What is the Minneapolis sound? For some, its Prince & The Revolution, The Time, Jessie Johnson’s Revue and Andre Cymone. For others, its The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum and Semisonic. No matter what your jam, the city is still bursting at the seams with talent. In 2013, Popdose’s Power Pop Roundup featured two Twin Cities bands, High on Stress and Hart Lake Mystery. A year later, High on Stress was no more, but out of the ashes rose Pasadena ’68. And now even that band has an alter ego in the form of Dakota Shakedown — same band members, different lineup, different sound.
On their second split album, Dakota Shakedown takes the A-side, delivering five big, bold, beautiful radio singles that would have fit right in at the height of 1990’s alternative rock radio. Mike Hjelden pulls a Grohl by stepping away from the Pasadena ’68 drum kit and crushing it as the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist. ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ is one of those dreamy The Goo Goo Dolls style power ballads that would have been in heavy rotation on 120 Minutes and American Top 40. ‘Starting at a Guard’ is the best song Soul Asylum you’ve yet to hear. Put away your cell phone, pull out a freakin’ lighter like a real person and hold it up to the night sky.
Just don’t get too cozy; at the half turn, Shakedown shakes things up by reverting to Pasadena ’68 for the final five songs. ‘Happy to be Next to You’ transitions the set seamlessly as the fab four (and friends) head into rawer, scruffier, Whisky-fueled Replacements and Wilco territory. Nick Leet’s soulful vocals spar beautifully with Paul Odegaard’s trumpet on ‘Nashville Skyline’. ‘Doublespeak’ ends the show with a bombastic encore that was slow building from the very first track. The grand results of Good Night Air is exactly what the title promises, a breath of fresh air in these troubled times and a callback to a simpler time in America when a recession, a sax-playing president, and an intern were our biggest worries and long, hot summers fueled by alternate rock was our greatest joy.
This past weekend, Popdose caught up with Nick Leet to discuss the new album and life in the modern age …
This is the second Split LP with Dakota Shakedown, with Pasadena ’68 taking the flip side of the vinyl this time around. Is this essentially one band where the members simply rotate positions like the (dated racist reference deleted) fire drill I remember from the Happy Days opening sequence, or do they truly feel like separate bands?
The two bands have all of the same people but we switch up instruments which results in a complimentary but different sound. We treat it like one band. Shows and rehearsals are all together. We often fight over which band is more attractive. I choose to think that honor belongs to Pasadena ’68.
Geographically and politically, the Dakotas are a million miles from Pasadena, how about the sound?
Pasadena ’68 tends to be more raw with an indie rock flavor and occasional twang elements. Dakota Shakedown is typically more polished. Mike’s a helluva singer where as I rely on grit and luck.
Are most gigs split headline shows or are some shows exclusively one or the other?
Our shows include both bands. Either one combined set or both bands playing full sets depending on the night.
Do High on Stress songs sneak into either set?
Honestly that doesn’t happen much and for good reason. I have an epic amount of respect and love for High on Stress and all of the members that I still play with or have in the past. They are my best friends and times that can’t and won’t be replaced.
We’ve moved on and are doing some new things which to me means going in a different direction. P68 has shades of HoS because it’s my writing but the different band members take the songs somewhere else. With that said, Pasadena ’68 has played ‘Up Your Sleeve’ from the HoS album Living is a Dying Art but that’s mostly on special occasions. We also play a rocked up ‘Dakota’s Lost it’s Mind’ which was a Moonlight Girls unreleased track from 2003 but no one knows that song. 9 times out of 10 you get nothing but new jams designed to make the booty shake with some criminally out dated guitar rawk.
Is there still room on the radio dial in MPLS for power pop?
Not for us! I’m fairly positive that the programmers in the Twin Cities don’t even listen to it. They probably just drop it under their bikes and roll over it (Copyright Wendy and Lisa).
Are there any other cities where you’re finding an audience?
We get more radio love in other states. Dayton, Ohio plays the hell out of us. Thank you Ohio!
Is the end game getting signed to a label? Or does that model even make sense for a rock and roll band like yours these days?
What are record labels? Is that an ancient artifact?
Tell us some tales of the new tunes… were most written before the Hellpocalypse that is 2017?
They were written leading up to 2017 but the wave crashing happened way before now. It ain’t pretty. Prince dying, lies, deception, threats of war on and on. I do believe I’ve had enough. If you need me I’ll be in my bomb shelter eating freeze dried In N Out Burger and watching Shameless. Wake me when it’s over.