You might think Remo Drive is an actual street.
Maybe it’s where brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson grew up in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis and distilled the past decade’s worth of indie rock, emo, and pop-punk to create their first official full-length, Greatest Hits. For a genre often filled with clichés about the mundanity of suburbia, it’d be a fittingly ironic origin story for the band.
“Stephen was going to buy drumheads for our drum set, and the company that makes the drumheads is Remo,” Erik explains. “So he was driving to get Remo drumheads: Remo Drive. It’s very meaningless.”
“We need to come up with a fake story,” Sam Mathys suggests. His energetic drumming rounds out the band, alongside Stephen’s tight bass lines and Erik’s pained vocals and math-rock influenced guitar riffs. Erik writes the skeleton of his songs on acoustic guitar, Mathys will “scramble it like a Rubix cube, and then solve it,” as he describes it, “and Stephen is the last line of editing.”
Well, the mythology behind all great bands has to start somewhere.
As for where the music started, the impassioned sound of Title Fight’s Floral Green first inspired Stephen. “I took a lot of inspiration from Pinkerton by Weezer,” Erik adds. “That was the album for me that made me want to start a band like this, just because I loved how honest it was.”
Their first releases, a Bandcamp collection called Demos 2014 and a 2015 split EP with Unturned, Split, wear their varied influences on their sleeve, paying homage to Pup, Joyce Manor, and Jeff Rosenstock, as well as Cap’n Jazz and the Kinsella brothers’ later intricate, math-rock-y work. Trying to avoid purposefully emo-sounding riffs for Greatest Hits, the band cleansed their palate with indie pop and classic rock during the recording process, listening to Vampire Weekend, the Police, and Sting.
“Sam and I give each other the same Sting record,” Erik says.
“Whenever we find it.” says Sam. “The Dream of the Blue Turtles, his debut solo record. It’s wonderful.”
In recent months the band’s popularity soared after The Needle Drop featured “Yer Killin’ Me,” a video which premiered here in City Pages' own Local Frames column. Since then, Remo Drive has developed a cult audience via social media, similar to how Modern Baseball, Foxing, and The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die -- all often pigeonholed as “emo revival” bands -- got their reputations. The band’s music has had to flourish through online communities, because there isn’t a real scene for emo and pop-punk within the Twin Cities.
“I was so surprised when I realized emo wasn’t cool,” Erik says, laughing. “I remember I was so into it, and through the internet I had noticed a lot of radio stations and a lot of press outlets aren’t into it. The internet is the democratic oasis for bands like us.”
“It creates a level playing field that wasn’t necessarily available like a decade ago,” Stephen adds.
And the band doesn’t dodge the “emo” tag. “I think we still fall under the [emo] umbrella,” Erik says. “I’d say we are on a different side of the spectrum now, because there’s a lot of stuff that is kind of ‘woe is me’ that we’re trying to break out of. We’re willing to look at the music with a bit more humor, being aware of how emo plays into its own stereotypes.”
Remo Drive set themselves apart from emo clichés with wise reflections on maturity, a theme that runs throughout Greatest Hits, and an unapologetic goofiness, whether they’re wearing turtlenecks on their album cover or running through the street with their instruments in the video for “Yer Killin’ Me.” As Erik sings on the feeling of lagging behind his peers on “Eat Shit,” “All my friends are growing up, I’m tearing my jeans.”
“This time around I tried journaling how I was feeling, and whenever I’d think of something I’d write it down,” Erik says. “I wanted to try going at it from a more mature angle, because it felt like before I was just whining about heartbreak and I wanted to look at it and be like ‘there’s almost humor in the misery.’ I feel like if I was looking at myself I’d be like, ‘What are you doing Erik?’”
There’s an overriding sense of joy and strength in camaraderie across Greatest Hits’ 10 tracks, not a moment that drags. It is emotionally relatable but not whiny, marked by tongue-in-cheek humor and a lack of pretension. As Erik sings on the closing track “Name Brand,” “Irresponsibility is dear to me/ I piss away my money on this bourgeoisie coffee.”
“I’m just in my head a lot of the time, and I’m either way too sentimental or not sentimental enough,” Erik says. “I think I’m pretty lost, and that’s what a lot of the record is about, is just trying to figure out what’s going on so I can deal with it.”
The band recorded Greatest Hits, which they released without a label, DIY-style in the Paulson family living room in Bloomington, where both Erik and Stephen live with their parents while attend McNally Smith College of Music. (Mathys is a student at Augsburg.) Jack Shirley (who has worked for their idols Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, and Deafheaven) mixed the songs.
The lyrics on Greatest Hits channel that voice inside your head that can either comfort or torment you. “Admit it, you never really felt right/ I question myself all the time,” Erik sings on “Crash Test Rating,” about emotional insecurity, while on the anthemic “I’m My Own Doctor” he confesses, “I’ve been self diagnosing all of my problems.” Yet in Remo Drive fashion, there’s always humor to ease the pain of pouring out your heart.
Greatest Hits sounds new and old at once. With songs about responsibility, overcoming heartbreak, the fading joy of summers, and learning how to step outside yourself, and with riffs you could’ve sworn you’ve heard in the past, Greatest Hits is likely to live up to its audacious title.
Remo Drive (Record Release)
With: The Happy Children, Heart to Gold, and Blacc.KLagoon!
When: 8 p.m., Thurs, Apr. 6
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
Tickets: +18, $8/$10; more info here