The Twin Cities is full of music venues, providing opportunities for young bands to book shows and hone their craft. It’s not that way throughout Minnesota. Just ask buzzing emo band Tiny Moving Parts, who formed in Benson, located about two hours west of the metro.
While brothers Billy and Matt Chevalier and their cousin Dylan Mattheisen enjoy life in the town of 3,240, shows are few and far between. So they escaped to Fargo, North Dakota, to attend college. In Fargo, Tiny Moving Parts gigged regularly and developed their sound. They played the Twin Cities whenever possible; they hit the road full-time in their beat-up van during spring break and summer vacations.
The hard work is paying off: Tiny Moving Parts have scored praise from Noisey, Alternative Press, NPR, and the A.V. Club. Since forming in 2010, they've accumulated almost 37,000 fans on Facebook and toured the U.K. Still in their early to mid-20s, the members of Tiny Moving Parts are back to living in Benson, at least for the six months per year they aren’t living in their van.
We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Mattheisen ahead of the Friday release of the band's positively charged third album, Celebrate. Tiny Moving Parts will play release shows May 19 in Fargo and May 20 in Minneapolis at 7th St. Entry.
CP: Have you ever played a show in Benson?
DM: We haven’t in a long time. We don’t know if it would be beneficial because a lot of people in Benson don’t listen to this type of music. The closest we play is Minneapolis or Fargo; that’s really where we like to play.
Last year we played in Morris, Minnesota, and I think 20 people showed up. It was still a fun experience — those 20 people were really into it, but we like to stick to the Twin Cities or something. The friends we have in Benson who enjoy the music will make the trip.
CP: What was it like in the early days?
DM: We started playing music together when we were 12 and 14 years old. When we got our driver’s licenses, we really wanted to branch out. To come to Minneapolis was the big thing. We had a show booked and we told our parents and they said, “No way, you guys are not going to Minneapolis.”
It was the big city and driving and everything, so we made up a lie to my parents and we loaded up the family van. The show was really fun and it was a great experience, but my parents were not really happy. Looking back, they think it’s funny. We had to do it at some point in our lives. No regrets.
CP: When did you start doing national tours and getting a larger following?
DM: Basically when we were in college. Our freshman year we bought a piece of crap van off Craigslist and started booking. We started from the ground up. We released [debut LP] This Couch Is Long & Full of Friendship in early 2013. Once we put that on Bandcamp we saw, “Oh, wow, people are downloading the record and talking about us online.”
Then we booked our first big tour, 54 dates, and it was all small coffee shops and things like that. There’d be people singing along to the songs and we realized that people kind of like us. That’s when you saw the change. Looking back now, it’s just getting better and better, more exposure. It’s been a great run so far.
CP: There's a unifying theme across the new record, Celebrate. What’s behind that?
DM: Lyrically, it’s about trying to be optimistic, trying to look on the bright side. It’s an outlook people should have in this world. It’s a lot of personal things but I also write to make it relatable so people adapt.
CP: Was that a conscious theme or did it just happen that way?
DM: It came natural, nothing was forced. It was fun being creative with it. Like the last song, “Minnow,” is about being a minnow in the water and being completely alone but having a good time, just making yourself happy. That’s relatable to situations I’ve had and everyone has had: being alone and no one is there, but getting through it.
CP: Has touring so frequently inspired that approach?
DM: I guess it’s a good example. You don’t see people but life goes on no matter what. You can be bummed about it or you can be optimistic and happy.
We tour a lot. We like to keep busy as possible, but for what’s appropriate. We can’t play places every other month. We’d like to do more international touring; we really want to go to Australia and Japan. We only went to Europe once and we’d like to go there again.
CP: Concerning Benson, your press sheet says something to the effect of, “People in town don’t get what we do." What’s it like when you’re back home in between tours?
DM: It’s a whole different world kind of a thing. It’s a regular small farm town. A lot of friends just say, “Have a good time.” We play a different style of music and are traveling quite often, and they’ll see that we got 100,000 views on YouTube. Back home, we all drink beers together and laugh. We like Benson a lot. We grew up there. It’s cool as the years go on. It feels like it’s getting better and better.
CP: If you were going to leave you probably would have.
Tiny Moving Parts
With: Prawn, Free Throw, Infinite Me.
When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 20.
Where: 7th St. Entry.
Tickets: $12-$14; more info here.