverent. They mirror their heroes (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath), take what they've learned from their other projects (the Japhies, Gospel Machine, the Small Cities), and build on what they love with new album Death Ray.
City Pages caught up with the band before their album-release show Thursday at the 331 Club in Minneapolis. Here are Savage Moods' thoughts on their rock 'n' roll passions and how America is too angry for Mumford and Sons.
City Pages: In a city where indie rock and singer-songwriters dominate, what draws you to write straight-up rock music?
Jimmy Osterholt: I grew up listening to metal records. I’ve enjoyed playing in indie rock, soul, Americana projects, and I’ve learned a lot from them, but this music feels like home to me. When I sit down by myself with an instrument, this is the kind of stuff that tends to come out of me naturally.
Also, I feel like heavy music is primed for a comeback. Right now places like 89.3 the Current seem reluctant to support heavy bands, but I think they’re warming up to it. I’ve heard that punk and metal thrive under Republican presidents, and I think that makes sense. People get pissed about what they see going on around them, and they look for music that reflects their state of mind. Mumford and Sons isn’t going to cut it.
Ben Hovorka: It’s most honest form of expression for me. It doesn’t feel put on. I grew up with my parents running a roadhouse in South Dakota early on, and hair bands were on every weekend. I embraced the punk scene in high school. Rock music has always seemed very accessible to me. The rock toolkit empowers me. Irreverence and anti-authority themes are favorites for me and they are very historically intertwined.
It leaves a lot of dynamic room for songwriting as well. We can really bring something grimey and heavy for one, then come back and throw a bit more blues or psych rock into a tune, so when you say we are a writing rock music that still feels like an open way to describe it.
Anthony Gore: I've always been a part of rock ‘n’ roll groups, and it's my go-to for listening pleasure. I started drumming when I was 9 years old after my dad introduced me to Led Zeppelin. It's my favorite form of expression. It's something that I don't want to give up on, especially in a time and city where it's been nearly forgotten. Rock ‘n’ roll is my passion.
CP: How do you think your other bands filtered into what you do with Savage Moods?
JO: The Small Cities and Gospel Machine taught me how to be a collaborator, to focus on what the song wants and not what I want. In Savage Moods, where I have much more input in writing and composition, I’ve been able to use that to really reign it in -- make sure the song keeps its groove. I think rock bands can get in trouble when get to noodly and flashy. It doesn’t matter how sick your chops are, if they get in the way of the groove, they’re no good.
BH: The Japhies really explored some extremes for me in terms of composition -- what a rock song is and can be. How you can bend different stylistic walls with the genre? Any band I have ever been in was always collaborative. Also, since Anthony and I have been playing together spanning two bands, our chemistry certainly was an asset right from the start.
AG: The Japhies definitely got me excited to write songs as a group and to be very conscious of dynamics, raw emotion of darkness and joy, and putting it all together in strange compositions. We really broadened our comfort zone of what we thought was acceptable in songwriting. We did songs in strange time signatures, or over 9 minutes long. Some of those songs and experiences are still on my list of favorite musical accomplishments.
CP: Where and with whom did you record this album?
JO: We recorded with Steven Vander Horck at Pony Pictures studio in northeast Minneapolis. It’s a killer spot right on the river. Between takes, we could step out of the control room onto a patio at the water’s edge. It was one of Steve’s first engineering gigs, but he was great to work with and we were thrilled with the results.
BH: Recording is always fun! It’s one of my favorite things and I hope I can spend much more time doing it in the future. Yes it started as a demo session and then snowballed. Working with Steven at Pony Pictures was a great experience. The album has a pumped up live feel to it I think which serves us well. Andrew Crowley at Organica Studios really made it pop.
CP: How did the instrumental piece "Riot" come about?
JO: That was a tune that I had been fiddling with for a while. I didn’t think much of it, just a couple of fun noodly riffs, but the fellas thought it might be worth working on. I showed them the changes, they wrote guitar and drum parts for it pretty quickly, and we were digging how it was coming together. We tried a number of vocal parts over it but the tune never felt cooler with vocals than it did without.
BH: Jimmy brought some parts in and we had a good time with it. Actually the bridge section of “Riot” is a real musical highlight on the record for me. I feel like the name came from a “start a riot in the name of punk rock” house show story I had and was thinking about mining lyrically. Lyrics never panned out but the name stuck and felt right.
AG: Jimmy introduced this riff to Ben and me, and we jumped on board right away. It's so cool! This is one of my favorite songs on the record. There is a very cool bridge section in the middle with some of my favorite drumming on the whole album.
CP: Tell me about the song "Furious Woman."
BH: I like strong women. The lyrics are not coming from the basic guy dominating the situation and sweeps you off your feet racket. That feels corny and boring. She is not something to be gotten. I’m coming up against a force of nature and i like it. I want to know her. In terms of the title, a modern informed woman is probably furious and with good reason.
CP: Any other tracks that you're particularly proud of?
JO: I’m a big fan of the closing track, “Namaste You Fuck” -- or "NYF," to be radio-friendly. It had to be last in the sequence because it’s impossible to follow. It’s just so fast and fun and pissed off. It’s two relentless minutes of jealousy fueled punk rage, soaked in bitterness and self-loathing. Ben writes all the lyrics, and for my money, this is his best work on the record.
BH: “Death Ray,” the title track and “Criminal Mind.” They both have a real unique vibe. I’m proud that all the songs on the album have a unique identity. That’s something I try to do, give each song it’s own thing.
AG: I love how “Death Ray” turned out. That song in general, the feel, the groove, the far out lyrics, it all came together to be a real favorite of mine. I also love “Against the Stone.” My drums are fast and punk-esque, big, heavy, and loud.
CP: What are you excited to share at the album release show?
JO: We’ve only played a handful of small shows so far, so I’m excited to get some people out and finally show them what we’ve been up to. We also have new material, since the record, already, which I think is pretty friggin' great. I want to be like, “Hey, here’s some new stuff. If you dig it, buy our shit so we can pay for the next record" [laughs]. I’m also thrilled with the lineup; it’s super diverse.
BH: Apparently my rage, bitterness, and self-loathing. I have had a great time writing these tunes and am excited to spread it around. The lineup is fantastic! We have new material since the recording that I’m incredibly stoked about. I hope we can show people some rock music with fresh feel and perspective.
AG: Playing live is a trip! It's always a good and rowdy time, but even better when we have a brand new, hot-off-the-press physical copy to share with our friends in the music community.
With: Beasthead, Graveyard Club
Where: 331 Club
When: 10 p.m. Thu., Dec. 15
Tickets: Free; more info here