Rocking the Boat with The Tide
Wednesday 19 February @ 12:38:34
This hot local foursome gets their fans the old fashioned way
by Donny “Doane do me like that!” Doane
For roughly the last year, I’ve kept my eye on the local quartet known as The Tide. In keeping with the band’s name, the dudes have shown a tendency to drift in and out of my life with a cyclical regularity. Eventually I got a copy of their latest disc, T.V. Is God. After that, I checked out their set at the Turf Club last summer. Needless to say, I’ve been impressed by both the record and their poise when the real %@!#$& flies.
So after all this time, I finally got together with the guys on a warm, sunny February day at the Bryant Lake Bowl. While others were rolling some ball, the tape was also rolling as we sat down to talk about what we love—rocking, that is. In a scene so mired and marred by the proverbial boy’s club, The Tide have transcended such bull%@!#$& and backbiting by sticking to their guns and garnering better shows. That strategy led to a recent opening slot for big buzz band Interpol in First Avenue’s main room, which proves you don’t always have to kiss the right asses to succeed.
Coming together in the summer of ’99, the original lineup was comprised of guitarist/vocalist Andy Allen, bassist/vocalist Dan Wenz and drummer Mike “Bibs” Bybliw. The three met in St. Cloud where Mike was attending college. They soon moved to the Cities where they hooked up with guitarist Kris Johnson, formerly a member of local outfit Splendour. As Andy explains, “St. Cloud is such a narrow-minded wasteland, you know. So when we got here it was like ‘Wow, look at all these bands that do all these different things.’”
It isn’t necessarily so much wider down here, I don’t think. For the longest time I have eagerly awaited and actively plotted the overthrow of the old guard. The Tide, along with End Transmission and some others, are examples of a brighter future I see looming for the local music scene. One of the things I respect about The Tide is their enthusiastic and unapologetic attitude towards their music, and that they don’t cow-tow to the area’s tried and true templates. With the climate of complacent, comfy conservatism, it’s refreshing that these guys aren’t caught up in something we’ve all been hearing for way too long.
Although the sound of their latest is very poppy and polished, and at times methodical, it nevertheless is a fine collection of well-wrought songs. The guitars are sharp and shimmering, while the rhythm section knows when to move from a simmer to a boil: a bounce to a bash. Lately, they say they’ve learned to play more loosely and credit their friends in End Transmission with their own evolution in taking a louder and more primitive approach.
“We were lucky because we started out really poppy,” says Dan. “We dealt with a lot of criticism, and when we first moved down here, we didn’t really know where we fit in. And luckily, we eventually met the guys in end Transmission, so…”
Kris grabs the floor, “So talk about a boy’s club. Basically, we just formed our own boy’s club.”
“Well,” I say, “eventually you do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to call it a clique either.”
“It’s more like a support group,” says Andy. “ You know, peers. For me, it’s the music scene, and I really love community talk. There’s really no room for competition.”
“But it exists, nonetheless,” I explain. “Perhaps on a more insidious level, you know?”
“You mean like the scenester thing?” asks Mike.
“Exactly,” I say. “But that doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. And hats off to all those who defy it.”
Besides T.V Is God, the Tide has one other recording, the earlier seven song Distorted Lullabies. They record their own material at Johnson’s Polydactile Studio, which is currently on hiatus. Opening their latest is “Absolutely Underground Blues.” It combines the jumpy jitter of The Jam with the sleek sonics of later-era Hüsker Dü. Indeed, Allen’s vocals resemble a young Grant Hart, with a smoother, less tormented delivery that falls somewhere between a warble and a wail, yet never wavers. The guitars add a slight sprinkle of surf (with no pun intended.) “Bibs” may or may not have made a mistake with an off-kilter tom-tom fill that flies to the fore of the mix, and regardless of whether intentional or not, has been captured in all its gutsy glory.
As Kris further explains, “Yeah, that’s a mistake. The toms got left up in the mix. At the last second, I moved the drums around and forgot to pull the toms back down. It was the last song to get mixed and we had to do it twice. Jeff Halland (of Houston) helped me mix it and I didn’t realize it until I got home. I just left it until mastering hoping that the compression would bring it down.”
“Yeah, adds Andy, “Kris doesn’t have automation, he has monkeys,” to which Kris replies, “Sometimes monkeys don’t take directions very well. So in hindsight, it doesn’t matter, because it’s cool if somebody thinks it’s cool.”
“But it sounds ghetto, right?” asks Andy.
“Totally,” I say.
More drum talk ensues as Dan adds, “I think we’re very fortunate to have Mike’s drumming style. He’s originally a snare drummer and very quick with the hands. In general, I just think all our styles blend really well together.”
When asked when he started playing a full kit, Mike recalls. “Drum kit? Umm…it wasn’t until I was 18, my first year of college. Until then, I just played snare in a military line. You know, drum corps.”
In regard to their songwriting process, there exists a healthy, flexible democracy rather than some egocentric tyranny where someone would be so rigid as to view their bandmates’ interpretations as a corruption of their original vision.
“Whenever someone brings, say, a riff in, it’s never really set,” says Dan. “It never works when somebody brings something and says (in mock seriousness) ‘I really have a vision for this,’ you know. It just works well when we can all form the song, because they always come out sounding way different, way better.”
“I feel like a jackass when I bring parts in,” says Andy, “because I need these guys to point me in the right direction.”
“It feels amazing that I didn’t write this song,” Dan continues. “The great part is when it’s all done, it’s our song.”
As we all sat there sipping beers and puffing cigs, I was overcome with pleasant warmth that radiated from their camaraderie, positive attitude, and their love for what they’re doing, as it brought me wistful impressions and a reminder of why we do this in the first place. The local scene can easily be viewed as a deadly vacuum whose will o’ the wisp will continue to lure aspiring musicians from far and wide with the empty promise of a shot at success and the ever-present danger of failure and a shot of even worse. It is my profound hope that as The Tide rises and recedes, their momentum will grow with each new cycle to reach not only the beach, but to flood the estuaries and travel far upstream. And as they rush back out to sea, may they cleanse and carry away so much of the filth and decay that has plagued these parts long enough. May they keep their gaze focused, and in doing so, shun the substance-fueled misbehavior and rotting complacence that have earned idiots such prestigious high marks.
The Tide play the Kitty Kat Klub in Dinkytown, Sat.,March 1 with Claire De Lune and Elevator Division.