Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Fauna Should Matter To You

For some reason, the reunion of early-90s Minneapolis noise/dream/psych-pop band Fauna last week at a special Sussed! night at Sauce did not cause the local press to go apeshit, and this bothers me. There should have been a City Pages cover story, a profile piece in VitaMN, and a twittersplosion the size of a small thermonuclear device. But there wasn't, and I need to fix this. Dear local press: Fauna should be super-important to you, and here's why.

The early 90s in Minneapolis saw the rise of a group of noisy, gloriously psychedelic bands, inspired by the shoegaze movement in the UK and the slow explosion of noisy indie-rock in America. Equally in love with their copies of My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" LP and obscure garage-pop of the 60s, groups like Shapeshifter, Colfax Abbey, Hovercraft (and your author's own Deep Shag) and more began plying their trade in Minneapolis, charming the local press and attracting crowds of Brit-noise-obsessed fans.

To me, two of the very best bands of the scene, its Beatles and Stones if you will, were Polara and Fauna* -- which makes sense since Ed Ackerson and Tommy Roberts were production partners and shared common influences and enthusiasms. When I went to write a song for my band, Deep Shag (we were like the Gerry and the Pacemakers of the scene, or something, to continue the analogy), I always spent a half an hour with either the first Polara record or Fauna's awesome "Feral" first, just to get in the mood -- Polara had the melodies, the earth-shattering hooks, the sense of structure and exploration, while Fauna had a darkness, a kind of on-the-verge thing that made 'em a little scary. And both had slatherings of awesome, beautiful noise that turned my head in a different direction every time I heard 'em.

Apparently you can still order "Feral" direct from Twin Tone here:

...and better, you can listen to sound samples there, so you, too, can see how amazing the record was in 30-second chunks. How powerful and driving "Songone" was, or what a monster hook lived at the center of "Psychic Repeater," or how noisy and freaky and scary "Who Killed Flannel Rock" was. It's both a gorgeous, sonically amazing record and one that should give you a vague sense of unease or queasiness in the best possible way, the same way a record like "Their Satanic Majesties Request" does.

And they were a hell of a live band, too. I remember playing a gig with them at the Red Eye Theater (I wanna say Shapeshifter were the other band? I just don't remember) and being so bowled over by the layers of ever-shifting guitar noise that I wondered whether I'd gotten extremely high and just forgotten about it. 'Cause it was that brain-shifting and cool, really, and it seemed effortless, almost tossed-off, which was what infuriated me -- I was trying so fucking hard to be cool, and Tommy just reeled that shit off like it was easy.

The last Fauna song I remember hearing was a track called "Ultraviolet." You know how people describe having that moment of epiphany while they're driving and listening to a song where they have to pull the car over because they're so astonished? That's what happened to me with "Ultraviolet." I heard the song on Radio K -- I think it appeared on a benefit CD that you can't get anymore, so I only ever heard it that one time. And I had to pull the car over and just listen. I kept saying "That's the best song Tommy's written, I can't wait until the next album."

But the next album never came. Instead, Tommy Roberts became Zachary Vex (power letters -- it makes sense, yo) and morphed into one of the foremost producers of guitar pedals in the world that I can't afford:

He'd taken his love of gorgeous noise and went practical with it. Which was awesome, and just about everybody I know swears by 'em, and it's so great to see him succeed to such a large degree with a self-run business that's that cool and legendary. But I missed Z-Vex the songwriter and Z-Vex the producer. And when I moved back to Minneapolis from Los Angeles and noticed that he was out and about and hanging out, I thought "I bet ten bucks he returns to the live arena at some point, and I wonder if I can get a smegging copy of "Ultraviolet" from him finally??**"

And I was right -- he's back, and Fauna's back, and really, fifteen years has been far too long. They've got a proper gig coming up in June, and this time I had better see some local press falling over themselves, because they were one of the most important bands in town at one point, and were certainly one of the two or three seminal members of a scene that largely defined Minneapolis in the 90s.

Got it?

*...and the Hang Ups were the Hollies, and there's naught wrong with that.

** I couldn't. He doesn't have it, and nobody else does either. Does anybody here have it? Can you send it to me? Please?


LAP said...

And in general, I find it nearly impossible not to like a band that has Jerry Lefkowitz playing guitar in it. Because there's just nothing not to like about him.

I had to miss the Tuesday show because of a Girl Scout troop event (really?really.) but I won't miss the next one.

Jon Hunt said...

No, that's absolutely true about Jerry. I've literally liked every band he's ever been in, and have been rabid fans of at least two of 'em.

I had to miss it too, but I will NOT be missing the next one either. We can double-up on babysitting!

Superbadfriend said...

I can't keep up with your music genius, but holy shit! This post makes me want to run out and give Fauna the time they deserve.

Thanks Jon!


Uncle Jerry said...

Laura and Jon, your kind words sure put a blush and humble smile on my face. Looking forward to seeing you both at the upcoming shows.