North of Grand: Doing The Right Thing4/24/2013
Ten years is a lot of miles for a local band. That’s a lot of crappy shows in cheap bars, a lot of time in the van and a lot of partying. As North of Grand gets ready to celebrate its 10th birthday, the guys involved are proud of where they are and how they got here.
“I think we anticipated we’d be a band this long when we started,” said drummer Pat Curtis. “We’re pretty much best friends first — before we were band mates — so we knew that if we stuck around long enough, good things would happen for us. We’re a good enough band and we’re dedicated enough, and that’s what’s happened to an extent.”
Indeed it has. North of Grand has not only cultivated a reputation as a hard-working, dedicated group but has also come to be recognized as damn fine purveyors of rock n’ roll. Twice the band has been named “Best band in central Iowa” by the listeners of KCCQ, beating out acts like Envy Corps and Slipknot. And in 2010, Boston’s now dearly departed Phoenix magazine named North of Grand the Best Band in Iowa, stating that the group “(belts) out the tunes like an early Green Day or Weezer.”
And North of Grand isn’t done.
“We’re not slowing down,” said Curtis. “We’re playing as much as we can for four guys with full-time jobs. One guy (Wilson) is a city councilman in Monroe. (Bassist Dan Ketelsen) has two kids — but that hasn’t really slowed him down at all — he wants to get out of the house more often.”
Nevertheless, when you’ve logged the miles that North of Grand has, and when you’re a group of guys creeping ever higher into your 40s, the grind of playing a local touring schedule is something that catches up to you. So it pays to be judicial.
“We pick and choose,” explained Curtis. “We toured a ton when we were young, but we’re just completely satisfied with where we’re at. I love the road and the studio more now than I ever have. You appreciate it more. We have more fun. Even the bickering is funnier now than it was back then. I mean, we still party.”
“I don’t party during the week the way I used to, but I still party on the road,” added lead guitarist Matt Wellendorf. “And it takes longer to bounce back.”
But they’ve been bouncing back for a decade now, and they’re ready to celebrate that fact this Friday at Gas Lamp. While the celebration will be a chance to look back at where they’ve been, the guys are hoping to bring out a couple of new wrinkles to keep things fresh.
“We’re a rock band,” said Curtis. “There’s not going to be anything that’s really silly, but hopefully we can get a few things together that will surprise people that have seen us a lot.”
“We’re bringing our friends, the Magnolias, down from Minneapolis,” added Ketelsen. “If you are familiar with punk rock from the ’80s and ’90s, it was Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Replacements and the Magnolias. They were the ones who didn’t blow up to super stardom, but they’re also the one that’s still around.”
Playing with a band with the Magnolias’ pedigree helps keep the North of Grand boys feeling young and, most importantly, focused.
“(Sometimes) you question yourself about whether you should be doing this stuff at this age,” Ketelsen continued. “Should you still be rocking and getting hammered. Then you’ll play with that band once in a while that re-invigorates you, and you’ll think, ‘Yeah, I’m doing the right thing.’ ” CV
North of Grand 10th anniversary party is at Gas Lamp on April 26.