Chris Dillon and Eric Lovold are tucked into a booth at Cause Spirits and Soundbar. It's a chilly weekday afternoon during happy hour, and while Lovold, dressed in a gray V-neck sweater and yellow tie, scrolls through his smart phone, Dillon runs his fingers through his hair, loosely gripping a pint of beer with his other hand. "We tend to come here a lot whenever we hit up Uptown," Dillon muses, glancing around at the room's dimly lit white walls and out the large picture window directly in front of him. This Friday, the Arms Akimbo—the band Dillon and Lovold are in along with brothers Nick and Ian Shaser—will release a new self-titled full-length here at Cause, almost exactly one year after dropping their first EP.
If there's a nice symmetry there, it's equally true that "You Want To"—the title track and single off the EP—saw heavy rotation on local radio in no small part because it created such an inviting contrast with the weather, its catchy, reggae-tinged hook lighting a fire under the Minnesota winter. Small wonder, then, that the band draw much of their inspiration not so much from the garage- and punk-rock traditions of the Twin Cities but from the classic sounds of London and Kingston.
"We grew up on the Beatles and the Kinks and the Who and that kind of stuff," Dillon says about himself and the Shasers, whom he's played in bands with since the three of them attended Benilde-St. Margaret. After graduating from college, Nick even spent three years living in London, where he sang and played bass in a band called Jack Maggs.
"For him, you know, that's kind of like Mecca—getting over to London to play music," Dillon grins. He leans back in the booth. "I was actually thinking about going out there and joining him and was looking for apartments and stuff. But all of a sudden his visa kind of cracked out on him and he was home a couple months later."
When Nick got back, he and Dillon did some acoustic cover shows out in Eden Prairie—"We'd play like three hours and a bunch of covers, but it got old fast," the guitarist says—before they brought Ian into the mix on drums. Using songs Nick had written in England as the basis, the trio fleshed out what became You Want To and, spurred on by its subsequent popularity, set about working on the LP last February.
"We went up to a cabin in Wisconsin for four nights. We actually wrote six songs, and they were all ideas people had that we brought together over the course of the weekend," Dillon recalls.
Lovold, who produced both records, points out that the band members were no less ambitious when it came to recording. "The first day in the studio they nailed 11 out of 12 songs," he enthuses, leaning in with arms folded and resting his elbows on the table. "I estimated that day that they played 45 or 50 songs, and it was, you know, noon to midnight. To me, I couldn't do that—by 10 o'clock I would've said, 'We'll work tomorrow.'"
The band also took a more aggressive approach with their arrangements this time around, as Lovold ventured out from behind the mixing board to play organ—a role he'll be taking on full-time with the group beginning at the album-release show. As a result, the 12 tracks on The Arms Akimbo—each of which races by at a brisk pace, driven by swinging melodies over which Nick delivers a playful sneer that falls somewhere between Elvis Costello and Paul Weller—beef up the lean sound of the EP while building favorably on its loose energy.
Above all, the record is a testament to the laid-back environment in which the four friends created the music.
"We'd grill and then 8 o'clock would roll and around and you're like, 'Oh right, we're here to make a record,'" Dillon laughs. Lovold agrees: "The thing about my studio and working with these guys is that there aren't any deadlines or timelines.... We just made the record, and it was awesome, it was fun. That's the way music should be."
THE ARMS AKIMBO play a CD-release show with Joey Ryan & the Inks and Wishbook on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26, at CAUSE SPIRITS & SOUNDBAR; 612.822.6000