by Rob van Alstyne
At least one thing can be said for sure, Look Down know how to have a good time. From the ridiculous photo adorning their debut album’s cover (presumably a snapshot of an early ‘80s all-male pep squad), to their song titles (“Zack Morris Phone” may very well be the first slice of indie-pop inspired by “Saved by the Bell”), the young local quintet appears to have their tongues planted firmly in cheek.
Thankfully, the merits of their aptly titled album, 24/7 Dance Fever, extend far beyond humor. Percolating fuzz-pop frayed at the edges, Look Down’s vocalists trade late adolescent yelps back and forth atop a sound indebted equally to the likes of Pinback in its earlier lo-fi moments and local heroes Hockey Night’s impassioned angular spasms. Encompassing both jittery get-on-the-floor dance shout-outs (the aforementioned “Zack Morris Phone”), sweeping wordless guitar upheaval anthems (“Jeans and Jackets and Dress Pants and Coats”) and some out-of-left-field precise pop moments (“We’ve Got the Same Number”), 24/7 Dance Fever is surprisingly expansive despite its short running time.
Although it’s unusual to see a young local band casting this wide of a
net on their debut release, the boys of Look Down already had a lot of combined
musical history to bring to bear on the project. “At this point I guess
we’ve been together about seven years,” says bassist/vocalist Jacob
Huelster. “Since about freshman year of high school.” For those
of you doing the math—these guys are still really young. Although many
teen bands are typically formed out of a joint love for say, Nirvana, when Look
Down coalesced in the study halls of Highland High School, each of the members
already had greatly differing musical backgrounds.
“Our lead guitar player [Peter Blomgren] has been classically trained
since he was four years old and our drummer [Jake Hartnett] never played rock
before he was in our group; he played combo jazz exclusively. From the beginning
the band has always been sort of a mesh of different tastes coming together
in different ways. There was definitely a point three years ago where we all
sat down and said if we could sound like any two bands what would they be—we
all picked two different bands.”
One would typically think that having different points of inspiration would
eventually become a band’s undoing, but for Look Down it’s clearly
become one of their strengths, with each member contributing songwriting elements
with varied points of inspiration. Given the relatively unobtrusive role the
vocals play in the mix, Lookdown is the rare group where each instrument feels
equally placed at the forefront.
“One thing we’ve heard a lot from people is that it sounds like
a different band for each track,” says guitarist/vocalist Joe Schweigert.
“I think that’s because the way we write, one of us will come up
with a main riff and then we’ll sit down and each write our own parts
around it. It ends up being an equal element of everyone’s vision rather
than one of us trying to write the entire song. It can be a good or bad thing;
it’s just the way we operate.”
way things have operated for Look Down has shifted greatly this fall since the
departure of Huelster and Blomgren to Chicago. It’s the kind of move that
would break up most bands—but not these boys.
“It’s something we’re still sort of figuring out,” says
Huestler of the bands still newly separated existence. “People kept asking
if the band was on hiatus or shutting down—it’s not, it’s
just been hard while Pete and I have been getting settled down here. There will
definitely be another record. We never considered at all giving it up because
of the distance—it’s just six hours away.”
Reared in the fertile Twin Cities music scene, Look Down has no plans of leaving
it, even if some of their members dwell elsewhere. Both Schweigert and Huestler
agree that the inspiration of the local scene is what fuels their band.
“If you listen to our record, all of our major influences at this point
are people that we know personally,” says Huestler. “Like Hockey
Night and Malachi Constant. We’re on a first name basis with those guys;
they got us most of our first shows playing for people other than our friends.
Watching them makes for a nice little friendly competition. As much as we spent
high school listening to Modest Mouse and Built to Spill and trying to sound
like that, we understand at this point that we’re never going to be anyone
else and are OK with it.”
“Being a part of the larger bar and music scene community is what keeps
us going,” claims Schweigert. “We played with Hockey Night a bunch
at the end of our high school years and they were really cool and introduced
to a lot of the scene. Those guys, the guys in Malachi Constant, are a way bigger
inspiration to us than any national bands. These were dudes that we would go
party with after the shows and do keg stands with. I idolized them a lot more
than [Modest Mouse singer] Isaac Brock.” ||
Look Down play on Wed., July 26, at the Uptown Bar with Plastic Chord
and (this is not)(this is now). 9 p.m. Free. 21+. 3018 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.
612-823-4719. For more information on Look Down head over to their record label’s
official website at AfternoonRecords.com
and their offical website at LookDownMusic.com.