by Andrea Myers
The boys of the Debut are working hard to find an answer to the one question that every twenty-something college graduate must ask him or herself, post mortarboard-hat-toss: what if I drop all the entry-level paper-pushing bullshit and just go play in my band?
“We were liking the direction we were going and we figured—what the hell, we’re 23, coming out of college, what are we going to do with our lives?” scoffs Ben Mulhern, drummer in The Debut, before taking another swig from his glass of beer. He looks around at his bandmates, crowded into a corner booth at the CC Club, who nod approvingly and contemplate their recent move to Minneapolis. “We’re young,” he says.
played in Madison for a long time, but then we all finished school and I really
wanted to move back here,” adds lead singer and guitarist Ben Gurstelle.
“I really like the music scene here.” Turns out the Madison night
life left a little something to be desired for the band, but it ended up being
good news for Twin Cities music lovers. The Debut, a four-piece rock ensemble,
render a blend of appropriately collegiate alt-rock that borrows themes from
the Cure, Weezer and Love-cars, among others. They manage to find new angles
and edges in the old familiar patterns by adding their own strong dose of sunny
side up positive energy, and the final product is surprisingly fresh, at times
teetering on the edge of creating that ever-elusive Brand New Sound.
“I think we have a unique sound, but it’s still accessible,”
says guitarist Jordan Koel. “It’s great rock and roll, but we’re
not trying to be anything. We’re not trying to be the next punk band,
we’re not trying to be the next this band or that--”
“Well, we are trying to be the next Replacements,” jokes Gurstelle,
and the rickety bar table wobbles back and forth from the laughter. On an equally
serious note, he adds, “I think we’re one of the few bands with
two guitars, a bass and drums. That’s special.”
the surface, it would be easy to confuse The Debut with any of several other
promising acts in town, with their fresh-scrubbed charm and sweet, poppy aftertaste.
Songs like “Floods in Prague” and “Long Lines/NYC” beg
to be compared with other melodic rock acts like White Light Riot, or on a larger
scale, Franz Ferdinand. But there’s an ineradicable air of confidence
emanating from the group that sets them apart from the masses, and their rosy
outlook seems to bleed into their songs in rippling guitar chords and pulsating
bass lines. On stage, The Debut spring to life, dancing around and striking
near-choreographed, affected poses, begging the audience to imbibe their frothy
beats. “For some reason, we just lose it up there,” says Mulhern.
“I think interaction is really huge.”
“I just get so sick of watching bands that remove themselves from the
situation,” adds Koel. “It just seems like they’re in a bubble.”
For the boys in The Debut, having a strong stage presence and live reputation
is especially important, since they have yet to release their first album. Though
they put together an EP as part of a press packet to introduce themselves to
club owners in Minneapolis, the band agrees that “it doesn’t sound
like something we necessarily want to sell” because of the quality of
the recording. As they shop around for a recording studio in town, they plan
to continue building their growing fan base and playing more local venues. A
professionally-produced music video for “Photograph Song,” shot
by friend and filmmaker Andrew Veeder, is soon to be released and will serve
as a take-home gift for fans until their album is finished.
that three-fourths of the band is new to the state (Ben Gurstelle is the only
Minnesota native), it was intriguing to hear about how the Twin Cities scene
treats newcomers, and why bands choose to migrate here. “Basically, we
tossed around a few places,” says Mulhern, “and it was more or less
between Minneapolis and Chicago, and we even tossed around the idea of Austin
and LA, but those were [makes grunting noise]. And we ended up in Minneapolis
because we decided that the music scene was more supportive of local people,
and also because the cost of living is a lot lower than Chicago.”
“When we got up here, we basically just called all the places we wanted
to play,” explains Koel. “[We] sent them an EP and a cover letter,
a bio, and some of them [called] back, and others [we] kind of have to harass
a little bit.” Though they followed a familiar formula of self-promotion,
the band was welcomed into town fairly quickly. “I think it was surprisingly
less cut throat than I imagined, to be honest,” says Mulhern. “It’s
like dipping your toes in the water before you jump in,” adds bass player
The band is grateful for the small successes that they have had so far, and
are hoping that their good business tactics will not only get their foot in
the door, but give them a little staying power. “Everything that you have
to do is out there, everybody knows what you have to do,” says Koel. “And
you can sell yourself, whether you’re any good or not, but if you can
sell yourself and have talent to back it up, that means you can stick around.”
The Debut perform Fri., Mar. 9 at the Hexagon with Friends Like These
and Story of the Sea. 9 p.m. 21+. Free.
Check out their website at TheDebutRocks.com.