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Southside Desire Welcome New Life and New Sounds on Soulful Second Album

From left: Gloria Iacono, Damien Tank, Trevor Engelbrektson, Marvel Devitt, Paul Puleo, Joy Spika

From left: Gloria Iacono, Damien Tank, Trevor Engelbrektson, Marvel Devitt, Paul Puleo, Joy Spika

Southside Desire | 7th St. Entry | Wednesday, October 22 "At the time of [our second album's release party] I'm going to be nine months pregnant," explains Southside Desire lead vocalist Marvel Devitt, resting her hands unconsciously on her stomach. "I try and think of it as the newest member of the band. We'll have to train our baby to play tambourine real quick."

Devitt, her husband and songwriting partner Trevor Engelbrektson, drummer Damien Tank, and vocalist Joy Spika are gathered at vocalist Gloria Iacono's Nicollet Island home. The semi-industrial apartment would be an awesome place for her bandmates' kids to play. There are all sorts of fun nooks and curtains to hide behind, and a Milky Way mural begging to be a backdrop for outer space adventures.

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Fortunately, the members of the Minneapolis indie-soul sextet are undaunted by working their gigs around impending parenthood. Since their self-titled second album began coming together last year, Tank and his wife also welcomed their second child. Her due date coincided with the band's First Avenue Mainroom debut earlier this summer, but the baby arrived 48 hours later.

Many musician-parents consider a newborn infant something of a non-starter for touring, but Southside Desire have Euro- trip dreams, with Tank's wife acting as road- nanny. Still, they expect a white-knuckled affair -- like Tank and Engelbrektson's younger days in punk bands trekking in a van across the country.

"There's going to have to be more planning," Tank admits. "We can't just sleep on whatever floor the sound guy can provide. So we'll have to see what our label can provide...."

Of course their label, Piñata Records, is literally theirs. Devitt, Engelbrektson, Iacono and Tank are the sole owners and employees of the imprint, which also has released records for similarly minded local acts like Black Diet and Mystery Date.

This year alone, Piñata dropped seven pieces of wax of various sizes, all while the owners were writing and recording Southside Desire's newest release -- the label's flagship statement of identity.

While the band's first release, Songs to Love and Die To, occasionally had trouble escaping the looming shadow of the band's deep soul and doo-wop influences, the sound expressed on Southside Desire is wholly their own.

Barnburners like "Double Dutch" and "Recognize" showcase twee-informed melodies reminiscent of Scottish indie-pop band Camera Obscura, although Devitt's voice is still pure Dusty Springfield blue- eyed soul. Rich harmonies from Iacono and singing partner Joy Spika have always been the band's secret weapon, but they take on new strength during this outing, providing a lush, church organ-like quality.

Devitt crafted most of the album's lyrics before becoming aware of her pregnancy, but it's hard not to hear the LP as a meditation on motherhood and family. Opening track "Four Broken Souls" details a traumatic winter evening on the Lake Street Bridge involving her mother. Devitt pulls no punches, but says she hasn't alienated anyone with her lyrics yet. "My mom was there the first time we performed ["Four Broken Souls"], and it was totally a connection that we made," she explains. "She came up to the stage and we cried and acknowledged it. The way that I justify it is that this is my therapy."
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Elsewhere on Southside Desire, the singer grapples with less directly personal matters of the home. On "Missing" she explores a mixture of ambivalence and empathy, observing the grieving parents of a neighborhood bully who mysteriously disappeared, while piano-based "Taking Time" paints a spare, moving portrait of a death in the family.

It's a bit like a soundtrack to Devitt and her husband Trevor clearing out space in their home and minds for their child, and that's not so far from the truth. If their bundle arrives on time, it'll be just about a week too late to catch its parents' album-release show.

"At this point in our lives we're coming full circle," says Devitt, of her relationship with Engelbrektson. "I recently moved back into the house that I grew up in, and I'm going to be buying it this year and raising children there. We're a musician and a cook. My parents were the same thing when they moved in and started our family there, so we're re-starting the whole cycle, but in our own way."

SOUTHSIDE DESIRE play an album-release show with Red Daughters and Mary Allen & the Percolators on Wednesday, October 22 at 7th St. Entry; 612.332.1775

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