West of Aldine: The St. Paul Police told us to turn it down

West of Aldine: The St. Paul Police told us to turn it down
Photo courtesy of West of Aldine

Where exactly is West of Aldine? Well, it's not really a location, more of a destination. The Minneapolis band has been working hard playing around town and their landing place is their sophomore album, Undivided. It's a journey into deep, delicious pop loops.

Before their album release at the Fine Line Music Cafe, Gimme Noise spoke with the band on their DIY approach and how they are giving back to the music community.
Band Members:
Christian Hulting - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Zach Grusznski - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Anthony Maahs - Bass Guitar, Synth/Keys, Backing Vocals
Jesse Mattila - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Gimme Noise: How does the band's eclectic musical background play into the sound of West of Aldine's music?

West of Aldine: It's absolutely everything. Zach has a strong background in jazz, while Anthony is always focusing on the next crowd moving rhythm. Both of these guys are music theorists, and they are responsible for writing the catchy instrumental hooks that you hear all throughout the new album.

Jesse, yet another seasoned musician, has been playing in a blues-rock band with his family for 15+ years. When it comes to dynamics and song structure, he is our quarterback. His aggressive playing style single-handedly sets the energy of the album.

Lastly, Christian is our wildcard. When it comes to songwriting, he is always bringing home stray animals. There really are no boundaries with him. His influences range from funk to hip-hop and the lyrics and melodies that he writes reflect that in each of our songs.

As a band, it's reached a point where if we lost a member, our sound would change significantly.

GN: Why did you decide to produce the album from within the band?

WOA: We recorded and mixed everything in-house -- on our own, in a basement, or in closets. While the album as a whole was produced by the band, it was engineered and mixed by Jesse. We were all very hands-on and gave him our input along the way, but he put in hundreds of hours on it by himself, and it really shows. Recording this way really allowed us to embed a distinct, homegrown feel in our album that a studio atmosphere simply wouldn't have been able to provide.

Although we did invest in more than sufficient recording equipment, we believe that a quality song will stand on its own regardless of how it's recorded and/or how much it costs. So, through trial and error, 100+ degree closets, broken hardware, blanket-fort collapses, nearly maxed out credit cards, and multiple visits from the St. Paul police telling us to kindly, "Turn it down," we created our freshman album Undivided.

As far as design goes, Anthony put together all of the artwork for the album. He designed all of
our new t-shirts, stickers, and wristbands as well. The WOA symbol that we have featured on the cover of our new album was actually something he painted in his spare time. Like everything else, we made final decisions as a team, but he oversees that department like a boss.

While finalizing our mixes, we researched several mastering houses in and out of the state and requested samples of their work. We instantly fell in love with the work of Adam Tucker from Signature Tone Recording, and he just so happened to be located in Minneapolis. He was not only extremely responsive with quick turnaround times, but he also invited us to the studio to sit in on our final mastering session. Talk about pro; that's unheard of in the mastering world. If anyone wants great mastering at an affordable rate, Tucker is your guy.

GN: What does the title Undivided mean?

WOA: We decided on this title for so many reasons. Most importantly, it is meant to reflect the
cohesiveness of our group. We sacrificed so much this past summer to track this album, and it really took a team effort to make it happen. Each one of us contributes so much individually that this table simply couldn't balance if it were missing a leg. We've become a family (especially on the road), and we battle together each night that we jump on stage. No decisions are ever made without each member's input and there are never quarrels about who is doing what because each one of us is always working on something for the band. The dictionary definition for undivided is "concentrated on or devoted completely to one object." That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell.

GN: Any favorite tracks off the new album?

WOA: Although we love all of our children equally, one of our favorite songs right now is "Bravo!" It's the first track on the album and it hits listeners with a high-energy dance groove. Another favorite of ours is the sixth track on the album "HAIKI." It's another hard-hitter, and it stands for "Happy and I Know It."

It's difficult to just pick a few because we could give reasons for why each one is our favorite. The one thing that can be said about all of the tracks is that they are focused on positivity, looking forward, and knowing that the best is yet to come. It's a constant reminder to us to keep grinding and moving forward while encouraging others to do the same for themselves. The eighth track "Drive" is a great example of this. To be successful, one simply needs to understand that life isn't a short sprint; it's a marathon.

GN: What's the plan with the new album? Are you looking to tour?

WOA: Yes, we are definitely looking to tour. We are currently booking shows within a 1,000 mile radius from Minneapolis as we really want to spread our music to as many places as possible. Ideally, we would love to start working with larger concert promoters and booking agents. We've already lined up four shows for our Keep the Music high school tour this spring and in March we'll be playing a few showcases down at SXSW in Austin, TX. We also just confirmed a showcase performance at the Beloit International Film Festival in Wisconsin. In the meantime, we'll continue booking regular venues and summer festivals all over the Midwest. By the end of the year, we would love to be living on the road.

GN: Can you tell me more about Keep the Music and how the band is involved with this program?

WOA: Keep the Music is a high school fundraiser tour that we developed on our own from the ground up. Within the public school system, music departments are the first to receive budget cuts. We not only want to raise awareness regarding this tragedy, we also want to be part of the solution.

That said, we donate 20 percent of our merchandise sales at each school that we visit back into their respective music departments. We meet with, speak to, and perform for a variety of music classes and clubs at each school in hopes of rejuvenating their student body about music education. On average, students who engage in music education score 20% higher on tests than those who do not. They also have decreased levels of depression and anxiety. It's amazing the response that we've received and how eager the communities are to get involved once we bring these things to their attention.

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

WOA: Energy. One of the things we thrive on, and seek out in other bands, is raw energy. We personally invited each of the bands on the bill so we can guarantee that the dance floor will be overflowing all night. We have a couple surprises up our sleeve for the evening that we're really excited about as well, but you'll have to come out to see what those are.

WARNING: Attendees will be checked for party pants and dancing shoes at the door. Come prepared.

West of Aldine will release Undivded at the Fine Line Music Cafe on Friday, February 1, 2013 with Lake Avenue, American Revival, and Bigtree Bonsai.
21+, $6, 8 pm

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