Today we’re back to featuring the musicians who are making Record Store Day such an exciting event here at Hymie’s. Without each of them this wouldn’t be possible, and everyone at the shop is thrilled to have such an amazing collection of our favorite local artists. You can scroll up and read through daily posts going back to April 1sts which highlight the artists, and check back over the next few days to read about those we haven’t featured yet. Today’s group is the trio, Is/Is.
What is Is/Is? Oh so tempting to say Is/Is is what it is. Seriously, its a great name – It captures the ambiguous relationship between what you expect and what you get. And, full disclosure, Sarah Rose gave me a nice press bio to use for this post but its the kind of thing I can’t pass off as my own writing. She took it from a performance they did in LA. Here it is, followed by a video of Is/Is performing “The Blackest Beat”:
Is/Is is like a field full of baby deer. The band looks sweet and docile from a distance, but up close, you find yourself amidst a frenzied, bleating, beautiful mess. Punctuated by Sarah Nienaber’s pounding bass riffs, Mara’s grooved-out beats and Sarah Rose’s layered guitar fuzz. Ethereal, almost disaffected vocals sweep over everything, forming a loose, dreamy package.
So I can’t pass anything with the word “ethereal” as my own writing – I don’t even know what the fuck that means. I can say that This Happening (The band’s first EP) rocks. Why can’t record reviews just say that stuff rocks?
This Happening was good enough to get Is/Is ranked #4 in the City Pages‘ “Picked to Click” review of the year’s new bands. Jeff Gage’s piece on the band (Which you can read by clicking here and scrolling down a little) contains one of the best lines any artists has contributed to the venerable series, when Mara Appel says, “The whole spur of the moment thing was cool with me because, I mean, shit, I love to play drums.”
Now that’s the kind of unassuming sincerity that makes for good rock and roll. Sure, you can hear a little bit of First Communion Afterparty’s psychedelia in the new EP, and a little of Sarah Nienaber’s awesome group Gospel Gossip (Pop geniuses whose album Dreamland, on the same label, is one of the best local records in recent memory), Is/Is is if anything unassumingly sincere. Is/Is is a louder than those other bands, sometimes slower, and a little more brooding. I asked them which track to use for the website and they chose “The Blackest Beat”, which is the b-side of their new 7″ single (You already heard it if you watched the video). It reminds me of albums like Daydream Nation, which I listened to over and over as a teenager (Which in turn makes me feel old). The song’s ambiguous, non-committal lyrics really help, especially given Sarah Roses’ delivery, fairly described by everyone as “breathy”.
But the best thing about both sides of the new single is Mara Appel. Never off in the least, she’s playing the hell out of the drums, with a full sound that’s doesn’t get cluttered or busy. She is probably a musician who could steal the spotlight but instead plays through “The Blackest Beat”‘s hypnotic tempo changes and modulations seamlessly. Maybe the title’s a reference to what she’s doing, I don’t know. I was never good at deciphering mysterious songs, but I do know what makes my feet move.
So what you see isn’t always what you get – I think being a group of three hot chicks, Is/Is loves playing off expectations by going in a different direction. You can expect that they will shake the walls of the record shop and have a lot of fun doing it. And you can bet that Mara Appel will have a great time because, shit, she loves to play drums.
Is/Is will have both highly recommended discs for sale on Record Store Day. You can also follow them a short distance across town to a second in-store appearance at the new and wonderful Yeti Records at 35th and Nicollet. Do these women love records stores? Sarah Nienaber herself works at a third shop (Treehouse Records) so you can bet they do!
Meanwhile we’re down to featuring just a few more artists, and then you can look over the schedule and make those tough decisions about which are your must-see choices.