Business as usual2/4/2015
Minneapolis has a well-earned reputation for pumping out quality music. Legendary acts like Prince or the Replacements are the most obvious examples, but they’re hardly the end-all. Hit up a club any night of the week there, and you can see the direct descendants of acts like those performing throughout the city.
One of the benefits of being situated where we are is that, in addition to our own talented scene, we’re able to check out talent from markets like the Twin Cities on a fairly regular basis as they make their way through town.
Your next chance to do so comes in the form of The Usual Things, a Minneapolis five-piece created by frontman Aaron Shekey.
“My drummer and I have been playing shows together for 15 years,” Shekey said of the band’s origin during a phone interview. “We played in a project based in Madison, Wisconsin, called ‘Apparently Nothing,’ which is a terrible band name. We played together until 2006 under that band name, and that was all just childhood friends playing in the basement and learning to play together.”
But bands change as people grow, and Shekey’s developing tastes and desires caused a shift in style and direction.
“We were all about 23 at the time, and that’s kind of a weird age for bands,” he explained. “At that age, a lot of people start to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. So we found a Craigslist guitar player and changed our name to ‘The Usual Things.’ ”
From that core, the band continued to develop its sound, occasionally altering its lineup along the way until the current roster was established in 2013. Now consisting of Shekey, drummer Layne Knutson, guitarist Dan Braak, bassist Will Caesar and keyboardist Andriana Lehr, Shekey says the group feels as though it’s ready to take the next step.
“It always takes a little bit to form a final lineup, but this feels like it,” Shekey said. “The joke at practices is, ‘Man, we sound really good. OK, which one of you is gonna quit?’ ”
The Usual Things released its album “Home Sweet Alone” in 2013. They’re working on new material, but Shekey still considers “Home Sweet Alone” and its deeply personal, emotionally raw subject matter to be the band’s best work.
“I had just ended a 10-year relationship that was two weeks shy of a marriage,” he said of the album’s creation. “It was the record I had to make. It was a breaking up record. Not a breakup record, because ‘a breakup record’ implies that everyone has moved on.
“I was of the mind that, if I’m writing something that I can maybe be embarrassed by in two years, that maybe I’m touching on something good as a songwriter. I wanted the songs to be an accurate representation of their time.”
True to form, Shekey admits that some of the lyrics on “Home Sweet Alone” give him the flush of embarrassment now. But he remains proud of the end result and how honestly the album continues to feel.
“Breakups are universal,” he said. “But at the time, when you’re in them, you’re the only person who’s ever done this. It’s such a singular experience, and for a songwriter like me, that’s how you get through that experience. We’ve all been through it, I just happened to release it.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.