The Persian Leaps: You wouldn't know it from our music, but we're big Rush fans

The Persian Leaps: You wouldn't know it from our music, but we're big Rush fans
Photo by Drew Johnson

Minneapolis band the Persian Leaps' new album name, Praise Elephants, is an anagram for the band name, and also something that rings true about the band's music. Main songwriter Drew Forsberg has been writing for many years under the name the Persian Leaps, but only until last year when he met the rest of the band has felt as if things made sense musically. Praise Elephants  does leap around, shuttling ideas back and forth, pushing melodies into tight corners, and splashing drums haphazardly everywhere. Withoutthis complexity, the essence of what made this album so interesting will be lost.

Before the band's album release at Cause on Friday, Gimme Noise spoke with Drew about putting his band together and what it took for him to become a better songwriter over the years.

Band Members: Drew Forsberg (Vocals, Guitars), Brad Hendrickson (Guitars, Vocals), Mike McCloskey (Drums, Vocals), Neil McCloskey (Bass Player, Vocals)

Gimme Noise: How did the band start?

Drew Forsberg: I had been writing songs and recording under the name the Persian Leaps since about 1999, some of which I started putting out on the web 4-5 years back. Brad, Mike, and I were in another band last year where I split the songwriting duties with another guy, but when he left, we decided to "become" my solo project, the Persian Leaps. We were already doing songs I'd written for the Persian Leaps, so it made sense.

GN: The current band is relatively new. What does each member bring musically to the group, and how has your relationships evolved over the year?

DF: We really run the gamut in terms of experience and taste. Mike (drums) and Neil (bass) are brothers who've been playing together off and on since high school and have been in a number of other bands.

Brad hasn't been in a rock band before but has performed a lot; he comes from more of an acoustic folk/singer-songwriter background. I've been playing and recording at home for years but have very little prior band experience. Mike and I are about the same age and grew up with the same '80s and early '90s indie rock/120 Minutes influences. Brad and Neil are younger and share some mid-to-late '90s alternative rock influences. You wouldn't know it from our music but most of us are big Rush fans!

Somehow, we've blended that all together and come up with something that works. We're still learning how to be a band, and I'm still learning how to not just be a solo project.

GN: How do the songs off this album differ from the old Persian Leaps music?

DF: My songwriting process has stayed pretty much the same. I come up with the lyrics and music and then record a demo version in Garageband, with vocals, guitar, bass, and programmed drums. That used to be as far as it went but now I have the good luck to be able to bring a song to the rest of the band and have them add their own ideas and interpretation. The final result is a lot more fully baked and satisfying. The basic arrangements are the same, but they sound fuller, more alive. It sounds like a real band rather than some guy recording stuff in his bedroom. Plus, it was fantastic to have Neil Weir from Old Blackberry Way mix the songs and then get them mastered by Dave Gardner at Magneto. That really brought the sound to a whole new level.

GN: How has the sound evolved since the beginning? Do you feel you're a better songwriter now, and what do you think it took to make you a better songwriter?

DF: Years ago, when I first started recording, I got carried away with adding overdubs and parts just because it was so easy -- and fun! But I ended up with songs that were cluttered with trumpets, French horns, and other ridiculous things -- it's too tempting to keep adding. More recently, I've scaled back and that's what we're trying for in the band, as well. I definitely want the songs to sound lush and full, but we try to achieve that with just four musicians. One of the biggest advantages we have is that everyone sings, so we have another four instruments at our disposal. We try to do a lot with backing vocals and harmonies.

As for songwriting, one of the most positive developments has just been being in a band. Writing and recording songs is fun, but if you're doing that in a void, it's not as satisfying. In the last year I've found that I'm inspired to write songs more often, because I can immediately do something with them -- share them with the band and perform them live. I feel like the band inspires me to write better songs.

GN: What influences your music now?

DF: Basically, the same thing that always has: an overdriven guitar churning out a hook that burrows into you ear. I really like the term "noise pop" to describe our music. It's a combination of the noise and fuzz (and obsession with guitar effect pedals) of shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Jesus & Mary Chain with the concise, hooky power pop of bands like Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and Guided by Voices. Those are the bands that I grew up listening to, and that's what still influences me. I'm always listening to new music, but I think the songs I write will always come out of that tradition.

GN: What's the story behind the album name Praise Elephants?

DF: It's an anagram for "The Persian Leaps." I was messing around with an online anagram generator, typed in our band name, and "praise elephants" was the first result that came up. I thought, "OK, there's the EP name. That was easy. Next!" Seaplane Hipster would have been another good choice. Maybe that will be the next EP.

GN: Any standout tracks?

DF: We really tried to include only the best material we had available at the time, so we don't feel like there's any "filler." That said, "Not That Brave" is the song that friends and people in the audience seem to single out most often as their favorite. That song and "Silent Treatment" are the ones we're trying to promote.

GN: What can we expect to see at the album release show?

DF: We're going to play 12 of our favorite songs, including everything on the EP. It should be a great night of local music. Some of my favorite local bands are playing with us so I'm really looking forward to the show. I'd go see it, even if we weren't playing, so getting to share the stage with the other bands and share our music is a huge privilege.

The Persian Leaps will release Praise Elephants at Cause on Friday, August 30, 2013 with Gloss, Driftwood Pyre, and Fire in the Northern Firs.
21+, $5, 9 pm

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